[15 January 2004]
Lisa Gerrard has been known more for her incredible work with Dead Can Dance than anything else. Still, her soaring solo work continues to create the same goose bumps of her previous group. Gerrard has also dabbled in scoring films, with the most recent and possibly most notable being Gladiator, the epic featuring Russell Crowe. So when Gerrard decided to team up with Patrick Cassidy, no slouch in his own right, the seed for this project was sown. As a result, the album isn’t exactly suited to the taste of pop or rock connoisseurs, but has enough quality moments to make it a gem.
What you will find for most of this album is the amount of music that is generally scene-setting. For example, the majestic and whimsical “The Song of Amergin” is based around a millenium-old Gaelic poem that is now, for the first time, being set to music. Epic in terms of scale, and with an orchestra’s string section setting the mood, the music gently flows into Gerrard’s ethereal vocals two minutes later. Fans of Enya, Clannad, and even Enigma would see a lot of positives in this track. Haunting and comforting all at once, Cassidy and Gerrard have set the bar extremely high with this tune. Percussion then chimes in for a well-rounded “world” sound. “Maranatha (Come Lord)” is the ensuing track and has much the same feel as the opener—hypnotic, mantra-like nuances captured within a Celtic feeling. Gerrard, singing in Aramaic, can make the hairs on one’s neck stand on end with this quasi-subdued performance.
“Amergin’s Invocation” is possibly the highlight of the album, a stunning and riveting track that sounds large from the opening notes. It’s as if by this moment Gerrard and Cassidy have created a monster score for a film not made yet. Here, Cassidy’s powerful vocals lead off the tune before Gerrard brings her pipes to the table as well (or so it sounds). Percussion and strings enter halfway through the song to give it that intangible flair rarely pulled off in this genre. Occasionally it seems just a touch over-the-top, but the duo is able to rein the song in again. “Elegy”, which Gerrard says in the press kit dates back to her time working on Gladiator and in particular the death of Maximus in the film, is a magical solo performance from her. Beautiful but with wisps of longing at times, the track glides into the clouds gorgeously. However, “Sailing to Byzantium”, which is also the title of a Yeats poem, seems to fall just a bit short. Perhaps if it was moved lower in the track listing it might fare better, but not in this slot.
Although the album isn’t overtly political, the one song that might give that effect is “Abwoon”, which is Aramaic for “our father”. Using historical records and influenced by Iraq, the song is flawless, bringing to mind “Harry’s Game” from Clannad at times. Cathartic and very humbling, the hymnal-like quality to the song hits you immediately. What seems its polar opposite is the title track, taking some time to find its footing and again featuring Cassidy and Gerrard together. Coming off more operatic, the pair do just enough to make it passable.
The last three numbers begin with a lengthy though at times bland and crawling “Paradise Lost”, a song that might be the only tune you would like to see during the closing credits. Taking nearly half the number to get into a comfortable niche, the song is strong in places but very weak in others. “I Asked for Love” fares infinitely better and seems to evoke images of Sigur Ros at a latter age. And the flow of this song is excellent as well. Nonetheless, the nearly nine-minute closing “Psallit in Aure Dei” is a fitting end to this record. Inspired by the passing of Cassidy’s father two years ago, the uplifting and heavenly theme in the song is nearly tear-inducing at times. Hopefully, this is a record will be the first of several between these fine composers and singers.