On February 27th, 1984, British/Australian post-punk band Dead Can Dance released their self titled debut album on 4AD Records.
The band was formed as a quartet in 1981 in Melbourne, after Brendan Perry relocated there from New Zealand with his band Marching Girls. Perry and drummer Simon Monroe would then recruit bass player Paul Erikson, and Microfilm vocalist Lisa Gerrard to form Dead Can Dance.
The band would then relocate to London, leaving Monroe behind, and in his place joined Peter Ulrich who remained with the band throughout most of the band’s classic album releases and performing virtually all live dates up until 1990.
Regarding the band’s choice in name, it is stated on their official website:
“To understand why we chose the name, think of the transformation of inanimacy to animacy. Think of the processes concerning life from death and death into life. So many people missed the inherent symbolic intention of the work, and assumed that we must be “morbid gothic types”.
The cover sleeve for the album features a photo of art from Papua New Guinea resembling a mask on its left side, with the right featuring the Greek characters “ΔΞΛΔ CΛΝ ΔΛΝCΞ” placed so they can be read as Dead Can Dance.
The album opens dramatically with the track “The Fatal Impact”. Its crashing howl-like sample was taken from the 1964 film Zulu, recorded DIY off of a television broadcast onto a cassette player. The track used further industrial music techniques with its percussion consisting of three upturned, empty five-gallon paint tins tied together.
The next track “The Trial” features Perry on vocals, mixed in a haunting layer of sound textures and screeching guitars closing with a bewitching choral effect.
“Frontier”, the only song on the album to receive a music video, is a percussion-based work with Lisa Gerrard on vocals, intermittently playing the yangqin.
Watch the video below:
Following “Frontier” is another crooning Perry track in “Fortune”, followed by Gerrard’s “Ocean”, highlighting a pattern that continues on side two of the LP with Perry’s “East of Eden”.
The next track “Threshold”, featuring Gerrard on vocals, features Paul Erikson’s distinctive bassline reminiscent of the band’s first track “A Means of Escape”, which was recorded in Melbourne in 1982, but not featured on an official release.
“A Passage in Time” and “Wild in the Woods” break the album’s ongoing pattern, with both tracks featuring Perry on vocals.
The album ends with Gerrard’s ethereal wail once again, but over sparse instrumentation save for a more prominent yangqin, with Perry’s subtle baritone floating in the background.
For CD releases, Dead Can Dance’s debut includes the addition of the follow-up EP Garden Of The Arcane Delights, which features the spellbinding “In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated”.