Artist: Dead Can Dance
CD title: Anastasis
Label: PIAS Records
Genre: World Music, Ethereal
Reviewer: DJ Kantrip
Its been 16 years since Dead Can Dance released a studio album, and 7 since they toured live. Many assumed that Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard had dissolved Dead Can Dance for good due to repeated interviews and articles that explained the difficulties involved in trans-continental album production and focus on their solo careers. So imagine the surprise of many fans when the iconic musical duo not only announced a world tour for 2012, but also a new full-length studio album.
Dead Can Dance have not made their return subtle either. The band kept fans engaged by offering free downloads of live tracks from their 2005 tour over the months leading up to the tour and album release. A perfect way to not only get existing fans excited but also attract new listeners and introduce them to their discography very quickly. Dead Can Dance made it very very clear that they were hard at work and that fans should look forward to what was in store. And they have not disappointed.
Anastasis, DCD's 8th studio album, feels like the culmination of all of the different worlds and cultures that Dead Can Dance has explored throughout their career. Middle Eastern, Medieval, Oriental, and some that just defy definition. The album also avoids feeling like a tribute to past works. This was actually a concern I had for Anastasis. Some bands come back from a long break or retirement and will attempt to generate new material that pulls only from the strongest moments of their career to create something that fails to show fans how they have grown in the meantime. Other bands will try to reinvent themselves so drastically that the end result ends up containing none of the band's original sound or appeal. Anastasis doesn't fall prey to this at all thankfully. Yes, if you are a fan of The Serpent's Egg, there are plenty of ambient soundscapes. If Into the Labyrinth filled you with wonder from all the stories it told, don't worry Anastasis has plenty to tell. Did you love the tribal drums of Spiritchaser. Not a worry. Anastasis is Dead Can Dance doing what they have always done well and ensuring you, the listener, can let go and enjoy the ride.
The entire album feels ancient and modern at the same time, successfully fusing traditional instrumentation with synthesizers to create very lush soundscapes. “Anabasis” takes the listener into ancient middle-eastern gardens that once overlooked vast deserts, while “Return of The She-King” transports the audience to places where castles are quite common, as rolling drums and trumpeting horns herald a lost regent's return. Lisa Gerrard's vocals on these songs are strong, and hypnotic, attempting to draw the listener into these musical worlds further. Brendan Perry continues his role as a wizened storyteller on the songs where he takes lead vocals. “Amnesia” and “Opium” warn of the dangers of being too focused on the past or abandoning completely, while “Children of the Sun” is an inspiring piece that tells the history of a great heritage that refuses to be oppressed. I also like how the album is structured. Tracks like “Anabasis”, “Kiko”, “Agape”, and “Return of the She-King” invoke the sounds and emotions from an ancient time, stretching 6 minutes into what felt like an hour. Songs like “Amnesia”, “Opium”, and “Children of the Sun” tell you a tale of warning or inspiration, but in a more structured style, without losing that ancient sound the preceding tracks built up. With every new world song that is explored, a story song follows.
However Anastasis is far from perfect. While the album is composed well, it doesn't feel like there is vibrant life radiating from each. In the past, even the most mellow and atmospheric song had a sharp reality to it. Perry and Gerrard had this ability to drag you back in time or into this bizarre fantasy world and immerse you in it. The only way out was when the album ended, so it was best to just lie back and take it all in. Anastasis does invoke those times and worlds but feels less like a journey and more like a look into a clear window. The stories are there. The ancients are playing them out for us, but from far far away and in the place where only the dead can dance. We are unable to join in the festivities this time. This gives Anastasis a feeling of finality that Spiritchaser didn't contain. The closing track "All in Good Time" further cements this sensation that this is the final chapter, not just the start of a new story.
This one gripe aside, Anastasis is everything a Dead Can Dance fan would have hoped for in a new release. It feels like it was the next logical step after Spiritchaser for the band to take musically. Relying on musical arrangements and themes that have always worked well, but doesn't re-hash the past note for note or completely turn tradition on its ear to cram in some new influence or ideal. Dead Can Dance have never been stronger artistically, even if the experience left this reviewer feeling a bit on the outside this album. If Dead Can Dance plan on doing another album, let us all hope its not another 16 year wait. However, if this is truly the end, then Anastasis is the perfect end for this massively influential band.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Order Here: http://www.deadcandance.com/
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