Dead Can Dance
Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry formed Dead Can Dance in Melbourne, Australia in 1981. At the time the band also included Paul Erikson (bass) and Simon Monroe (drums). They released their first album, Dead Can Dance, in 1984 , after relocating to London and signing to 4AD records. Sadly, they were lumped into the ‘goth’ category and compared to label mates, Cocteau Twins. I say sadly because Dead Can Dance were much more than a goth band. Nothing wrong with ‘goth’ and Cocteau Twins, whom I love, but Dead Can Dance incorporated so many different musical influences into their music that the end result was their own distinct genre. By their second album, Gerrard and Perry were Dead Can Dance. They developed the ability to play multiple instruments and moved, with ease, from instrument to instrument producing glorious music.
Now in 2018, the band has released their ninth studio album, and their first since 2013’s Anastasis, which was also their first album not released by 4AD. Dionysus musically picks up where the band left us with Anastasis. For the record, Dionysus is the ancient Greek God of wine, which seems fitting given the music on this album. Dionysus is a combination of celtic, classical and world music, all pulled together. The end result is an infectious, emotional, flowing album.
The album is broken into two acts. The first act, “Sea Borne” is broken into three sections as: ‘Sea Borne’, ‘Liberator of Minds’, and ‘Dance of the Bacchantes’.Act II is “The Mountain” and includes: ‘The Mountain’, ‘The Invocation’, ‘The Forest’ and ‘Psychopomp’. Act I follows Dionysus’s voyage, by boat, (hence the “Sea Borne” title) while side two documents his birth, and eventual transformation into The God and a guide to the afterlife. It sounds like heady stuff, and it is, but it is also remarkably accessible.
The album is primarily instrumental, but there are vocals, mostly on Act II, they are more chanting and incantations that singing. It is wonderful and adds to the overall effect. It is hard to believe that this music, so large, is made by two people. It envelops the listener and takes them on a trip and mythological ride. It is absolutely stunning. By the second act, you are visiting Mount Nysa and learning the chants of his youth.
Without lyrics to narrate the story, they tell the story of Dionysus. The music guides the listener and keeps their interest. One of the strengths of this album is that it does not overstay its welcome. The music never becomes boring, stagnant or repetitive. They both know when the moment or movement is complete and they move on to the next.
This is a brilliant album. The combination of classical, celtic, world and rock makes their sound distinct and original. Dionysus is a beautiful album made by two individuals, who both have their own successful solo careers, come together and are able to merge their talent together. A fantastic accomplishment by a band who continues to grow and produce some of the most interesting and original music.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: DEAD CAN DANCE – DIONYSUS