By Laura Wiebe Taylor
This lengthily-titled collection of music was my first chance to hear a Sopor Aeternus album in full, though I was already familiar with the Medieval and Baroque gothiness of their sound. Es reiten die Toten so schnell (which translates to something along the lines of “the dead ones ride so fast”) is not the most obvious place to start. The record is new to North America (at least officially), but this Season of Mist release is the latest of several versions going back to 2003. Even then the songs were several years old, and had first appeared on a demo tape from 1989. It’s an eerily attractive package for those who appreciate agonized expressions, androgynous bodies, and the aesthetics of the damned. What it all sounds like is a graveyard chamber orchestra, complete with strings and horns performed by a long list of guest musicians and produced by John A. Rivers (Love and Rockets, Dead Can Dance, Buzzcocks). Everything else is the work of Sopor Aeternus’s only member, Anna-Varney Cantodea, from programming to visual design and vocals – the album’s most unsettling features. Vocally is where Cantodea covers the most ground, delivering a soothing, velvety serenade much of the time but often breaking into overwrought cries or the odd haunted shriek. The whole thing oozes atmosphere but it dances rather than flows. Moments of utter tortured bliss, sometimes looping back on themselves unexpectedly, come up against jarring segments or stagnant passages. In the end it’s all rather puzzling – more question than answer, but one that keeps you wondering.
(Season of Mist)