Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows
from the inverted womb - 2001
Talking about Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows is like talking about Devil Doll. In fact, both bands have many things in common: strange vocal interventions; supernatural themes; macabre imagery; classical instrumentation; etc. Anyway, and if you are interested in the most twisted - conceptually talking - side of music and you enjoy with artists really original musically and visually, it is very possible you will choose the work of Anna Varney Cantondea (Sopor Aeternus) and the spirits who inspires him/her (The Ensemble of Shadows) and it will provide your brain high doses of tense, dramatic, dark and oppressive music. Yet, there are differences between Sopor´s music and Devil Doll´s, mainly because of the musical pointing of both bands. The first one has a very classic-contemporary perspective in its sound as the second band is more linked with the progressive rock movement developed since 70´s.
After giving up the music he/she performed in the beginning of his/her career, not very linked with progressive rock, and following the path he/she timidly started with "The inexperienced spiral traveller" (1997), which achieved a great plenitude with both "faces" of "Dead lovers´sarabande" (mainly the second one), Sopor Aeternus´ music could be fitted -tangentially- into the most classical progressive rock with dark shades... in fact, Sopor´s music would be easier assimilated by After Crying or White Willow´s fans rather than Spock´s Beard, The Flower Kings or any neoprog band´s fan.
review"Tales from the inverted womb" is the name of the latest work of Anna and it has been released in a normal CD edition -with few (and little) photographs- and a limited edition (3.000 copies, so it is not very limited since we are talking about genre for minority) in BoxCD format and book with 28 pages full of big photographs. Those who love vinyl and memorabilia can also buy a limited edition of 666 copies!! in double LP format with two big posters ideal to scare your visits. We have to say that this is a long awaited album by the band´s fans for several reasons. Firstly, there is a growing fanaticism, mainly in Europe, about Sopor Aeternus and dark wave music in general. The extraordinary cultural symbiosis of this genre is very wide: poetry, literature, paint, architecture and, of course, classical, contemporary and rock music. About this, we would like to explain that dark wave is a musical genre rooted in the European historical tradition which these bands reclaim (isn´t it, Wakeford -Sol Invictus-?). You will notice that the most important and known bands of the genre come from Europe, with the exception of Dead Can Dance.
On the other hand, both "faces" of "Dead lovers' sarabande" were the creative cenit of the band. They are really two excellent works with different orientation: The first album had more vocals and the second is plenty of ravishing moments of instrumental extacy The curiosity about what was going to do Sopor Aeternus after those two great works was very intense, and the answer for our questions is here.
"Tales from the inverted womb" is not as good than "Face two", still the best CD of the band, but is better than "Face one". This album improves with every listening and show us the musical maturedome of the band: all songs have great arrangements, the interplay between the painful voice and the rest of the instruments is very equitable, and all tracks are very well developed and performed. The tone is still dark but here the vocal work is more evident. It is, without a doubt, a great work, complete and very well recorded, which keeps the capacity to be surprised due to a couple or three tracks that point possible future tendencies. The general tone of the CD evolves in crescendo, starting from very grief-stricken and classic airs that evolve toward rhythmic tracks with diverse influences, so it keeps the excellent style of "Face two".
Continuing with the tradition of the band, the instrumentation is eminently classic, and we can listen to - and enjoy - keyboards, double bass, violins, cellos, bassoon, bass bassoon, oboes, clarinets, trumpets, trombone's, tubas, drums and different percussion. Although all songs are great, the best ones for us are the intro "Something wicked this way comes", with calm but aching atmospheres that develop in crescendo; the satanic "Tales from the inverted womb", with some brilliant vocal combinations and excellent winds, as the interplay of all the instruments; "... and bringer of sadness", one of the best tracks, a very symphonic sound landscape that shows one of the possible roads of development of the sound of the band in the future; "Résumé..." has a symphonic intro with beautiful and painful strings, and we can affirm that, if we talk about classic arrangements, Sopor Aeternus has the same level as classic progressive band such as After Crying, although with less orchestral style and closer to baroque camera music.
The track listing goes on with "Totes kind/Little dead boy", a classic song with strings with an absolutely impressive introduction, a music's marvel, a jewel to enjoy that it is developed toward intimate atmospheres, full with withdrawal and melancholy. One of the best songs of the album. "May I Kiss your wound?" was originally released in "The inexperienced spiral traveller" CD, but this time the song is longer and has more instrumentation, with pianos, harpsichords, and other instruments. "Saturn devouring his children" is track close to progressive rock, having a potent rhythm section, and it is a direct reference to the famous paint of Francisco of Goya with the same title (in fact he interprets, without knowing it, the concept that is denominated in psychology "the shade of the personality"). "There was a country in the sea" is another satanic song which possibly predicts the future of the career of Sopor Aeternus: environmental effects, winds, and decadent airs in the beginning of the XXI century. "Little velveteen knight" is another song, now very dynamic, close to progressive rock, with an incredible vocal work and a splendid rhythm section, and even in some moments it remains me to the sound of RIO bands. The album ends with "Eldorado", a musical homage to Edgar Allan Poe, in which the rhythmic patterns of the previous topics continue, now with folk and medieval influences.
Now it is when we look back and we realize that we have not included another great song: "Do you know about the water of life?". Summarizing, do buy this work and you will thank us very much, a lot.