Radical Southern California avant-garde diva Galas' first record, The Litanies of Satan
, was not a heavy-metal prayer but rather a vocal adaptation of a poem by Charles Baudelaire. Using many electronic modifications (many learned during her working with such exemplary contemporary composers as Iannis Xenakis), Galas created a disturbing and provocative piece that was almost topped by the composition on the album's second side, the amusingly titled but harrowing "Wild Women with Steak-Knives (The Homicidal Love Song for Solo Scream)"--an endurance-defying unaccompanied stream of hideous vocal noises.
Besides showcasing her astonishing voice and real knowledge of electronic manipulation, the two pieces on Diamanda Galas display her social conscience: "Panoptikon" is based on Jeremy Bentham's 1843 proposal for a prison where the inmates could be kept under constant observation by unseen captors, and "Tragouthia Apo to Aima Exoun Fonos" translates from the Greek as "Song from the Blood of Those Murdered."
Desperate times lead to desperate actions. The Divine Punishment, Saint of the Pit and You Must Be Certain of the Devil comprise Masque of the Red Death, "the plague mass," Galas' strident but striking response to AIDS, sparked by her brother's 1986 death.
The Divine Punishment is a collection of somehow appropriate Old Testament quotes delivered--in everything from a glass-breaking soprano to an urgent whisper to a depraved shriek to a wicked multi-voiced regurgo rumble--over droning synthesizer music with jarring sonic effects. The more operatic Saint of the Pit sets French decadent poetry (by Baudelaire, Nerval and CorbiЉre) into wild vocal excursions, accompanied by keyboards that vary from subtle atmospherics to melodramatic horror-movie organ. Galas' astonishingly varied singing styles and the hypnotic effect of the record's three claustrophobic, obsessive pieces makes Saint of the Pit a powerful document of suffering.
Completing the trilogy on a conceptual high note, Galas fills You Must Be Certain of the Devil with lyrically specific (mostly) original songs, played with backing musicians. The record gets off to a bracing start with a unique a cappella interpretation of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and continues in an unassuming electro-rock vein as Galas warbles, sometimes singing counterpoint with herself in multi-track arrangements, using voice as both a percussion and melodic instrument. The audio intimacy here exaggerates emotional intensity beyond legal limits.
The Divine Punishment and Saint of the Pit are contained on one CD; the limited edition two-CD Masque of the Red Death Trilogy is a complete set of all three albums.
Plague Mass is a bravura live album recorded in October 1990 at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
(Glenn Kenny, Ira Robbins)
1. Ter Vogormia (13:02)
2. The Desert Part I (4:11)
3. The Desert Part II (5:31)
4. Sevda Zinciri (4:20)
5. Holokaftoma (4:39)
6. Ter Vogormia (reprise) (2:28)
7. The Eagle of Tkhuma (2:46)
8. Orders From The Dead (11:34)
1. Hastayim Yasiyorum (4:20)
2. San Pethano (2:37)
3. Je Rame (9:09)
4. Epistola A Los Transeuntes (5:33)
5. Birds Of Death (5:08)
6. Anoixe (3:14)
7. Todesfuge (6:14)
8. Artemis (5:05)
9. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (6:35)
- Diamanda Galás / composition, voice, piano, arrangement, production