Containing nothing more than a frightened, innocent looking cat on the cover, I think this album contains some of the best simple, dark, sad folk songs and a few strange, experimental ones. I should probably be saying things like "this is Current 93's highest point of their career," or "their best album by far", but I don't know for sure since the only other one I have so far is "All the Pretty Little Horses" - I'm having a little trouble obtaining more of their albums. This album is very diverse and solid, with 16 tracks, 78 minutes of music, and 15 people contributing things, complete with pictures of all of them. Instrumentation Includes: *takes a deep breath* 6 vocalists, 5 guitarists, 2 bassists, corrugations (samples), "smokes," percussion, hand percussion, violin, tin whistle, clarinet, recorder, harp, electric dulcimer, cello, and bells.
It starts off with a very short instrumental, which sounds so medieval-like, but in a very warm, countryside kind of way... then it goes into "The Descent of Long Satan and Babylon," a fairly short and basic song. Next comes "A Sadness Song," one of my favorites. The acoustic melody is just so dark, calm, and satisfying, and after a while, the recorder is added to the song, along with female backing vocals adding more color and atmosphere. "A Song for Douglas After He's Dead" is complete with a pleasant medieval-sounding harp; this song really sounds like something you'd hear while exploring a castle in England in the 1500's. "In the heart of the wood and what I found there" starts off with the same melody as the first track, and turns out to be one of the best songs (I say that a lot though) that gradually picks up tempo and has a great flowing acoustic melody. "A Silence Song" is maybe my favorite song on the album, starting off very calmly, with one of the best cascading and soft acoustic melodies, along with cello, forming a very dark, lonely, and calm atmosphere, isolating the listener from reality. It's truly one of the most epic and inspiring songs I've ever heard, but in a subtle way, not lengthy or melodramatic by any means. "A Lament for My Suzanne" has more of those super light and fluffy vocals by Rose McDowell, and consists mainly of harp, no guitar. Harp should be used instead of guitar more often - it's very pleasant, yet melancholy. "Riverdeadbank" is one of the calmest songs; it has unique low-pitched female vocals and a very restrained violin loop in the background.
"All the Stars are Dead Now" begins some slightly strange and experimental songs. It starts off with a breif "big-band" type intro, with trumpets and everything, which is even more bizarre juxtaposed to the song before it. Most of the song has very bizarre sounding electronically distorted echoes on Tibet's voice, and he must say the word "dead" about 200 times, along with very strange, unsettling lyrics. The constant, repetitive acoustic guitar melody is very good, and when the recorder comes into the song though, it is so good. "Rosy Star Tears from Heaven" has more of the same vocals, but much more obvious, and almost frightening. Halfway through the song, you can hear the strange, raspy voice transform into a soft female voice, and they go through the same series of lyrics. This then transforms into "When the May Rain Comes" with a very nice intro that sounds good because its kind of "back to normal" after two strange songs. This sounds almost like a children's or fairytale song, with slightly southern-US sounding guitar work. "Thunder Perfect Mind I" & II are more on the experimental side, comparatively ambient and frightening, and pretty interesting. "Hitler as Kalki" is 16 and a half minutes long, and not one of my favorites, although it's not too bad. It starts off very slowly, and in my opinion, is quite tiresome in its entirety. The album concludes with "A Sad Sadness Song," sort of a reprise of track 4, changing aspects of it to make it sound the most depressing possible. The guitars are more distant and blurred together; the recorder melody is extremely distant and barely audible, and the vocals are handled by the same female on "Riverdeadbank" with the same style: very hopeless, low-pitched, lonely, and echoed. "A Sad Sadness Song" Indeed - the perfect way to close the album.
This is by far one of my favorite Folk-Noir CDs so far (Probably third right now, who knows, I may consider it my favorite someday), it definitely is one of those albums that has a distinct sound that just cannot be found anywhere else, and can never be outdone by themselves or anyone else.