Review Summary: cold, cerebral music that entrances and leaves you breathless as Dame’s individualistic voice propels “Dark Sanctuary”, an album best left for those of us who enjoy deeply passionate music
It seems as though 2010 was a year dominated by commercial releases, so it’s no mystery as to why French neoclassical band Dark Sanctuary’s brooding self-titled album wasn’t met with much notice, if any at all. Dark Sanctuary occupy a space within the realm of darkwave, reinforcing beautiful songs with undertones of sorrow and introspective lyricism (for those of us who transcribe them). Dark Sanctuary
is conquered by Dame Pandora’s angelic voice, which is often layered and fragmented to construct lush choral arrangements against melancholic music, creating a hauntingly beautiful contrast: most notably in how Dame’s calming voice blends in with the eerie keyboard loop in “Enfantement”. The band’s approach to music is somewhat minimalistic in that they achieve a lot without using much more than keyboard, piano, and violin. The drummer on Dark Sanctuary
takes a backseat for the vast majority of the album. It’s not until the solemn “closer “Incomprise” that we’re graced with marching band-esque drum rolls, but Dark Sanctuary
isn’t necessarily an album well-suited for a lot of drumming, so it makes sense. At its core, the album is indubitably a spiritual album - one that’s driven by atmosphere and vocal prowess. Dame’s vocals often overlap within songs, allowing her to duet with herself and add simple, yet effective elements, such as the occasional light-gestured whispers in “Fin de Vie”, or the silvery harmonization of “Sous les Neiges Eternelies”’ chorus. Such elements distract listeners from the fact that the actual music is substantially formulaic and frequently simple.
The latter half of the album in particular suffers because of this and is admittedly less compelling and enjoyable than the former half, losing vigor and vitality -- there’s simply an exceptional amount of content that falls short due to sounding too similar. Surprisingly, Dark Sanctuary manage to maintain a facade of diversity, but songs like “Le Tribunal” and “Le Chemin Vers la Delivrance” are far too down-trodden and restrained for their own good. However, there are still gems amid these lazier, droning tracks. “Lullaby” subtly employs a choir in the background of a beautiful gothic atmosphere, “Le Cachot” is inoffensively short and features a beautiful spoken poem, and sinister and seductive album closer “Incomprise” is one of the more distinguishable tracks. At the end of the day, it’s no surprise as to why Dark Sanctuary
was languished and left to collect dust; as it stands, not many people are even aware that ‘darkwave’ is a genre. Dark Sanctuary
may not be groundbreaking, or even essential to the genre for that matter, but it’s a more than adequate seventh (and final") album from France’s beloved classical enthusiasts.