Dead Can Dance
Within the Realm of a Dying Sun


5.0
classic

Review

by ImpOfThePerverse USER (2 Reviews)
March 31st, 2010 | 64 replies | 7,709 views


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The sun’s last rays slip from the day as the sky bleeds into night.

9 of 10 thought this review was well written

When Dead Can Dance released their self-titled debut in 1984, the group appeared as just another in a string of gothic post-punk bands to emerge out of the collapse of the original British punk scene – talented, if unremarkable. The album clearly reflects the influence of the later Joy Division and gothic pioneers Bauhaus. Despite its derivative character, it nevertheless showed great signs of promise for the band’s future. Dead Can Dance is a competent but ultimately forgettable record.

Over the course of the next six years, however, Dead Can Dance would drop their earlier post-punk sound and produce a series of four spectacular albums, culminating in 1987’s Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. Abandoning electric guitars for cellos, violins, violas, and oboes, the group completely revolutionized its sound. What the group had begun to develop in their previous album, Spleen and Ideal, found its fullest expression on Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. The album is the crowning achievement of the gothic genre, unmatched by any others before or since.

From the moment the strings join the opening chimes of “Anywhere Out of This World,” the listener is wrapped the album’s tenebrous coils. The sun’s last rays slip from the day as the sky bleeds into night. Beneath the layers of instrumentation a drumless rhythm is established, a steady pulse to meet Brendan Perry’s brooding vocals. The strings swell breathlessly as each new mutation is introduced, following as the shadows stretch to cover the face of the earth. “Let us settle at the Pole,” wrote Baudelaire’s soul in the poem after which the song is titled. “There the sun only grazes the earth obliquely. And the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and increases monotony. That half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness…The aurora borealis shall send us its rose-colored rays.”

Within the Realm of a Dying Sun is both perfectly balanced and flawlessly ordered. Nothing could be added or taken away without upsetting its unity, nor could the order of songs be switched without disturbing its progress. As such, “Xavier” marks the pinnacle of the album’s development. Here Lisa Gerard’s haunting, ethereal vocals enter for the first time. At this point they are only hinted at, serving to preface what is perhaps Perry’s most brilliant composition. Each part follows from that which preceded it with complete necessity; likewise, the lyrics convey its mood absolutely. The death of the night is signaled by the approaching dawn, but its trace threatens to remain: “And as the night turns into day, will the sun illuminate your way? Or will your nightmares come home to stay?”

Gerard’s half of the album, presaged in “Xavier,” crashingly announces itself with the thunder of brass and a rolling military snare. The “Dawn of the Iconoclast” is heralded by trumpets, but its sunburst is cut short by a blanket of clouds, rising to choke the day. What follows is quite possibly the greatest vocal take ever captured on record. Using the glossolalia shared by her contemporary Elizabeth Fraser (of Cocteau Twins), Gerard’s voice on this track – subsequently sampled by the ambient luminaries the Future Sound of London – expresses the most profound tragedy imaginable. Set against the ominous backdrop of the wavering of viola strings, its effect is elegiac, otherworldly, devastating.

It is too easy to exhaust the vocabulary typically reserved for albums like this. Reciting all the usual terms, no matter how accurately they seem to describe Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, fails to capture its beauty and majesty. Suffice it to say, however, that the thoroughgoing primitivism of the record’s instrumentation is masked by its impeccable production. Layer after layer is piled onto one another, washing seamlessly over itself with incredible depth. Even purely instrumental tracks like “Windfall” do not feel empty without vocals. Perry’s lyrics, moreover, exhibit an impressive degree of erudition, as always. They describe a pre-Raphaelite vision of antiquity, lost in the mystic contemplation of those mute statues like the one that appears on the cover of the album.

Within the Realm of a Dying Sun represents not only one of the greatest artistic accomplishments of the gothic/ethereal wave tendency in music, but of an entire decade of musical production. It achieves a level of sophistication and sweeping grandeur that few other albums in any genre have ever rivaled. 5/5


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username345 (5)
A very atmospheric, dark and haunting album with incredible singing and composition that proves that...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2010



30297 Comments


This is a normal review, what's going on Nonsynch?

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

Willie
Moderator
March 31st 2010



15774 Comments


Excellent review. It's always cool to see a Dead Can Dance review.

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

SCREAM!
March 31st 2010



9590 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very nice review especially considering its your first. This album is truly excellent.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2010



30297 Comments


Technically, this isn't his first

jingledeath
March 31st 2010



7104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing album.

bungy
March 31st 2010



8843 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice, Xavier is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard.

Yotimi
April 9th 2010



6273 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds like the soundtrack to Castlevania: SotN

Emim
May 4th 2010



26195 Comments


I want.

Emim
May 5th 2010



26195 Comments


AIM doesn't work on my computer for some stupid reason. It's frickin annoying.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
May 5th 2010



6961 Comments


this is passable

Digging: Perfume Genius - Learning

SeaAnemone
May 5th 2010



18818 Comments


a few more votes and I think this would be one of the higher rated albums on all of Sputnik.

Jethro42
May 5th 2010



12036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Whoa you're right Sea.
'Summoning of the Muse' ftw
Good review man. Keep it up.

Edit: oops I forgot to mention 'Cantara' which is still better on their live album
'Toward the Within'!!

Bitchfork
May 12th 2010



7584 Comments


yummy

Brylawski
May 12th 2010



709 Comments


i'll have to check this album out

NeutralThunder12
May 12th 2010



8742 Comments


wait hold up. Why is this shit amazing? Um I just went on youtube and almost cried at how fucking dark and gorgeous this record is.

Ghostechoes
May 13th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Persephone is probably my favorite in this album. MJ, have you listened to Coil's Horse Rotorvator?

Ghostechoes
May 13th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yup, the band's name is Coil, and the album was released in 1986. I think Coil is amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Da5FIf77BJ4

Ghostechoes
May 13th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Glad you liked it. That is probably their darkest album, but they experimented with their sound throughout their career, and released other really good stuff.

Dryden
May 13th 2010



12813 Comments


i like the fact you pretend im not by your house and you go by your every day business

Dryden
May 13th 2010



12813 Comments


can i come in or will you give me them through the window?



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