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Dead Can Dance - Anastasis (PIAS America)

13 August 2012

When Dead Can Dance ended in the late 1990s, it was with a whimper. For a band possessing a prestigious, stunningly beautiful and original discography, their last studio album, Spiritchaser, was an amazing, surprising misstep. Instead of the band’s fusion of medieval music with a post-punk/world music/folk sensibility, the duo of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard decided to modernize their sound. Unfortunately, the album’s blend of electronica and Native American rhythms simply sounded like the work of a mediocre New Age artist. Sixteen years after splitting, and seven years after a successful reunion tour, they’ve returned with a new album, the highly anticipated Anastasis. Album opener “Children of the Sun” is a dark, ominous symphony that is made darker by Brendan Perry’s haunting voice. He’s in fine form, his voice having grown even more powerful with age. This song defines the rest of the album’s style; though the song features the band’s typical medieval instrumentation, those things are not the focus. Instead, we’re treated to two masterful musicians simply doing what they do best: singing and arranging. Yes, “Agape” and “Return of the She-King” will remind you of the beautiful earlier works Spleen and Ideal or The Serpent’s Egg, but thankfully Perry and Gerrard aren’t rehashing their oeuvre; instead, they are finding inspiration in it and moving forward, producing music that will instantly resonate with those long-term listeners who adore their previous work, while offering something that’s new and fresh and impressive for reasons beyond simply existing. It is rare for a band to make a stunning, strong return to form, but then again, Dead Can Dance has always been a very rare band.