Does any of you reviewers here feel the need once in a while to branch out beyond the common boundaries of your favourite genre? To explore what lies beyond the hordes of heavy metal bands (in my case) and try out things you've actually never tried before? Well, one day I found myself in the cd store and remembered the recommendations of some of my friends. They said that this was a good record and I'd heard two songs by them, and quite enjoyed them. So I picked this up (yes, I still buy cd's) and found myself actually quite enjoying this.
So, what does this album sound like to anyone who hasn't heard anything about this band? Well, basically, it's indescribable. There isn't anything heavy at all about this album. There are a couple of violins, and some other obscure instruments this band likes to use, something that sounds like an organ, but none of them ever take the forefront. They merely serve as atmosphere-enhancers to allow the voices of the two people that made up this band, Lisa Gerrards and Brendan Perry, to steal the show. And what a show it is. On the first track, called The Host Of Seraphim a very atmospheric sad one, Lisa Gerrards demonstrates her powerful voice. Chanting melodically, in a way that it sounds Arabic, sad, and beautiful at the same time, the song is so sad it could have been used as a soundtrack for a war documentary in Iraq or Sudan. It's THAT inspiring.
Similarly, songs like Severance, with some gorgeous male vocals, or In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings, with a strong climactic ending, demonstrate the use of your vocal chords as a powerful instrument. You don't need a heavy guitar or a bass or a drum to make music. Just being able to sing and use some obscure background instruments is good enough to do the job. And the atmospheres that conveys is the best about this album. There isn't a moment where the music doesn't try to suck you in. It's not meant to catch a listeners attention by some catchy chorus or melody. It's advanced listening, requiring attention for the subtle details of its work, or it may also function well as enhancing background music to set a mood for a certain area. It's a perfect album to fall sleep to, so to speak. It requires a totally different mindset for listening, moreso than your average pop or rock album, but once you do that it's well worth it.
However, no album is without its flaws, and even this one has some things about it that just make it not good enough to merit a five-star rating. One of them is the spectacularly short running time of just over 36 minutes. It's a very good and ambient album, but it's over so quickly! The moment you're in, it releases you again. It's only good if you end up not liking it, which is entirely possible, but if you don't like this album, I will ask where you have left your heart all these long lonely years.
Another is that some songs are definitely too short or seem out of place. Orbis De Ignis's placement makes no sense unless it would have been three minutes longer, rather than being quite a boring one-and-a-half-minute interlude about precisely that, nothing at all. Furthermore, it's a bit of an album that's quite over-reliant on a single formula, the use of the aforementioned vocals to draw you in. The only problem is, that by track 8 I can never keep track of where I am in this disc. Once I thought I was listening to the seventh song and I found out I actually already was at song 9. This is good for the ability to captivate, but bad for not being able to actually distinguish songs from each other. Then I guess that's a form of ambient music altogether, but I find it annoying when I can't tell which song is which.
This isn't the most classic album you'll ever find, therefore. It's a great and diverse listen for people whose tastes are broader than just three records, and a good way to distract yourself from everything going on in the whole wide world out there. But for fans of ambient music, despite this being a pretty worthy cd of picking up, I'm not sure whether you actually really need this that bad. Then again, there are some excellent songs worth the price of entry, and it IS an excellent display of what world music is all about. If you're in an alternative or different mood than usual, it can never hurt to pick this one up. Either you'll like it, or if you don't, it's short enough to sit through in one listen regardless.