Review Summary: You must be certain of the fact that this is quite a departure for Galas.
Diamanda Galas became a household name in the underground music world in the eighties for her non-music style of music- mostly her screaming and howlings that made up a good portion of the tracks. Her debut album, "The Litanies of Satan
" was a big seller and got her noticed, because of its sheer difference from what people called music- side A was the eponymous track, a reading of Charles Baudelaire's poem of the same name, with numerous impressive effects (tape loops, feedback, etc) to add to the ambience. Side B, "Wild Woman with Steak Knives (Homicidal Love Song for the Solo Scream)" was all her yelling, shouting and screaming with lyrics that were mostly incomprehensible, but when they were, they were often nonsense ("I'm not talkin' about meatballs, I'm talking about... steak!/Steak steak steaksteaksteaksteaksteakstststststststststststk!! !!!!!
"). Every album until this one followed in a more or less similar fashion, though began to add elements of music (an easily comparable example would be "Sono L'antichristo").
This meant that 1988's You Must Be Certain of the Devil
would be quite the departure for Galas, as she went in a more traditional music direction while her screams and howls remained intact. While it isn't a bad album, it is mostly a disappointment compared to her other albums, but it does have a number of notable highlights. If anybody recognizes this album, it's mostly because of he controversy surrounding "Double Barrel Prayer". Said song had a music video that was banned from MuchMusic and was named by MTV as "most offensive music video of the year". The song itself is pretty catchy and upbeat, a good indicator of the rest of the album's style, which is more synthpop/industrial pop influenced. Her howls and screams, and demonic style of singing are heard over pianos and a creepy bassline, with lyrics about how women need to be stronger and defend themselves using whatever means necessary to do so ("They’ll drag you by the collar/And take you through the town/Your friends can help no longer/Once your ass is on the ground
Numerous other songs on the album are like this, such as the pop-influenced and rather catchy "Malediction", which kinds like it was written for Trent Reznor and probably wouldn't sound out of place on Pretty Hate Machine
, and the thumping "Birds of Death". The rest of the album is mostly gospel/RnB influenced, whereas "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "The Lord is My Shepherd" are reminiscent of the days she could empty the bowels of more mainstream viewers with her voice alone. "You Must Be Certain of the Devil" is a hilarious parody of gospel tunes, with gloriously over the top vocals and a catchy and upbeat tune, and the similar "Let's Not Chat About Despair" is probably the highlight of the album. The lyrics are about how people try to tune the AIDS epidemic out of their minds when it is an ongoing issue and people with AIDS are being looked down upon and cast out from society. Galas is known for her AIDS activism and she lost her brother to the disease.
Galas is angry. Not at us, but at God for allowing such horrible things like AIDS to happen. She even has a tattoo on her fingers which read "We are all HIV+". And this album is the third in a trilogy of albums called Masque of the Red Death
, where she compares the disease with Satan. While this isn't the best of the trilogy, and is more accessible than her others, it nonetheless is recommended as an entry for people new to Galas' music. While this is her happiest album (which isn't saying much), and the music isn't all happy happy joy joy, neither is the world, right? And sometimes music like this is good to listen to... even if it scares you. You know what else is scary? The world. And Galas shows it like it is... for better or for worse.