Diamanda Galas
Plague Mass


1.0
awful

Review

by Stem/Long Stem USER (9 Reviews)
March 2nd, 2006 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist


The album is a mass that posits AIDS as a disease created by Satan to wipe out the human race - but not the gay men who were accused to spreading the disease in the real 1984, but the moral guardains who have allowed the disease to spread by passing the buck so arrogantly. No, really. Diamanda sings, speaks, uses Sprechgesang, wails, whatever, this mass in the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in NYC, with, for the most part, no musical backing at all (there's a drum here and there, a baby's cry at one point, and one track uses what sounds a little like a sleigh bell throughout). No, really. She performed the album topless and covered in blood. No, really. You'd think the facts would make it weird enough. Jesus Christ. Even this doesn't sum things up. Not even the artwork - the most genuinely disturbing artwork of all time, I'd wager - gets there.

How long have I owned this album? A year now? Must be at least close to that mark. And I still have absolutely NO clue what to rate this. It defies any sort of rating system. It's a masterpiece because it is a singular piece of art, because it is a genuinely terrifying listening experience, because as far as I am aware nobody else has ever even attempted anything like this, because her voice is truly an amazing thing, because it's the single heaviest album I've ever heard, and because it achieves what it sets out to do perfectly. It's trash because it is practically unlistenable to all but the most hardened fans of avant-garde music, because it will instantly alienate everyone else to the point where they won't even be able to make it past the first track unless they are on a pre-dictated mission to give every album they hear a full listen, and because her voice, that amazing voice, is used with the explicit intention of causing the listener physical pain.

There are moments of melody. "This Is The Law Of The Plague" is practically a spiritual at times, quoting directly from "Amazing Grace" at one point, but my God - HOW THE FUCK DOES SHE MAKE THOSE NOISES AT THE END OF THIS TRACK?! And in the close of "I Wake Up And See The Face Of The Devil". They're unspeakable. They sound like Satan himself playing the saxophone. The rest of her vocals could be placed under terms like 'screeching', 'wailing', 'blubbering' and 'screaming', but really, that doesn't explain it. They'll have to do, though, because I simply don't have words that could explain it. She has an incredible control over her voice, I'll say that much.

Hearing lyrics is a bit of a chore at times, but I am assured that quotes from the Bible appear at regular intervals. Diamanda Galas was and still is, after all, an AIDS activist, and in an attempt to persecute those who have persecuted homosexuals for their 'crimes', she's definitely done her research. Her defence of AIDS victims and understanding of the pain they are forced to go through, and the sheer conviction behind it, makes the album, on a conceptual level, beautiful, and almost heartbreaking. Which, of course, makes the whole thing so much weirder.

The rating of 1 is a cop-out, a decision simply because there's too many 5s on the site and not enough 1s. The album is only 'terrible' if we use the etymological root and say, yes, this album does inspire terror. But what do I do? It's a 5 and a 0.5 all in one. I'm truly glad I heard this. I really am. And, in truth, I would love it if more people heard this. It will redefine how you feel about music and, maybe, life. But I really, really hope I never hear anything like it again.



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user ratings (24)
Chart.
4.3
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
Stem/Long Stem
March 2nd 2006


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The personal rating of four is to counter-balance the review rating of 1, for reasons explained in the review.

Neoteric
March 2nd 2006


3243 Comments


this seemed hard to review I see as I don't have a clue what she sounds like as like you said, she's undescribable.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2006


15743 Comments


Pleas echange the rating of the review, it's obvious u enjoyed it somewhat, so make it what you really feel, not a 1.

Iai
Emeritus
March 2nd 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

No.

Med57
Moderator
March 2nd 2006


1001 Comments


/me gavels the case closed

Fascinating review. I'm not really sure whether I want to hear it, but since you brought it up I feel strangely compelled to. The subject matter sounds like a little bundle of joy in itself, so it doesn't really surprise me that the music sounds every bit as fun. And yet I know I'm going to try and find it anyway.

Iai
Emeritus
March 2nd 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

If I'm feeling especially sadistic I might slap it on the A&I mailing list.

Hatshepsut
March 2nd 2006


1997 Comments


Holy **** this sounds amazing. Like Med said, fascinating review.This Message Edited On 03.02.06

Dancin' Man
March 2nd 2006


719 Comments


Iai, if you do, add me to it. peter.mchugh@gmail.com I'd like to hear this. I'm usually up for a musical challenge.

pulseczar
March 2nd 2006


2385 Comments


Wow, probably the most intriguing review I've ever read on the site. I don't even know if I want to listen to this, but great job Iai.This Message Edited On 03.02.06

sgrevs
March 3rd 2006


698 Comments


Yeah nice review, awesome actually. This sounds as though it would as weird as anything I've ever heard, plus some. And I thought Sleepytim Gorilla Museum was strange.

Liberi Fatali
Emeritus
March 3rd 2006


1588 Comments


If I could compare this review to anything, it would be the poems of E. E. Cummings. Whos works are often criticized of being heavily self-indulgent and elitist. This review feels to me like its trying too hard to be different, artsy, erratic etc. Sure that suits the music, but I'd argue that she is trying too hard to be weird, artsy, erratic etc as well, and ends up being far too self-indulgent.

I really think this statement was quite amusing:

The rating of 1 is a cop-out, a decision simply because there's too many 5s on the site and not enough 1s.


I've liked some of your previous oddball or alternative reviews, like your John Lennon review. However I really do think this was more amusing than insightful.

From what I've heard from this album, there certainly is intensity and a strong message behind the album. But really, the whole concept is just too off the wall for me.This Message Edited On 03.03.06

Iai
Emeritus
May 24th 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yes, because a statement like that could only ever have been written with the intent of being insightful. :rolleyes:

If I could compare this review to anything, it would be the poems of E. E. Cummings. Whos works are often criticized of being heavily self-indulgent and elitist.

Irony much?

Sepstrup
May 24th 2006


1564 Comments


If I'm feeling especially sadistic I might slap it on the A&I mailing list.


Go for it

Iai
Emeritus
May 24th 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm giving this an 'Average' rating on this account for purely ironic reasons - it's the only word on that list you COULDN'T use for this record.

MeowMeow
August 10th 2007


662 Comments


This album can be a cool listen, but eventually it starts to annoy the shit out of me.

fireaboveicebelow
September 28th 2008


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is really fucking bizarre...seriously wtf

I can't listen to anything else nowThis Message Edited On 09.28.08

YankeeDudel
October 6th 2012


9313 Comments


this chick is evil

Digging: Taj Mahal Travellers - August 1974

neverland
March 12th 2013


3 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The most important album ever written.

crutchfieldtongs
July 4th 2014


115 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Fantastic and eerie, probably one of the best avant-garde albums I've heard. Despite it being a live performance, the quality is great. The record gives off a very tormented and pained feel, and I think this is Galas' best album. Just an amazing performance throughout.



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