Dead Can Dance - Dionysius - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Dead Can Dance - Dionysius

by Kevin Orton Rating:7 Release Date:2018-11-02
Dead Can Dance - Dionysius
Dead Can Dance - Dionysius

Dead Can Dance have always been labeled “Goth” but if you ask me they had more to do with Folk music than anything else. If you want to add “World” to that description, go ahead. Their music has always been cinematic, eclectic and ambient. At its best, their work is mysterious and arcane. They’re certainly an oddity in the Rock world. First appearing on the now legendary 4AD label, Dead Can Dance managed to rope in the Cocteau Twins and Cure crowd, becoming one of the label’s best-selling acts.

It’s been six years since their last, and their latest pays homage to the Greek god, Dionysus. It’s broken up into two lengthy tracks: Acts I and II. Which frankly, is annoying. Act I is comprised of ‘Sea Born’, ‘Liberator of Minds’ and ‘Dance of the Bacchantes’. Act II, ‘The Mountain’, the ‘Invocation’, ‘The Forest’ and ‘Psychopomp’. If it all sounds a little arty and pretentious, this band has always been a little of both.

There is a narrative flow for sure and it doesn’t end well for our buddy, Dion. As the story goes, he’s ripped apart by the tipsy Bacchanals. It isn’t hard to see that Bowie told much of the same story in Ziggy Stardust. With far more originality and flair if you ask me. Nick Cave pulled off a similar stunt with his demented take on the Orpheus myth in ‘Lyre of Orpheus’. It all goes to show, all the stories have been told, its how you tell them that matters. Dead Can Dance has opted to tell it with stoic impressionism.

They’ve gathered their usual assortment of unusual instruments and time has been more than kind to Lisa Gerrard’s vocals. At times, she sounds like Cassandra summoning the elements. That said, you can’t understand a blessed thing that comes out of her mouth. Like Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins, she’s been known to make up her own language on occasion.

Overall, the album is less a Bacchanal than a solemn and reverential, ritual. Hypnotic percussion gives way to calm seas then things get downright “Psychedelic” in ‘Liberator of Minds’. The last act becomes a simmering stew of arcane and exotic instruments, including their signature hammer dulcimer.

One can admire the eclecticism and musicianship at work here, but let’s face it, a lot of this sounds less like Dionysus getting his Bacchanal on and more like Celtic Woman or Enya with Arabesque flourishes. Ultimately, there’s something a bit cliché about it all. One could see it serving well on a Game of Thrones soundtrack. Or as an accompaniment to a modern dance piece. Yet, there’s nothing innovative going on here. Despite the exotic eclecticism, there’s no attempt to reach outside the box. While a worthy and commendable effort, one can’t escape the feeling Dionysus is the same old Dead Can Dance formula in new packaging.

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