Favorite records of 2018 / 22.º Dead Can Dance – Dionysus

“No other god of the Greeks is as widely present in the monuments and nature of Greece and Italy, in the sensuous tradition of antiquity, as Dionysos. In myth and image, in visionary experience and ritual representation, the Greeks possessed a complete expression of indestructible life, the essence of Dionysos.”

Karl Kerényi, Dionysos: archetypal image of indestructible life (jacket excerpt)


Dead Can DanceDionysus

It was in the late 80’s that I first heard the name Dead Can Dance. I liked the band immediately, even before I knew any of their songs. The name was so appealing that I made a direct connection with Hans Holbein’s Totentanz engraving series.
If I can remember properly, the first albums that I owned were Spleen and Ideal and Into the Realm of a Dying Sun, my favorites until today.
I also remember being mesmerized by the homonymous debut album, disappointed with The Serpent’s Egg and Aion, and disliking Spiritchaser (all of those cross-cultural references and appropriations reminded me World Music nomenclature, a genre that I really disliked back then. I was wrong, of course. An informed look at their first album cover, a ritual mask from Papua, was a clear sign of the bands future intentions).
After their disbanding, I remember being indifferent to Lisa Gerrard’s The Whale Rider and Gladiator’s soundtracks (but artist have their bills to pay too), and enthralled by Brendan Perry’s Eye of the Hunter.
In 2013 someone offered me some tickets to an open-air festival were Dead Can Dance were performing. A complete disappointment: Dead Can Dance isn´t made for festivals and I was 30 years late to attend the concert. I felt the same when I saw Brendan’s concert in Braga, in 2010.
Later this year, they have announced a new album, Dionysus. A work in two acts conceptualized around the cult of the Greek god, worshiped since the Minoan culture down to its transition to a cosmic and cosmopolitan religion of late antiquity under the Roman Empire.
In an interview to Rolling Stone magazine, Perry stated that the first connection with the deity was made two years ago, while reading Nietzsche’s Birth of the Tragedy.  His fascination with the divinity made him to read two more books on the subject… (Karl Kerényi’s Dionysos: archetypal image of indestructible life and Walter F. Otto’s Dionysus: Myth and Cult, I hope…)
As far as I understood they used a software to mix Gerrard’s and Perry’s voices, in order to have the choirs in an invented language (no novelty here), something that makes impossible live performance. So far so good. I think Dionysus works perfectly like this.
In a sort of way Dionysus’s is reminiscent of the band early albums (even the length, around 35 minutes).
Regarding the concept, I just want to add maybe this is not so important. Would they credit their inspiration from another ancient numen that we would buy the prescription? I guess so. But the more significant here is that the album portrays the band (indestructible?) endurance.