Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
Like other bands considered 'a bit weird' or 'experimental' from the wave of goth/post-punk labelled bands that arrived with the 1980's, Dead Can Dance have a colourful history of experimentation and collaboration. It's perhaps fair to say that few post-punk contemporaries have managed to work with artists as diverse as Orbital and Hans Zimmer. And even fewer can also boast a visible influence from Gregorian chanting and medieval music, whilst still insisting that their roots and inspiration stems from the sporadic and experimental little band movement that swept Australia in the late seventies/early eighties.
But with age comes experience, and with experience comes a more polished outlook, a decreased love of experimentation. The trap could potentially be very easy to fall into, given that the band's last album was released 16 years ago.
Lisa Gerrard, the voice and composer that has managed to collaborate with Orbital and Hans Zimmer has kept herself incredibly busy with film and videogame soundtracks. And Brendan Perry, the other half to the group may not have had a quite as star studded career outside the group, but has also released three solo albums and contributed towards various albums and soundtracks here and there. Having being used to produce more structured work, has Anastasis, the group's latest album, suffered as a result?
'Children of the Sun' is glorious, like the start of a new day, the cautious synthesizer and the anticipating drum roll confirming that Dead Can Dance have not lost their way. In many ways the opposite has happened; both members have a clear idea of the sound they want, and the result is a rather polished one.
Unfortunately the next couple of tracks, 'Agape' and 'Amnesia', suffer from an unfortunate phenomenon. The backing pieces, as elaborate and well constructed as they are, fall a little too close to an inoffensive, lounge sound, and listening to the rest of the album confirms that this unfortunate theme reoccurs in varying degrees.
The album's percussion also happens to be somewhat of a letdown, when you compare it to earlier Dead Can Dance work, or even when you weigh it up against a track like 'Indus', from their last album Spiritchaser. The hypnotic, tribal rhythm from 'Indus' makes much of the work on Anastasis slow and uninspired.
In terms of the vocal performances, little can be faulted. Lisa Gerrard's familiar, eerie voice carves its mark into the lush, orchestral arrangements. Brendan Perry's parts are also wonderful. Lyrically he is the strongest he's ever been on Anastasis, sounding very profound on the likes of 'Opium' - "Sometimes I feel I wanna live far away from the Metropolis, just walk through that door." And interestingly enough, the triumphant 'Return of the She-King' holds the strongest example of a Perry and Gerrard vocal duet to date.
Anastasis has an abundance of ancient and quirky instruments on offer, all played beautifully, without muscling in and wanting to be the showcase of a track. It's probably too strong to say that the album has faults; the songs are constructed well and have several layers, Perry and Gerrard are incredibly strong, emotive and unique vocalists. But there's no saw toothed aggression, there's nothing incredibly different in the theme and execution from the likes of earlier albums such as The Serpent's Egg. But if we put aside the nitpicking and appreciate another great album from the group, it's incredibly fulfilling to see the dead walk once again.