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DEAD CAN DANCE

Dead Can Dance

Prog Folk


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
1 stars Many of us progheads have a remembrance of DCD being some kind of Australian answer gothic post punk to Bauhaus and got associated with the so-called Cold Wave, especially once they'd relocated to London and became a duo, but this can apparently be applied only for their first album. Like many progheads, I heard of the group then, dispelled them as uninteresting and sort of forgot to check out their future records. I dare say, I'm not the only proghead having done so, as well.

But having recently reheard the debut album, graced with that bizarre semi-human semi-bird mask (seemingly of Maori or Melanesian origins), can say that at least, I wasn't wrong on my memories of post punk gothic, somewhere between Bauhaus, The Cure, a tad of Killing Joke as well (in their more industrial moments), and other early 80's new wave pop. So as I stand confirmed of my historical dislike of this album, one must recognize that they did their gothic rock rather well and could probably recommend this album as one of the top ten of its genre, but this is coming from a profane and uninitiated gothic relic. A relic whose list might just start with The Cult's debut album Love, BTW. Some of the quieter moments on this album have a certain kind of eerie beauty, especially with Lisa Gerard's voice (strangely under mixed as are most vocals on this album), but overall the 80's way of making music sweats out of every pore of this album, thus taking away a good part of its interest.

Please note that the Cd version of this album comes with their EP released later that year Garden Of The Arcane Delight, which globally sound very much like their debut album and therefore doesn't intrude on the original album. Of all DCD albums, this s/t one is the least likely to please the progheads, especially those that have a strong distaste for 80's new wave. Best avoided really!!

Report this review (#156468)
Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The eponymous debut of DCD will surely surprise and probably shock the majority of prog-heads present on this site. This is particularly true for those who still keep believing that punk killed prog and other nonsense... and who had serious difficulties to understand, appreciate and make a brave leap from the 1970s on to the 1980s. Instead of sticking with the long-time worn out formats of YES and GENESIS and following their traces in usually unconvicing and over-produced works of neo-prog, they seem to neglect that the real adventure lied elsewhere.

Post-punk, in general terms, provided a vast expansion of creative energy during the 1980s and was influential to many different sub-genres of so-called alternative rock, including some very experimental and avant-gardistic musical appearances (like later post rock). DCD were clearly a part of this scene, sharing the aesthetics of other important 4AD acts like COCTEAU TWINS, THIS MORTAL COIL and the likes. And yes, the influence of so-called gothic rock as defined by early JOY DIVISION, BAUHAUS or later THE CURE, was obvious.

Actually this was the last time DCD performed as a rock band in a conventional meaning of the word. Guitar, bass and drums are here, the beat is present.... but still, it is even here the atmosphere (very dark one, no doubt) that counts, and the sound textures that are more ear-catching. Vocals of Perry and Gerard are perhaps not sufficiantly used or performed on this album, but what we can hear is really unique style of Lisa Gerrard that she would perfect on later albums.

The opening instrumental The Fatal Impact presents the darkest side of DCD, with pulsing bass lines and noisy guitar chords - this is one of the defining moments of the duo. The Trial has the clearest post-punk remnants in the rhythm structure and guitar riffs and speed, while Frontier already contains sort of world fusion electronic-ambient textures and ethnic percussions followed by wonderful voice of Lisa -the style that was to characterise their later works. East of Eden brings a gentle melodic bass progression and is one of the least melancholic songs on the album. A Passage in Time is a brilliant piece with Perry's vocals and spacey guitar textures similar to those SIMPLE MINDS perfected on their early albums (up to Sparkle In The Rain, 1983).

During the 1980s many devout prog rockers simply failed to follow what was going on around them, desperately looking for YES, GENESIS or FLOYD to come up with something decent. Alas, we all know this did not happen, and the most of classic old prog bands produced nothing but garbage in this period. Experiencing the new wave/post punk boom in Yugoslavian music scene of the period, I was able to stay on both tracks - and trust me, the real progressive music (with lots of energy, fresh ideas, songwriting, concepts...) was to be found within the scene DEAD CAN DANCE participated in.

Many of you will probably dislike this album (and here I offer slightly different perspective from our distinguished collaborator Hughues ;)) and you have every right to feel that way. But, if you like the dark side of prog, be it in any various form like VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, BLACK SABBATH, AMON DUUL II or PINK FLOYD, give it a try and listen to DCD! Then, you can judge yourself.

PERSONAL RATING: 4/5

P.A. RATING: 4/5

Report this review (#159808)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the debut album from Dead Can Dance and it´s a very different album compared to the rest of their discography. I was first introduced to Dead Can Dance in the early nineties when I heard Into the Labyrinth from 1993 which is their sixth album. Into the Labyrinth is a beautiful and varied album where you can hear all of the characteristica of Dead Can Dance. This means a godly production. Lots of ethnic female singing and instrumentation, Jim Morrison/ goth rock male vocals and simple yet elaborate compositions.

On this debut album the music has more in common with music like Joy Division, Fields of the Nephilim, Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy which means early eighties dark goth rock. It´s a style of music that I enjoy very much and I have lots of albums in my collection with bands like the above mentioned. Dead Can Dance is a bit different from those bands as the ethnic tendencies that they would fully develop on their later releases is also a part of their sound on this debut. This is what sets them apart from the many other bands that emerged in those dark eighties.

Dead Can Dance consists of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry who both contributes vocals on this album and Brendan also plays guitar. All other instruments are played by hired help. The most significant feature on this album is the use of a drum machine which some people find cold. I think the drum machine fits the music well even though I would also have prefered a real drummer. On the CD reissue of the album there are four bonus tracks from the 1984 EP Garden of the Arcane Delights which is a real treat as that EP is pretty hard to get. The EP songs add a great value to the original album as they are actually a bit more exciting than the material from the album. All songs are very good though and as the instrumental The Fatal Impact starts the album you´re in for a dark rock treaty. Personally I like the songs where Brendan Perry sings more than the songs where Lisa Gerrard has the lead role. Lisa has an outstanding voice but I´m not that excited about ethnic music in general and this doesn´t change my view on that.

The production is not very good. It´s very dark and the mix is strange but somehow it suits the music pretty well. Many of the aforementioned bands also had this kind of dark and muddy sound on their first couple of albums. It was just the way it was suppossed to sound back then. The sound hasn´t aged well though and stays firmly in the early eighties.

As a fan of Dead Can Dance this is an album you got to have of course, but for prog heads I would recommend starting with Into the Labyrinth and see if that one caught on before buying anything else by the band. This debut album is probably the last thing from Dead Can Dance that you would buy even as a fan. Well that sounds way to negative because I´m gonna give this album 3 stars because I enjoy it and there are some great songs here even though this is not the most progressive album on Prog Archives.

Report this review (#175279)
Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a great album to include in your Dead Can Dance collection, however it is not the bands' best work. When placed next to the remaining of the bands' catalog, DCD's debut sounds much removed stylistically from how they developed on subsequent releases. Even at this early stage the seeds of DCD's trademark sound is already being formed, although the music feels somewhat compromised by the traditional bass/drums/guitar rock/punk arrangements. "Ocean" is a particular highlight, and one of Lisa Gerrard's best vocal performances on a DCD record. Brendan Perry's songs are also well done, but his vocals are mixed with too much echo, making it very hard to understand what he's singing.

The 2008 re-masters all sound excellent, and the earliest albums benefit from this treatment the greatest. (When shopping look for the one's listed as "Re-Mastered, HYBRID SACD, and/or ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED"). These come in mini-LP style pockets, with a booklet inside containing reproductions of the record's sleeve (where the CD slips into), vinyl labels, a band photo, and lyrics to select songs. There will also be a gold obi card that hugs the spine.

Unfortunately the new remaster does NOT include the Garden of the Arcane Delights EP that was on the 1994 CD release, which would have added a star to my rating. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

(Adapted from my Amazon review)

Report this review (#218282)
Posted Monday, May 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Before they entered the world of ethereal beauty, mysticism and ethnic music, Dead Can Dance debuted with a new wave album that was more similar to early Cocteau Twins then to any of their future albums. It is often discarded and pigeonholed as a less deserving work, but, while it didn't reach their unique vision yet, it is an entirely deserving album on its own and easily as strong as concurrent post punk albums from Siouxsie, the Cure and Bauhaus.

The production is the typical muddy gothic sound of the early 80's, with reverberating drums, thumping bass guitar and heavily processed guitar effects. A sound grounded in the spirit of the times and not the ageless ambience that Dead Can Dance had envisioned. I never had issues with it though and the 2008 re-issue sounds just great to me.

That being said, the song writing is of high standards. The vocals are the most striking feature, signalling a more relaxed and schooled approach to singing then the wild Brit-punk flavoured vocals of other new wave bands. It might make this album easier to stomach for progheads. Of course, if you're not receptive to the evolution music took in the 80's, you'll never like this. The tracks sung by Lisa Gerrard come closest to Dead Can Dance's later sound, Frontier, Ocean and Musica Eternal are striking examples of her mesmerizing vocals. Brendan Perry's soothing baritone offers a more worldly balance on songs like The Trial, Passage in Time and Wild In The Woods. On this album, his voice is generally more suited for the song material then Lisa's; on the more ethnic direction of later albums her voice would come to full blossom.

While this album has nothing to do with Prog Rock as such, it is equally innovating as the progressive music from the early 70's. In fact, I don't see new wave and prog as opposite entities but rather as different outcomes of the same principle: to expand and develop rock into new, exciting, non-conformist and original directions.

Just like prog, new wave became gradually more uninteresting as it became more successful and when bands stopped experimenting and referred to formulaic songwriting in order to obtain the 'correct' sound. That is not what would happen to Dead Can Dance though. Their history was one of continuing development, growth and unwavering work ethics. Not an album for people with 80's phobia. 4.5 stars, impressive debut.

Report this review (#258463)
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars In the early 90s, before prog's real resurgence stirred by the equivalent of animated whispers across the internet sea, this old prog fan had to content himself with reminiscences and the occasional echoes of world music influenced pop within earshot. So it was that in 1992 or so, I became exposed to DEAD CAN DANCE via a hip friend in a west end Vancouver apartment. I'm not sure how big a fan of the group he was other than a couple of contemporaneous albums, but if there is one thing a listen to their debut disk suggests, it's that, while we might not have acknowledged it in 1992, music reached a nadir 10 years prior and DCD was one of the groups to clean up its act and thrive.

This is emotionally and spiritually cold comfort with few exceptions, and those chiefly when the group sounds like the better acts of those dark days. A case in point is "A Passage in Time", which, as a 2nd rate SIMPLE MINDS, is a major highlight. It's fine to have muffled and robotic music if the voices aren't, or vice versa, or if you opt for unbroken doom and gloom like JOY DIVISION at their best. I'm sure those better versed in this era can pick out closer points of comparison, but it matters little. Even the common ancestors of the later DCD sound seem timid at this point, such as the undeveloped "Frontier".

In general, DCD are best here at their most ambient, in the eerie "Ocean" and "Musica Eternal", which help raise the bar sufficiently to, if not compensate for the utterly vapid majority of pieces, at least justify a tenuous hold on the second rung. Well, at this stage they pretty much got the dead part down pat.

Report this review (#515783)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Dead Can Dance's debut album is an experimentally minded goth rock album with a heavy dose of the dream pop approach of Cocteau Twins - particularly in those tracks where Lisa Gerrard takes the lead vocal. Like the Twins, who were stablemates of the band's at 4AD, the focus is on shimmering, layered guitar and on mysterious, esoteric vocals, creating an otherworldly and mysterious atmosphere which permeates the album. Though the medieval music influences which would come to distinguish them from the Twins was not yet a major factor in their music, Brendan Perry's lyrics allude to the occult ideas which would lead that development, and the album itself is a great companion piece to high-quality Cocteau Twins releases from the time.
Report this review (#578350)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Dead Can Dance's first outing is a purely 'Goth' album played and constructed in an entirely different manner from all subsequent releases. Full of highly contagious tunes and superb vocals by Brendan Perry. Surprisingly there's electric guitar... lots of it! ... and it's continuously echoey in sound just like the Cocteau Twins on their 'Garlands' album. Driving repetitive bass is used on most tunes and is quite similar to 'Joy Division' in style.

I first heard this album in 1986, when astonishingly, I found it in my local library. I guess it was of more importance than I at first realised, as from that moment onwards I never listened to anything 'normal' again. Fast forward 25 years and I find I still love this album. The production values aren't quite up 4AD's usual high standard, but this is more than made up for in the actual song-writing.

Lisa Gerrard sounds spookily like 'Bono' at the start of 'Threshold' which turns out to be one of the best tunes on the album with its aggressive rolling drums and pumping fat bass.

As an added bonus - you get 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' 12" slapped on at the end. Each of these 4 tracks are excellent and pave the way for their follow-up album 'Spleen and Ideal' the following year.

Almost a five star recording but loses the award due to the fact that there's two seriously miserable tracks sung by Lisa Gerrard (Ocean and Musica Eternal) which seem out of place on this recording. The rest of it is simply brilliant.

Report this review (#610789)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars This is the debut album from Dead Can Dance. This however is not the trademark sound that they became known for, at least for the most part. As most reviewers have said already, the sound here leans towards a goth rock an amazing layered sound. Except for some interesting percussion on some of the tracks, instruments and voice are mixed so that no particular sound seems to stand out like what you hear in some of their later albums. However, nothing is really muddled here either. All sounds, instrumentation and vocals work together as a whole and this really doesn't change much throughout the album. It's hard to single out any tracks because of this. At first listen, it may be difficult to really hear any difference from one track to another. But if you listen close and concentrate on the music, you can hear clues of where their music was going to take them in later albums. There is some nice percussion in the first track, which is instrumental, and also in the 2nd track. The percussion in "The Fatal Impact" consisted of overturned paint cans. The bass line in "East of Eden" is also one of the stand out points in this album. "Musica Eternal" stands out for me in that there is no rhythm line at all and the song is mostly reliant totally on Lisa's lovely vocals and the background drone of Brenden's wordless vocalization. This song puts you in a different place than the rest of the album and also gives you a good insight into the other worldly beauty that would follow in their future albums. All in all, I don't expect anyone to consider this progressive rock except for the fact that it is somewhat experimental. However, there are no dynamic rhythm changes like your would hear in later endeavors and not a lot of variety. The production is not as good as what you hear in their later albums either, but this is their first official release, after all, and you can definitely hear the promise of what was to come. Listen to this closely, don't judge it based on your first listen either. Don't write it off as an unessential album either. Those who search this album will be rewarded.
Report this review (#998833)
Posted Monday, July 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Once upon a time, DEAD CAN DANCE was a nebulous concept in the founding members' fertile imaginations that had not yet transpired all the way down under in their native Australia before forming in 1981. Long before the Australian turned British act that would relocate to London and become one of the most successful experimental neoclassical dark folk ambient musical acts of all time, this ethnic inspired fusion band would emerge quite differently. Originally founded as a quartet with not only Lisa Gerrard (ex- Microfilm) and Breden Perry (ex-Marching Girls), but would also include Paul Erikson on bass and Simon Monroe (also of Marching Girls). Once in the UK however, Monroe would soon be replaced by Peter Ulrich who was a multi-instrumentalist, a trait shared by many members of the band throughout the years.

While DEAD CAN DANCE is best known for their unique experimental approach on the timeless ethnic infused style of neoclassical darkwave wrapped in ethereal ambient dressing, the band initiated their humble beginnings as an early 80s post-punk band with extra helpings of gothic rock and darkened dream pop. It didn't take long after they landed a record deal with the alternative rock label 4AD and release their eponymously titled debut in 1984. While clear influences that range from The Cure and The Cocteau Twins are at full front on album #1, DEAD CAN DANCE emerged as a rather unique sounding band right out of the gates with a dreamier space pop based production that fortified a rather darkened ambient atmospheric presence. Despite the gothic touches, DCD was already showing signs of its love for ethnic folk and international flavors in not only the music but by the ritual mask from Papua New Guinea that the album cover sported alongside Greek letters that added an artistic flair to their name.

Despite DCD founding as a band, the pecking order was quickly established since back then Gerrard and Perry were a couple who clearly dominated the musical development with their own sense of direction. Some things were already set at this stage, namely Gerrard and Perry would tradeoff vocals with one track featuring Perry's rather one-trick-pony style of his famous Frank Sinatra type crooning augmented with a touch of new wave hipness from the likes of Paul Humprheys from Orchestral Monoeuvres In The Dark. Lisa Gerrard, on the other hand, has always been the showcase with her sly as a fox adaptability vocally speaking and on this debut, she perfectly blends her ethereal feminine touch to the darkened space pop fueled Gothy darkwave with ease. In fact, the tracks that feature her remarkably resemble a Cocteau Twins edge especially from the "Victorialand" phase which wasn't released for several years yet. The gothic touches mostly result from the frigid industrial beats accompanied by a thick atmospheric haze.

Despite all the references to the contemporary alt rock scene in the form of goth and dream pop, DEAD CAN DANCE were already incorporating world influences from the beginning. On this debut there are ample samplings of Indian percussion and Celtic folk stringed instruments. Despite all the little touches that in hind sight point the direction in which the band would be heading, the clear and dominate sound of this debut is clearly the heavy rock guitar which makes this album not only the band's heaviest but also the only one that clearly could be exist in the rock universe. Having coming to this debut well after all the albums that follow, what struck me most was how Perry pretty much sounds exactly the same despite the radically different instrumentation swirling around his singing style whereas Gerrard was already an extraterrestrial angelic force with talents too great to be contained by the somewhat forced display of musical performances in a rock music prison.

While the DEAD CAN DANCE debut is clearly the odd album out of their eclectic canon with its primeval focus on the early 80s underground, it is an eerily entrancing album nonetheless and an excellent display of experimental touches being teased out within the context of the era. Clearly the more inspiring albums that followed would garner international attention and success for their total out of the box unorthodoxies, but the debut album by DEAD CAN DANCE remains a musical mastery in its own right for its interesting blend of gothic grooves, dream pop atmospheric and sprinklings of ethnic influences that would become more prominent very quickly. For my money, this debut is just as interesting as many early Cure albums and much better than some of the Cocteau Twins lackluster offerings. While the album may not be as cohesive as others from the era, it doesn't suffer from the barrage of ideas finding their way into the mix as they aren't stuffed into every nook and cranny. Instead the music is composed as rather period piece and fortified with experimental offerings. This one is very much worth exploring.

Report this review (#2051807)
Posted Friday, November 2, 2018 | Review Permalink

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