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THE SERPENT'S EGG

Dead Can Dance

Prog Folk


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Dead Can Dance The Serpent's Egg album cover
3.84 | 105 ratings | 12 reviews | 36% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1988

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Host of Seraphim (6:18)
2. Orbis de Ignis (1:35)
3. Severance (3:22)
4. The Writing on My Father's Hand (3:50)
5. In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings (4:12)
6. Chant of the Paladin (3:48)
7. Song of Sophia (1:24)
8. Echolalia (1:17)
9. Mother Tongue (5:16)
10. Ullyses (5:09)

Total Time: 36:15

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Lisa Gerrard / vocals
- Brendan Perry / vocals, hurdy gurdy

Guest musicians:
- Andrew Bessley / viola
- Sarah Buckley / viola
- Tony Gamage / cello
- Alison Harling / violin
- Rebecca Jackson / violin
- David Navarro Sust / vocals

Releases information

LP 4AD Records (1988 UK)

Thanks to Seyo for the addition
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4ad Records 2008
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DEAD CAN DANCE The Serpent's Egg ratings distribution


3.84
(105 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(36%)
36%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
45%
Good, but non-essential (16%)
16%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

DEAD CAN DANCE The Serpent's Egg reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Delightful album!

That word could describe precisely not only this, but several DCD albums, if we wanted to find a suitable adjective to their albums, i am sure we may find words such as wonderful, amazing, even beautiful, but this time after listening to it once more, delightful was the first one to come to my mind.

So i am here again, after a one-month gap (or more) without reviewing anything, but remembering that DCD is a band i like a lot and were added here recently, so what better than a review to show what i think about it, i am pretty sure that much more people know this band, but i actually haven`t seen any review of them so far, i suppose there are some, but at least this will be the first one of this album released in 1988 which was called "The Serpent`s Egg".

Sometimes i like to write a brief introduction to the band, this time despite knowing several of their albums, i dont really know the band`s history, i believe they were formed in the early 80`s by 4 people, but then they have been working as a 2-people band with several guest musicians, these two people are Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. This was their fourth album, and i choose this because it was the first DCD i listened, and because it features "The Host of Seraphim" which was the one that caught my attention, i know its obvious because its the first song of the album, but actually i already knew a couple of songs before listening to the whole album.

So, "The Serpent`s Egg" is a delightful album composed by 10 songs and over 35 minutes of music which could be described as gothic, ambient, electronic, renaissance, folk, experimental, etc, it depends on each mind, what its clear is that this is a unique band with an own style. As i mentioned above, the album opens with "The Host of Seraphim", the longest song of this album (over 6 minutes) but those 6 minutes are pure bliss, beautiful music, some people may not like Lisa`s voice, but believe me that its unique and beautiful in my opinion, the atmosphere in that song, along with her voice make a perfect mixture in order to create a magnific song. "Orbis De Ignis" is a short song, only vocals, a short but great moment, anyway this kind of moments could be found in every DCD album. "Severance" is the first one which features Brendan`s vocals, which also are magnific, they can do anything for you, if you had a terrible day, just listen to this kind of songs and you will feel comfortable and relaxed, because you are having what you need, beautiful music, feed for your ears, i am not saying that this is an easy listening album, no way, but if you have your mind open, i am sure you will adore it. "The Writing on my Father`s Hand" is another excellent song, the disadvantage could be that the ryhtm is repetitive and might bore you, but if you like progressive electronic and some kind of "ambient-folk" music, you will love this, listen to the magnific progression, awesome!, the only i would ask is to make longer these kind of songs. "In the Kingdom of the Blind" returns to Brendan`s vocals, it is not fair to compare or even choose, i mean some people might say that they prefer Lisa`s voice over Brendan one, well actually this was a personal experience, because someday watching a DCD video my father said that it would be better if the man didn`t sing, its all about tastes and opinion, but i challenge you to say something like that after listening to this song, the music and the vocals make a perfect piece, nothing more. "Chant of the Paladin", of course a song with "chants" included, as it is in several of their songs, probably this is the most repetitive song, but as i sometime said taking Ozric Tentacles as an example, the more repetitive their music is, the more addicted to their sound you get. "Song of Sophia" and "Echolalia" are short pieces which together reach only 2:30 minutes, the first one does not have another instrument but Lisa`s vocals, if you listen to it as deeper as you can, you may find that your skin has changed due to the goosebumps it provokes, and the second one features both voices, with an alike style but at the same time very different. "Mother Tongue" will be the first song you find with a "harder" rythm, due to the percussion which make a folkish sound, get up and move with its rythm, well i will give you a comparision, remember Peter Gabriel`s Passion album?, well this song reminds me a lot to it. "Ullyses" is the song that finishes this awesome album, and it is for sure a perfect end for The Serpent`s Egg, the atmosphere created makes a blissful song, for you who say that DCD are not even prog related, listen to these kind of songs, i am sure you will change your mind, awesome music!

As you noticed, i really love this album and i know i use to be a bit repetitive in my reviews but hope you find this one at least a little bit interesting, i invite you to listen to Dead Can Dance, The Serpent`s Egg is a magnific album, once you like it, i am sure you will love most of their releases, give it a chance, if you dont like it, well its just not for you.

Despite having written a very enthusiastic review of an album i love, i do not consider it is a masterpiece of progressive music, however, i am convinced it would be an excellent addition to any prog lover, so 4 stars is my final grade.

Enjoy it!!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#152336) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars If perusing through t e DCD racks in a record store, I'd be careful not to associate this album with their "ethnic/world music" later career (ala Spiritchaser) of the 90's: indeed the tropical artwork is misleading, but we are firmly entrenched in DCD's Gothic era as Serpent's Egg is almost a carbon copy of Realm Of A Dying Sun, if you'll forget about the track lengths, much shorter on the average here. Some might say that this album is almost a stop in DCD's progression, wanting to stop a little further with Dying Sun, but not wanting to make something much different-sounding. Nothing in this album is to prepare us for the upcoming superb Aion though, despite a few discreet hints.

Lisa Gerrard's Eastern European origins appear to take a definitive presence in the group's music, as there are now hints of mid- Eastern classical music, giving an odd ethnic feel to the album, but nowhere near as close as their 90's albums. Musically, what's to say more than Dying Sun? Slow gothic church-like vocals, tons of synth layers (unfortunately and most likely, they were not aware of mellotrons), a full string quartet featured and Perry's use of a hurdy-gurdy (also hinting at further advances in the following albums by highlighting his Irish/Celtic ascendance) are the few differences from the previous album. But these seem minute, compared to the similarities between the two discs, thus not really making both albums really owning the two, unless you're a confirmed fan. Personally I like Dying Sun for its originality (back then), but Serpent is a tad more complete. Your call between these two.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#158154) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars “The Serpent’s Egg” marked the first (and only) time Dead Can Dance produced an album consisting of nothing much more than chants and strings. This wasn’t totally surprising or innovative in their case, as their previous ‘Within the Realm of a Dying Sun’ was heavy on wind instruments and their first featured both of them playing those odd yang t'chin things. So there was a precedence of experimentation in their sound despite the fact that most of the Dead Can Dance albums sound rather similar in their gothic/drone/chant persistence.

One of those stringed instruments is a bit unusual this time though. Brendan Perry plays a hurdy-gurdy on several tracks, an instrument whose droning capabilities seems to lend itself quite well to a band like this. Besides that there is a string section consisting of a couple each of violins and violas, as well as a cello that I have a tough time distinguishing from the hurdy-gurdy much of the time. About the only other instrumentation is from occasional drums and some percussion (mostly bells).

Lisa Gerrard started to work her way east with her hypnotic contralto on “Summoning of the Muse” from ‘Within the Realm’, but on this album the Eastern influences are strong and pervasive. There’s also some hint of ancient religious chamber music in her voice, apparent right from the start with the opening “The Host of Seraphim” and only letting up on the few tracks where Perry’s voice is the dominant one (“Severance”, “In the Kingdom of the Blind”, “Ullyses”). Otherwise the album seems more like the Lisa Gerrard show, complete with string section. Perry’s role is notably diminished from previous releases.

The two tracks that stand out for me are “Song of Sophia” with its Ofra Haza-like deep-throated wailing from Gerrard (way too short this one); and the undulating “Mother Tongue” which I think actually got some airplay on college radio since the band was still sort of popular with the twenty-something club crowd at the time.

This is not my favorite Dead Can Dance album – the one just before it gets that nod. But it is one of their better works thanks to the lush strings and drone from the hurdy-gurdy that, although understated most of the time, gives the album a sense of continuity that some that would follow it lacked.

This was also the swan-song for Gerrard and Perry’s personal relationship, and when the reassembled for the stark ‘Aion’ release a couple years later it was as business partners, not lovers. With this kind of music the difference wasn’t all the noticeable though.

Three stars I suppose for a consistent and well-orchestrated release, but not one that expanded on the band’s sound or mystique much. I would have liked to have seen a concept album or at least a lengthy epic track at this point in their career, but such was not meant to be. Too bad.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#172628) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Serpentīs Egg" is the 4th full-length studio album by Australian/UK act Dead Can Dance. The album was released through 4AD Records in October 1988. Their last album "Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun (1987)" featured a dark, melancholic and gothic atmosphere but "The Serpentīs Egg" is quite different from that album. Itīs the first album by Dead Can Dance where they showcase their now trademark style of ambient, etnic, folk, Medieval, goth tinged and atmospheric music.

The music on the album is centered around Lisa Gerrardīs ethnic flavoured contralto vocals and Brendan Perryīs baritone ditto. The instrumentation is increasingly organic with lots of different percussion instruments and especially various strings like Viola, Cello and violin. While the three Brendan Perry led compositions "Severance", "In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Are Kings" and the powerful and majestic "Ullyses" are among the highlights on "The Serpentīs Egg", there are some absolutely brilliant Lisa Gerrard led compositions on the album too in "The Host of Seraphim", "The Writing on My Father's Hand" and the beautiful a capella sung "Song of Sophia". While rythmic and thematic repetition is a big part of the bandīs sound that provide their music with a hypnotic drive, a track like "Chant of the Paladin" does get a bit too repetitive. However if you listen to the album as a whole, even that track works well within the overall flow of the album.

The sound production is very strong. Warm and organic. Just listen to the percussion driven intro to "Mother Tongue". Itīs just a wonderful organic and pleasant sound. "The Serpentīs Egg" is upon conslusion quite a surprising release by Dead Can Dance considering the more dark goth tinged and not nearly as organic sound of itīs three predecessors. They really developed their sound at this point and took their music in a new direction. The end result is successful and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#235075) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The band continue to change slightly from album to album as this time they drop the horns that they used on the last two album but keep the strings. Hurdy gurdy is prominant at times with lots of percussion and atmosphere.This album seems to have more a spiritual mood than the last two with all the chanting going on.

"The Host Of Seraphim" opens with a bell as sounds just seem to hang thick in the air. Lisa comes in vocally. Some drums before the strings arrive. This is so emotional. Vocal melodies after 4 minutes. "Orbis De Ignes" is a short tune with what sounds like a female church choir. "Severance" opens with organ as Brenden comes in vocally. So much atmosphere here after 2 minutes when the vocals stop. "The Writing On My Father's Hand" features some hurdy gurdy as Lisa starts to sing. The tempo picks up around 3 minutes.

"In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings" again has hurdy gurdy with male vocals this time. Drums and strings 2 minutes in as it gets intense, even the vocals are more passionate. It settles again. "Chant Of The Paladin" opens with Lisa chanting which reminds me of Anneke. There's a beat and a full sound supporting. "Song Of Sophia" features powerful vocals from Lisa throughout. Impressive. "Echolalia" is such an interesting track the way Lisa and Brenden sing. "Mother Tongue" along with the opening track are my favourites. Drums to open with percussion as well. It settles before 2 minutes. Vocal melodies come in and it all sounds so good. "Ullyses" is catchy with vocal melodies, hurdy gurdy and strings. Male vocals follow.

This maybe isn't the best place to start but it certainly is a fan favourite.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#242496) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 02, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars On Dead Can Dance's 4th album they have completely outgrown their gothic gloom roots. That doesn't mean the music turned out to be lightweight or jumpy, it's still dramatic and downcast but still they let in just a bit more sunlight then Within the Realm of the Dying Sun did. This is the soundtrack to accompany the sun's new rising over a frosty early April landscape.

The Host Of Seraphim sounds as enigmatic as its title, featuring lush strings and gorgeous Eastern tinged vocals from Lisa, it's one of Dead Can Dance's most striking pieces and a sure calling card for their style. In just a bit over 1.30 minutes, Orbis De Ignis conjures up the morning prayer in a medieval cloister. It is followed by a morose hymn sung by Brendan Perry. The arrangement is strikingly simple again, basic organ chords and a beautiful melody on horns. On The Writing on My Father's Hand, Lisa continues the bleak mood. Accompanied with the sound of harpsichord she sings a plaintive melody ending in elegant harmonies.

In The Kingdom of the Blind resolves the overcast atmosphere. It still starts very sad, but in the middle, big orchestral chords and Brendan Perry's commanding baritone lift up the mood most dramatically. Chant of the Paladin is a plaintive and repetitive drone, very ethnic and Indian sounding, this tune could charm the most vicious snake. The extremely short Song of Sophia and Echolalia are two gripping moments that could easily have run twice their length. Mother Tongue has two parts, the first part is instrumental and heavy on percussion and the second is wonderfully atmospheric and has some sparse vocals from Lisa. With Ullyses, Brendan Perry has a gorgeous finale to end the album with, both playful and sweeping.

A very strong effort, but only the opening and closing pieces are pure 5 star material, it's probably Dead Can Dance's second best album after the preceding Within the Realm of the Dying Sun.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#258462) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars Dead Can Dance are a group that I have heard about for years, maybe even heard a few of their songs, but never really investigated. Being added to PA most likely brought them back to my attention. The Serpent's Egg is my introduction to this group. When I first heard this I thought it was a little too New Agey and world music-y for my tastes. On repeated listens I found some things that I enjoyed. Guest musicians play strings while Brendan Perry plays hurdy-gurdy in addition to his mostly subdued vocals. Lisa Gerrard's multi-tracked vocals are all over the place.

Mostly percusionless, a couple of the songs are a capella. Lots of ancient and ethnic type singing, including chanting. "The Host Of Seraphim" has a droning organ sound set the mood for some vocals. Occasional pounding drum sounds. Later strings come in and everything gets more symphonic. The singing changes to more choir-like instead of the earlier chanting style. "Severance" has more organ (sounds like it's done on synth). Nice mix of male vocals and chord changes. Halfway some wind instruments(?) enter and you hear a creepy altered voice saying something.

"In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings" has a great title. Things start to pick up when the strings and synthetic drums start to dominate. The male singing gets more emotive as well. "Chant Of The Paladin" is based around some "hey, nah, nah" vocals along with what sounds like a cross between an accordion and a harmonium. Some percussion and bell sounds as well. Very hypnotic and raga-like. "Echolalia" has call and response chanting. Almost completely a cappella.

"Mother Tongue" has some very 1980s sounding drum machine programming, intended to imitate tribal drumming. A stringed instrument sound done on a keyboard. Before 2 minutes changes to a slower-paced part with ethereal keys. Some female vocals later. Waterfall sounds can be heard near the end. The highlight of the album for me. "Ullyses" sort of reminds me of 1980s Art Zoyd. Some Indian style chanting as well as "hoo...ha" type vocal sounds. Very melodic and symphonic.

Not a bad album but not really my cup of tea either. I'm not sure how many other songs they have like "Mother Tongue" but I would like to hear them. A good effort overall. 3 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#423816) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
3 stars "The Serpent's Egg" shows DCD in a continually improving light, the dark and sinister core now tempered by rich and ancient sounding melodies, heartfelt vocals, and strings that sympathize with all of the above.

Brendan Perry in particular has found a new voice, and songs like "Severance", and "Kingdom of the Blind" (HG Wells reference?) betray his warm underbelly. Lisa Gerrard remains prominent of course, although she shares the ample spotlight with mesmerizing harpsichord in "The Writing on My Father's Hand". Unfortunately the album dips in quality with a few too many under developed pieces in the latter half. Even "Mother Tongue", arguably unlike anything they had done up to that point, would only fully satisfy the most naive of world music fans. Luckily the album closes on a high note with another unique statement in "Ulysses", as close as the group had come to a folk "ballad" up to that point.

It is with this disk that DCD emerges from its embryonic shell and gives us a glimpse into its grown up future. 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#536386) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The followup to Within the Realm of a Dying Sun is essentially a continuation and complementary piece to that album, with Gerrard and Perry leaving behind gothic rock entirely in favour of strange, ethereal realms. The crowning glory of the album has to be opening track The Host of Seraphim, in which Gerrard's ghostly vocals and the instrumental backing create an evocative and unique fusion of Gregorian chant and ambient music. Indeed, the album as a whole is an intriguing mixture of traditional music and ambient or New Age influences, yielding a cross-genre masterpiece which can be approached and appreciated from many different perspectives.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#591701) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars While it may seem minimalist on first listen, The Serpent's Egg is an incredibly deep and emotional album filled to the brim with primeval musical qualities that forces the listener to descend completely into its oppressed atmosphere.

First of all, anyone who doesn't approve of olden vocal music such as Thomas Tallis or Hildegard von Bingen most likely will not enjoy this album (or any of Dead Can Dance's albums). Featured prominently in this music is Lisa Gerrard's powerful and tortured yet soothing vocals that either blast through or float pleasantly among walls of depressed string orchestration that drone with subtle changes like a severely slowed down interpretation of Samuel Barber's infamously sad "Adagio for Strings" -- this is represented very strongly in the opening track, "The Host of Seraphim", which is vaguely middle Eastern but mostly gives off mental images of debilitating depression affecting the masses to the point where tears and death are simply commonplace.

But, as with most Dead Can Dance albums, Brendan Perry also has his vocal moments. "Severance" features his goth-tinged voice trudging atop comfortably droning organ, but the song overall almost has a pop accessibility to it, though I'd be surprised if it were ever played on the radio.

Aside from being primarily slow, droning, medieval folk-influenced music, there are some spots on the album where the pace is picked up a bit, such as "Chant of the Paladin" which is (relatively) more active, featuring a powerful percussion rhythm and low-registered strikes on the bowed instruments while Lisa Gerrard provides hypnotizing vocals that are basically musical emotionally disconnected cries. "Echolalia" is another relatively active composition, but it's a bit more wild and eccentric in its ethnic vocal decisions and quickly passes by without even establishing an emotional grab. "Mother Tongue" is one of the true standouts on this album, featuring a driving rhythm on jungle-esque percussion and a jarring rhythmic staccato melody before breaking off into slower, contemplative, tense, and darker territory that sounds like cave music -- this entire song will sound very comfortable to fans of the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter soundtrack.

The Serpent's Egg might not be the most accessible album that uses medieval folk inspiration, but it is very beautiful and should invoke (primarily negative) emotions as well as sleep. If you're looking for primeval music with a strong modern twist that can easily drown out any trace of happiness in your psyche (in a good way), then this is for you.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#639524) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 23, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars The attention in this album seems to be focused on chants and minimalism. Gerrard and Perry carry on with the same beautiful textured style using multi-cultural influences to paint their musical ideas. One thing that has changed is that most of the instrumentals consist of a small string secti ... (read more)

Report this review (#999337) | Posted by TCat | Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The most melancholic of all Dead Can Dance's albums, 'The Serpent's Egg' begins off with a huge slab of doom which many may recognise from a few UK TV documentaries - predictably revolving around the hardship of life in the far east and India. I used to love this track with its super deep voca ... (read more)

Report this review (#634722) | Posted by Dobermensch | Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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