Review Summary: Tribal industrial electro hip-pop trance -- or something like that.
Gregorian Chants, they broke US airwaves and poured out club speakers; with Gregorian Chants. Not to undersell the music in any way, but Delerium are not frequently remembered for their deep tribal hip-hop beats, or luscious, entrancing synth fills or superb choice of vocal talent - its always the ***ing chants. Hardened Industrial gurus Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, both of Front Line Assembly, who make up (most of) Delerium even thought the chants were a shot in the dark. They waited two years to even release the Sarah McLachlan helmed “Silence” as a third single. But when the dance floors of the world heard the deep bass and uplifting, almost spiritual acid house matched with the hooks of McLachlan’s (angelic) best performance maybe ever -- it was almost unstoppable. It also didn’t hurt that a lame film with a great marketing campaign decided to champion the track in their 9000 previews a night. Really though, who would want to stop it" The song was bursting with hooks, and those damn chants. Their previous album, and second as this particular “duo,” Karma
was a slice of tribal dance pop heaven. Again not to cast down on the use of the chants, it is that whole mixing pot aspect of these Vancouver pop mastermind’s diverse world palette that adds so much to Delerium in the first place. Just when it comes to ascending the heights of dance-pop chartdom around the world, color me surprised
Personal vendettas aside, the chants are actually not only a key part of Delerium’s music, but following Karma‘s
success, almost became somewhat of a calling card for them. So much so its almost impossible to make it through a Delerium record without some high-flying, bass bumping spiritual trance ascension. Not that it is a bad thing, but with how effective the transition went from a less abrasive industrial crunch to a Gregorian acid house bump, it was a bit unnerving to hear that half of Delerium was jumping ship.
Two albums prior ex-Front Line Assembly members Leep and Fulber joined forces to take the current Delerium sound, a less ape-*** offshoot of Front Line’s crushing industrial, to a pop-friendly dance mix that smashed hip-hop, big-beat and trance together along with various other world music influences ranging from samba and dub to African pop. With Poem
, their tenth (but really third) album, Leeb is once again left to his own devices, as Fulber decided to step down from his position. Wouldn’t be the first time Bill was solo (not really with all those guests) but rather than going at it alone, Leeb had decided to enlist the help of electronic producer Chris Peterson, another Canada native up to his ears in the industrial scene -- it was a perfect gamble.
is their best album or not isn’t really the question - its not. What the album can amount to though is a solid representation and logical progression for the group and more concrete evidence that if you work on a Delerium track, it could turn out to be your best. Regardless of all the cool tweaks and woozy programming one may encounter during a Delerium album it is always about the vocals. Which is something impressive in it’s own right, that the performances are so rich so gripping, that what would essentially be a piping-hot trance track is overshadowed by the voices. Time after time the group takes seemingly lame vocalists (Leigh Nash, Sarah McLachlan, Jenifer McLaren, Matthew Sweet) and breaths life into their performances. Nash alone has almost built up a second career beyond her Six Pence days as a Canadian Electronic Music darling. Even grouping up with Leeb and Fulber for the Fauxliage project (basically a Leigh fronted Delerium), but once you hear her turn on “Innocence (Falling In Love),” once that beat kicks up an Leigh’s voice floats it’s way in-between the snyths; that is all it takes. The forlorn chorus on that song alone is more convincing than any amount of previous “kiss me’s”
could hope to be. Coupled with the whole fact that nearly everything else about the music is spot on (surging beat, ethereal feel, epic keys), its almost just a nice surprise to have the vocals pop as effectively, but they always do.
Later in their career Bill and Rhys would reform and are still the current incarnation of Delerium and following Poem’s
release the group would stray even further from their ambient and industrial leanings moving towards the poppier side of things. What makes Poem
important is not so much that it is a good album (great even), or that it stands as arguably their best (its not). Even that with the departure of an integral member Leeb was able to cut his losses, recruit a pro and produce a follow-up LP that easily lives up to expectations -- its that they did it so well no one really ever assumed anything changed. Its not so much that Delerium had gone through all this turmoil, a road-block bypassed, but they basically had to shove the proof in your face to make you believe. Which is saying a lot for a band who did so many things right in the first place. Poem
was yet another exclamation for Leeb of his inability to stay in once place, find solace in his home and be content with just a few
friends. For the rest of us, it was just that much more proof of how he should never stop.