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Dead Can Dance

Prog Folk

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Dead Can Dance Aion album cover
3.44 | 157 ratings | 13 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Arrival and the Reunion (1:38)
2. Saltarello (2:33)
3. Mephisto (0:54)
4. The Song of the Sybil (3:45)
5. Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book (6:03)
6. As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins (5:16)
7. The End of Words (2:05)
8. Black Sun (4:56)
9. Wilderness (1:24)
10. The Promised Womb (3:22)
11. The Garden of Zephirus (1:20)
12. Radharc (2:48)

Total Time 36:11

Line-up / Musicians

- Lisa Gerrard / vocals, performer
- Brendan Perry / vocals, performer

- David Navarro Sust / vocals (1)
- John Bonnar / keyboards (5), arrangements (2,5)
- Robert Perry / bagpipes (6)
- Andrew Robinson / bass viol (10)
- Anne Robinson / bass viol (10)
- Lucy Robinson / tenor viol (10)
- Honor Carmody / tenor viol (10)

Note: The actual full instrumentation cold not be confirmed at this moment

Releases information

ArtWork: Detail of Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516) painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights"

LP 4AD ‎- CAD 0007 (1990, UK)
LP 4AD ‎- VIN180LP028 (2011, UK) Remastered (?)

CD 4AD ‎- CAD 0007 CD (1990, UK)
CD 4AD ‎- CAD 2710 CD (2008, UK) Remastered by Neal Harris

Thanks to Seyo for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DEAD CAN DANCE Aion ratings distribution

(157 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

DEAD CAN DANCE Aion reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I like the cover art of Aion, quite evocative with its symbolistic elements, but the fascination stops here, at the door. In Aion, Dead Can Dance try without success to surf on the wave of sacred, religious ancient music...the result is poor most part of time. We can notice an evident inspiration from medieval music but the musical background of the band doesn't enable to translate with authenticity the spirit & essence of this music. The compositions are heartless, mechanical if not absurd. On honest compositions as the introduction title or the "song of the Sybil" the echoes and the sophistication of the production make the ensemble sounding like a "supermarket-christmas" version of old lithurgic chants. A decent pop album with imature imitations of ancient music. For collectors / fan only if I consider that Dead Can Dance have been included for what they are.
Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Aion" was my introduction to Dead Can Dance, a band whose name I'd frequently heard in the past, but had never had the opportunity to explore. When they were added to the site a few months ago, I got to watch their videos, and was hooked. Pop music it may be (though I wish all pop was of the same high quality), but very appealing indeed. From the eerily beautiful cover, which reproduces some details from Hyeronimus Bosch's weird "The Garden of Earthly Delights", to the intriguingly evocative titles of the twelve tracks, "Aion" is a trip through different moods and textures - shorter than most of the albums currently released, but no less rich in musical content.

In spite of their Australian origins, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard delve deep into the rich heritage of ancient European folk and church music, producing an album of haunting, wistful beauty. Their voices complement each other and the music perfectly - Gerrard's a magnificent contralto, so different from the lilting sopranos so frequent in Prog Folk outfits, Perry's a velvety baritone - and enhance the album's overall melancholy, stately mood. Many traditional instruments feature in the compositions, notably the mournful sound of the bagpipes, and various kinds of percussion that give a strongly rythmical quality to many of the tracks.

It is not easy to single out individual compositions in such an album, though there are quite a few highlights - my personal favourites being the two tracks sung by Brendan Perry. "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" features lyrics by Spanish 16th-century poet Luis de Gongora, and showcases Perry's compelling voice perfectly; while in "Black Sun" the vocals are preceded by a hauntingly intricate, instrumental section. The 16th-century Catalan "The Song of the Sybil" sees instead a great vocal performance by Gerrard, truly one of the best female singers I have ever come across - commanding and intense rather than angelic. In a slightly patriotic vein, I'll also spare a mention for the instrumental "Saltarello", a lively, traditional 14-century dance which was once widespread in most of Central and Southern Italy.

Though some may have expressed reservations on DCD's 'prog quotient', I see them as representing another side of our favourite genre - perhaps possessed of a more mainstream appeal than other bands featured in the Prog-Folk subgenre, but still challenging and deeply fascinating. An excellent album by a truly interesting outfit - highly recommended to anyone wishing to expand their prog boundaries.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

If DCD merited their inclusion due to one and only one album, it would be this one, well above the previous works, while the following would indeed take on where this one left it. By the time of Aion, their fifth album, DCD had completed their metamorphosed although they would never stop morphing further. By now, the duo's music was completely entrenched in pre-classical music, far into European medieval folklore, with touches of ambient music. Graced with a Jerome Bosch-like artwork, Aion is simply DCD's most spectacular work.

Right from the almost A Capella (just a few drum beats) and polyphonic intro of Arrival, you just know that DCD has progressed another notch from Serpent's Egg. The following Satarello plunges deeply into medieval and baroque music, much like Emma Myldenberger or Gryphon would, remaining as close to the original spirit. This trait of character will remain for the duration of the album, as there are no obvious synthesizers, nor other rock instruments throughout the 12 tracks. At the most is there a synth in the back of the vocals of Black Sun (one of the album's many highlight, but one of my fave), with interesting drumming and Lisa Gerrard's voice perfectly fitting the medieval spectrum.

There is a sense of repetition of themes already heard over the length of the album, but nothing tiresome, but ultimately the spirit of perfection and correct rendition of medieval ambiances pervades and the album is a pure joy for those enjoying older and acoustic instruments. All the more comforting is that the gothic epithet takes its historical meaning, closing on the real gothic music (as in pre- classical) instead of the romantic gothic literature or its embarrassing black lipstick rock equivalent.

Easily DCD's best album, as far as this writer is concerned, AION has nowadays been agreed upon as their definitive statement as far as their first period is concerned. Of course, the group's following era will have plenty of excitement, but in a more ethnic feel, andshould just be as easily accepted by progheads not looking for overly complex music.

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars I really think this is the weakest of all the Dead Can Dance studio albums. It’s barely even a full recording, clocking on at a scant thirty-six minutes which makes it the shortest of all their albums. Half the songs are less than three minutes long, and those all sound more like snippets of musical ideas that Brendan Perry jotted down or committed to a hand recorder and then went straight into the studio without bothering to actually finish writing the songs.

“The Song of the Sibyl” is one of the longer tracks (still less than four minutes), but even this one consists mostly of Lisa Gerrard’s weird operatic vocals atop Gregorian monk-like chanting. The duo’s actual music had become more and more sparse over the previous three releases, and with this album Perry seems to have decided to simply stop composing altogether and just pluck a few strings along with programmed synth sequences and call it good.

The same goes for “Fortune Presents Gifts not According to the Book”, whose title is longer than the score and whose vocals consist mostly of repeating the title in Perry’s detached voice with more plucking. A little bit of violin/viola, but not so much as you’d notice without really listening.

The two tracks that even remotely live up to the Dead Can Dance potential are “As the Bell Rings the May Pole Spins” and “Black Sun”. Both members actual sing (not just mumble – I’m talking to you Mr. Perry) and on “Black Sun” there’s an actual rhythm, although unfortunately even that seems to be digitally programmed. The bagpipes are a nice touch on ‘Bell’, but two songs do not save an inferior album by themselves.

I think this is about the point where the band's fans started to tire of their sound, which had become predictable and unimaginative. That plus the general decline of faux goth bands like Dead Can Dance, the Church and Cocteau Twins really spelled the end. The band released another album a few years later but I didn’t buy it and neither did very many other people. That was followed with 1996’s ‘Spiritchaser’ which was really the bottom, and Dead Can Dance went the way of history. This album was the firstnail in the coffin.

Two stars because nobody but real fans of the band will find anything interesting here. Not recommended for anyone else – pick up their first couple of records instead.


Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Aion" is the 5th full-length studio album by Australian/UK act Dead Can Dance. The album was released through 4AD Records in June 1990. The group still consists of Lisa Gerrard (contra alto ethnic flavoured vocals, various instruments) and Brendan Perry (Baritone vocals, various instruments). In addition to the two members of the band there are multible session musicians contributing to the album playing instruments such as violin, keyboards and bagpipes.

The music on the album features elements from many different genres like ambient, etnic, folk, medieval music and a slight goth element too. The medieval element is more pronounced on "Aion" than on any other Dead Can Dance release. The Brendan Perry led compositions "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" and "Black Sun" are among the highlights of the album but it┤s impossible not to be moved and intrigued by the tracks where B>Lisa Gerrard sings lead vocals too. Her voice and vocal skills are stunning to say the least (she┤s got the most fantastic vibratto). Unfortunately too many of the tracks on "Aion" where she sings lead vocals seem a bit underdeveloped to me. Most are very short pieces which give the album a fractured feel and an uneven flow. This is not a major issue, but still an issue I need to mention.

In addition to the tracks mentioned above the instrumental "Saltarello" which is also among the stronger tracks on the album. The instrumentation on the album is a mix of organic instruments, synths and drum programming. "Aion" predominantly has an organic sound to it and the electronic elements don┤t appear too often and when they do they add to the variation of the album. "Aion" features a clean, warm and pleasant sound production which suits the music perfectly. Paired with the strong musicianship and the (for the most part) intriguing compositions "Aion" overall comes out pretty strong. A better flow and more developed tracks would have made it even better though. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Review by Mellotron Storm
2 stars DEAD CAN DANCE made a wrong turn as far as i'm concerned with this record. Jusy not a fan of this Middle-Ages sounding affair. It was recorded and produced in Ireland. For me this is my least favourite outing from the band.

"The Arrival And The Reunion" opens with Lisa's voice and background vocals. "Saltarello" is actually based on an italian dance from the 14th century. Lots of percussion and drums throughout this uptempo instrumental. "Mephisto" features strings that build. "The Song Of The Sybil" is based on a 16th century chant. It's like catholic church music. Ughh. Depressing female vocal melodies too. "Fortunate Presents Gifts Not According To The Book" eventually picks up the pace with male vocals.

"As The Bell Rings The Maypole Spins" opens with female vocals. Drums and bagpipes take over. Vocals are back around a minute. Catchy tune. "The End Of Words" again sounds like church music with male and female chanting. "Black Sun" features percussion and what sounds like a trumpet. Brenden comes in vocally. "Wilderness" is melancholic with female vocal melodies. "The promised Womb" again has female vocal melodies but they're more passionate here. Depressing stuff. "The Garden Of Zephirus" is just over a minute of birds chirping and serenity. "Radharc" sounds like something out of the Middle East.

They would get back on course with their next album. I know a few who say this is their favourite DCD album though. An acquired taste.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars As other reviewers have pointed out already, this DCD album is an acquired taste. Together with Spiritchaser it is the album that has cost me most effort to learn to appreciate. It is made up of short pieces with dominating medieval overtones; it's also very short and feels a bit fragmented and underdeveloped. Nevertheless I prefer the concise format to the stretched out improvisations of Spiritchaser.

Even though the short pieces are very delightful, the obvious highpoints are the songs lasting 3 or more minutes: the sad but soothing Song of Sibyl, the psychedelic goth of Fortune Presents Gifts and Black Sun and the Arabian Radharc. However, pieces like As The Bell Rings and The Promised Womb feel second rate and have no place on a short album like this.

An album of 36 minutes can be long enough for me, but only if everything is perfect. With a good 25 minutes of excellent music this album doesn't have enough cuts for 4 stars.

Review by Dobermensch
2 stars Despite the wonderful cover lifted from Hieronymous Bosch's 'Garden of Delights' this album was a big disappointment to me. It's almost as though they thought too hard about how to follow up their previous brilliant 4 LP's. Too static, too soft, too graceful with too much light and not enough inspiration. Cor blimey, that's a criticism I never thought I'd use on Dead Can Dance.

Recorded in Brendan Perry's 'church' in Ireland, 'Aion', at the end of the day, is something of a non-entity. Very mediaeval in sound, with lots of ancient instruments played competently enough, it doesn't carry the same impact as '88's 'Serpent's Egg'.

If truth be told, it's a real bore.

Brendan Perry perks things up a bit with 'Black Sun' - evoking certain parts of 'Within the Realm' with suitable reverb on his vocals, but it still falls somewhat flat...

Not a patch on 'Spleen and Ideal' or 'Within the Realm...'

Middle Age Renaissance pop, and also very short in its sub 40 min duration.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars If, as an adventurous folk music fan, you are looking for the first DEAD CAN DANCE album that actually represents a unique and cohesive take on your beloved genre, "Aion" may well be the place to start. The group emphasized quality over quantity here, with fewer undeveloped pieces and the result is a collection of songs that easily exceeds the sum of its individual parts. It's much like seeing a good movie that. over the course of the subsequent week, warmly pervades your consciousness more than you might have anticipated when you left the theater.

I'll admit that a few of the shorter ecclesiastically geared pieces seem timid in the light of some of the more insistent hit songs that followed in the early 90s, but their kitsch factor is also more bearable. Tunes like the evergreen "Saltarello" and "As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins" leave no doubt as to the new found energy of the group, with their more traditional instrumentation played in a more traditional vein, while "Fortune Presents Gifts" picks up where "Ulysses" left off on the preceding album. Interestingly, probably the best track, "Black Sun" takes us back to more Gothic days again, and seems more than a little to have inspired some neo folk like the British group OSTARA years later. The synths here are are both sinister and divine, a rare and precious combination. "The Promised Womb" is delightfully interpreted by Gerrard, a deliberately moody slow piece gently led by lowly pipes. The biggest surprise is saved for last, with "Radharc" seemingly taking us on a middle eastern journey via Transylvania. When the vocals finally enter, I am left wondering how much cross fertilization there may have been between the likes of MUSZICKAS and even DEEP FOREST and the group under present scrutiny.

Easily DCD's ultimate statement to this point, "Aion" might be one for the ages depending on your point of view, or just an album to make 2011 prog folk fans happy to be where and when they are.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Aion by Dead Can Dance is the band's first release following the end of the romantic relationship between Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, and they show exceptional professionalism in the extent to which it does not seem to impact too heavily on their musical interactions here. Perhaps songs such as Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book are meant to allude, however obliquely, to the end of the affair; either way, the album is even more introverted and contemplative than the two preceding pieces.

Whilst it isn't quite as eye-opening as its two predecessors, it stands as proof that despite the romantic breakup, there was still some unfinished business for Dead Can Dance to explore - and both its primary creative forces were up to the task of tackling it.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars This album from Dead Can Dance might just be their most accessible. Though it's not their best in my opinion, it is still good and still give a pretty good example of their sound. There is plenty of darkness on this on, however, there are actually tracks that are light hearted (Salterello will make you think you are listening to a traditional European folk band). That's something that is quite rare with DCD. But they do it well. This album is made up mostly of traditional music and not original songs. The songs mostly come from old world European and other cultures. I think this is a very good mix and the sound never seems to get drawn down into dark oblivion. Most of the songs are quite short and this might concern some people because one of DCD's problems with short songs in the past has been that they seem underdeveloped and cut short. Not the case here though. Each song is well developed and given excellent creative attention. Both Gerrard and Perry have plenty of vocal time throughout this album, even mixing their voices at times. There is some nice harmony on "The End of Words". Great percussion and brassiness (yes the brass is back again, even though it is electronic brass) on "Black Sun". Even with the differences on this album, it still has plenty of the dark DCD sound that they are famous for, but it is mixed with a good amount of lightness to help make the entire album easier to listen to for first timers. For those familiar with DCD's sound, this album may seem shallow at first, but there should be enough here to keep you happy (or gloomy) after a few listens. Like anything that DCD does, this definitely deserves attention. I will rate this one at 3 stars but it is probably more like 3.5, not as good as "Dying Sun" but better than "Serpent's Egg".
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is my favorite Dead Can Dance album of all-time. I think this is due to the fact that it's instrumentation is more acoustic, more Euro-centric (not that I don't love other world musical traditions), and more "authentic" in terms of the instrumentation and song choices. As a matter of fact, since many of the songs here (all of Side One?) are "covers" or Brendan and Lisa's interpretations of classic mediŠval and Renaissance songs (even chant!), I guess "authentic" is the appropriate, and operative, word here. As a representative of the Prog Folk sub-genre, I am much happier when a band is closer to folk than prog (electric) and rock (band formatted) and I am never happier than when ancient and old music forms and styles are attempted--especially when they are successfully rendered--as they are here.

Favorite songs: "The End of Words" (5/5); the brief hurdy-gurdy joy, "Mephisto" (5/5); "Wilderness" (5/5); the mesmerizing, "The Garden of Zephirus" (5/5); "The Arrival and The Reunion"(4.75/5); the gorgeous Celtic weave that is "As the Bell Rings The Maypole Spins" (9/10); "Saltarello" (9/10); the gorgeous multi-Lisa-voiced, "The Promised Womb" (8.75/10); "Fortune Present Gifts Not According to the Book" (8.75/10); "The Song of Sybli" (8.5/10), and; "Radharc" (8.5/10) and "Black Sun" (8/10).

It's funny how I often find the songs on which Brendan singing the lead vocal among my favorites but not so here. I guess his long-sustained, reverbed notes don't lend themselves so well to the ancient European traditions.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a near-masterpiece of Prog Folk as well.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Listening diary 9th July, 2021: Dead Can Dance - Aion (neoclassical darkwave/medieval folk, 1990) Probably their most blatantly medieval album, even to the point of covering The Song of the Sibyl, one of my favourite pieces of classical music, but as with many Dead Can Dance records, I'm not su ... (read more)

Report this review (#2592298) | Posted by Gallifrey | Sunday, September 5, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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