Some of the most indelible music of the ’80s was made by Dead Can Dance, a rotating phalanx of players around singer/songwriters Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard incorporating medieval, gothic, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and various other ancient and sacred musical influences into songs and tone poems with mythic titles like “The Host of Seraphim,” “Song of Sophia,” “Cantara” and “De Profundis.”
While in description all of this screams of pretension, in practice these disparate elements are bound together into a captivating – and at times awe-inspiring – sonic composite of much greater breadth and devotion than similarly-inspired new age piffle.
Dead Can Dance honors both the spiritual and aesthetic aspects of these musics. John Rivers’ luxuriant production creates distinct atmospheres for each piece, and the albums he worked on – Spleen and Ideal, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, The Serpent’s Egg – are the group’s most profound and affecting.
The Rhino box set is an excellent representation of the band’s entire career, but they were most deep in the mid- and late-’80s.