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Dead Can Dance - Dionysus CD (album) cover

DIONYSUS

Dead Can Dance

 

Prog Folk

3.89 | 86 ratings

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tempest_77
4 stars Dionysus is an excellent follow-up to the neoclassical dark wave group's 2012 album Anastasis. It gives their typical world-infused dark wave sound a pagan, almost "tribal" spin. This album, unlike many of the band's albums, is split up into two long suites, rather than a series of tracks (it is worth noting that most albums by the band do flow fluidly between tracks, they just aren't usually notated as suites).

ACT I

Act I starts of with the wonderful "Sea Borne", an instrumental track with choral backing that is based on the same ostinato throughout but builds in energy over the course of 6 and a half minutes. It's a classic Dead Can Dance track, but with obvious new influences giving it an added flair.

"Liberator of Minds" has more movement to it, with a variety of instruments throughout. There is some sort of string instrument (not sure what) tying the track together. The song flows up and down and is wonderfully dynamic. At this point it is clear that Act I is primarily instrumental. While there are tribal-esque vocalisations throughout, the music is not lyrically based, be it in English or in Lisa Gerrard's "speaking in tongues".

"Dance of the Bacchantes" is a nice nod to the title of the album (Bacchus being the Roman form of Dionysus). It's based on a cool tribal beat and has lots of the aforementioned vocalisations throughout it. This is probably the most different song on the album from their previous work, with the "tribal" influence being very strong both in the beat and in the vocals.

ACT II

Act II opens on "The Mountain" with a dark, droning synthesizer, before introducing an accompanying hurdy gurdy, I believe. Some handclaps introduce a basic rhythm, which is slowly complicated more and more in a nice expansive effect, as instruments are added to the harmonic background as well until the song becomes a lush soundscape and Brendan Perry's vocals come in. There is more of a vocal focus in this song, though they are tribal sounding and non- English (potentially non-lyrical). The rhythm cuts out as the vocals continue over our harmonic background, until the song eventually devolves into a pastoral soundscape over a fading synth like the one it began with.

"The Invocation" opens with Gerrard's vocals, more non-lyrical (or at least non-English) singing, with a rhythm then being introduced. It's a beautiful and fairly dynamic track with some cool sitar-esque breaks in between the singing. Besides the tribal rhythms, Act II so far sounds much more like some of Dead Can Dance's previous work than Act I did, largely due to the greater focus on the vocals.

"The Forest" opens with a neat synthesizer that sounds almost like bird calls, before introducing Perry's vocals and another tribal beat. The vocals on this song, though also not English, are the most lyrical of the ones we've had so far on the album, with the lyrics on the previous song still being somewhat ambient. There are some great stings from the strings (say that five times fast) throughout the lyrical sections, which trade off with sections of Gerrard singing a choral background. The two eventually meld together halfway through the song, before breaking off into an instrumental section with a persistent sitar-esque melody. This song is sort of the climax of ACT II, as it builds a lot of energy throughout, before the bird call synth transitions us into the next song.

"Psychopomp" opens with some rain-like percussion sounds (not sure what percussion instrument exactly) before introducing a very low flute-like sound and a simple tribal beat. This simple background continues under Perry's vocals, yet again lyrical but non-English. Over time, Gerrard sings lines here and there as well, with the two vocal parts having a back and forth overlap effect. This track stays at a pretty low dynamic level to close out the album on a subdued note.

Overall, I'd say that while Act I is more musically fresh than Act II, Act II is a lot musically stronger and flows much better. I will note that the album as a whole doesn't have the most consistent flow to it. What it lacks in its cohesion as an album, however, it makes up for in being an excellent combination of excellent songs, as well as giving a new spin to their classic worldbeat / dark wave combination. I definitely enjoyed the "tribal" influence combined with their usual medieval sound, though I wish I had a better word than tribal. 8/10

tempest_77 | 4/5 |

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