Various Artists - Pere-Lachaise [Divine Comedy/Steinklang - 2006]Pere-Lachaise is a compilation of Gothic, Martial Neo-Classical artists, based around the concept of creating pieces of music which are purported to be evocative of the world famous cemetary for which this is titled after. One of the pitfalls of this combination of genres is that they sometimes stick very close to a pre-disposed formula which has been circulated over several years now. Most of these pieces include pounding martial drums, which unavoidably limits freedom of movement within the music.
The first two pieces, performed by Hirologium, Pere-Lachaise I and II (these tracks are named Pere-Lachaise with a track number to differentiate) are thundering, pummeling militaristic drone pieces. Both pieces include German vocals (perhaps archival), the first spoken, the second sourced from song.
Pere-Lachaise I end ups sounding like video game music with its over the top choral vocals and pounding war drums. II is even odder; it starts with a two note neoclassical motif played on winds, then morphs into slowed down German vocals and backing music with acoustic guitar on top. Both pieces try to evoke a scary atmosphere with background ambiance, but that only confuses matters.
Although the aforementioned tracks are probably the least successful tracks on the album, the next couple of acts, Foundation Hope and Project Winter, pretty much stick to a similar template, with the exception that they don't use German archival vocals. There is an effort to create a spooky atmosphere throughout this collection, I assume because of the subject of the work, but in all cases, it lacks the subtlety required to make any real impact.
The last two tracks, drone pieces by Artefactum, are somewhat successful because they shun the omnipresent drums. Though decided less overblown than the previous tracks, they still aren't entirely successful because they fail to convey much of an atmosphere.
The package for this release is classy. It's an over sized glossy paper booklet with wonderful photographs by Fabrice Billiard. In my research of this compilation, I learned a bit about the Pere Lachaise cemetery, and I found that it's a fascinating, historically storied site. I can't help but feel that the artists involved in this work failed to evoke a sense of the place with any of these pieces. Erwin Michelfelder