Weekend editor Eric O. Scott partakes in the New York Metropolitan Opera’s “Wagner Week” of opera streams, and loses himself in the dream of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
TWH — The goddess Brigid is not a jealous goddess – at least the Irish/Celtic goddess of poetry, healing and smith craft is not such a deity on Land and Legend, the latest album by the Australian band Spiral Dance. “I know Brigid’s walking with me when the wild flowers have come,” the Australian-born Adrienne Piggott sings on “Goddess of the Southern Land.” The lyrics continue with “and the wattle flowers into life the color of the sun. In misty mountain bush land the smell of eucalyptus after rain and bark fall signal that it’s time to celebrate Beltane.”
As the croaking drone of a didgeridoo and gentle djembe and guitar open the song which opens the CD, Piggott unveils a confession: despite remaining rooted to her ancestors in the British Isles and to Brigid, she is on a vision quest to discover and connect to a new goddess: the “rainbow serpent mother protector of the land” where Piggott lives in the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide Hills in South Australia. The tone of Spiral Dance’s aptly-titled, mesmerizing ninth album is set from the start: connecting, or staying connected, to land and legend in the midst of an increasingly mobile global culture, in an age when a modern-day shaman’s dance is a mundane reality for so many humans who literally walk — or jet — between two worlds. It’s a topic of deep import for Pagans, polytheists and members of earth-based religions, especially those in the United States.
TWH — On the song “Descent to the Realm of the Dead” by the duo Nemuer, singer-guitarist Michael Zann chants and growls, “Ušellâ mītūti ikkalū balṭūti,” but only a handful of scholars in the entire world will know, without looking at the liner notes of the band’s new album Gardens of Babylon, that Zann is singing, “I will raise up the dead so that they devour the living.”
That’s because the Czech-born Zann isn’t singing in his native tongue, some other Slavic language or Klingon. Rather, he’s singing in Akkadian, the extinct language that was all the rage in Mesopotamia from 3000 B.C.E. to 1000 B.C.E.
Evocations of flesh-eating, netherworld denizens aside, Nemuer (pronounced Ne-moo-er) isn’t some black metal band. Instead, Zann and his mate Katarina Pomorska call themselves “an atmospheric dark folk duo.” Their bio proclaims that “in order to keep the atmosphere utterly immersive, they use solely authentic dead languages or lyric-less primordial chanting.”
Zann’s co-writer for “Descent to the Realm of the Dead” was some anonymous, ancient Babylonian scribe who carved the tale of the goddess Ishtar and her descent to the netherworld onto a clay tablet some three millennia ago. That song and the rest of Gardens of Babylon are certainly atmospheric and dark, but it’s the darkness of shadows and sorrow, of dread and the Dark Side of the Moon rather than something overtly sinister or evil – even if the band did use the term “Lovecraftian atmosphere” to describe some of their earlier work. Cross-breed the sound textures of that Pink Floyd classic with the mythopoeic world music ensemble Dead Can Dance, then mix in the story of how Ishtar, the ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, sex, fertility and war, ventured into the netherworld, and you have an idea of Gardens of Babylon.
Due to be released next weekend, The Green Album is a collaborative work containing songs from 14 different Pagan musicians. The project was born in late 2014 and has been spearheaded by Tuatha Dea, a “Celtic, Tribal, Gypsy Rock Band” from Tennessee. Not only is The Green Album a collection of songs expressing an eclectic musical variety, but it also focuses on the preservation and stewardship of our ecosystem. Each song is devoted to the theme and 25 percent of the album’s profits will go to the nonprofit organization Rainforest Trust. “Music is the Universal language.
On May 8th, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, collectively known as Dead Can Dance, announced that their first new album since 1996’s Spiritchaser would be released on August 9th, 2012 (It will also be the kick-off of their world tour). Entitled “Anastasis,” the new work will be “a spring album to coincide with both natures awakening and the groups subsequent rebirth,” according to Perry. This new album comes after a year of anticipation for hardcore fans, since Perry first revealed the planned return, and released a series of free live teaser EPs. While Dead Can Dance claims a devoted international fanbase, they really haven’t received the in-depth critical examination and attention of other bands from their era. This may be partially due to being labeled as Goth early in their career, that their idea of a “dance” tune is 14th century composition the saltarello, and the fact that many of the bands directly inspired by them exist in their own tiny niche subgenres (they’re like the Velvet Underground of Neoclassical Darkwave).