The Spiral Sacrifice is the thirteenth and probably the last album from Sopor Æternus & the Ensemble of Shadows, the musical brainchild of the ethereal and splendid Anna-Varney Cantodea. It is haunting, beautiful, and enthralling, full of both serenity and almost religious mystery. The distinctive darkwave/neo-medieval sound of Sopor Æternus is here subdued to a modulated theatricality, making it more effective and mature.
Its less blatantly melancholy tone mirrors the emotional development and dignity of the album’s lyrical themes. The richness, playfulness, and delightful atmosphere of its music opens up a vista, conjures an ethereal world – with its quality of medieval cloisters, crypts, cadaverous despairing souls, funereal draperies, obscure chambers, massive ruins, tenebrous fastnesses – with startling immediacy, a world of dark stone, veils, tears and lutes, drawing you into this realm so remote from modernity and present reality, so spectrally dramatic, delicately anguished – you can almost smell the odors of incense and dust, the dried roses…
The cooler and more abstract sound of the instrumentation provides background and juxtaposition for Anna-Varney’s vocals and lyrics, which as usual are highly personal, emotional, and deeply sad, yet also peaceful and not without a certain loving gladness. These songs speak of the agonies and beauties of failed, unfulfilled, or forfeited love and are achingly moving, with the full-hearted generous emotionality that is typical of Anna-Varney, who has said that “a good album should be…like a tombstone…a sepulcher, where a part of the artist lies buried.” They are filled with profound resignation, the final laying to rest of torment. Her lyrics are a pure incarnation of the roiling vicissitudes, the ecstasy and agony, joy and loss of love.
As always, Sopor Æternus is a breath of refreshing iconoclasm and unearthly atmosphere in a sea of musical sameness. It is one of the few projects that truly remind me of no other artist or band. It is the only one able to evoke the spirit and feeling of the Middle Ages in such an intimate way, a unique hybrid dream realm embodying this peculiar penumbral vision. Jubilant, mischievous, ominous, and sorrowful, this album brings together the best qualities of the chimerical Sopor Æternus & the Ensemble of Shadows and is animated throughout by Anna-Varney Cantodea’s lifeblood.