Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (Review 1)

[Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! Cover]

by Kerrie Fahey
Sunday Herald Sun December 22 1996

It is interesting to study the sumptuous fold-out sleeve of this latest release from Enigma, alias mixing-desk jockey Michael Cretu.

Like the music contained therein, it is stylish, ethereal and totally devoid of any substance. And there is not much more you can say about it, really.

To be fair, Cretu popularised an entire new genre of music with 1990's highly successful MCMXC AD, which spawned the memorable hit single Mea Culpa and made pop stars of monks doing their morning chanting.

His blending of world-music rhythms and tribal mantras with the latest electronic gadgetry is pleasant enough, but hardly compelling listening.

Sadly for such an obvious talent as Cretu, Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Roi will probably find its biggest audience through the PA systems of shops that sell papier-mache angels and scented candles.

"The kind is dead, long live the king" indeed.

Greatest moment was 1990's poignant Sadness, a smash hit which seemed to encapsulate the dread of the Gulf War and Nostradamus' Armageddon; a smash which refused to die. Enigma's visionary, the Romanian composer Michael Cretu, sold truckloads of his evocative debut album, MCMXC AD, and reworked the formula on his successful follow up, The Cross of Changes. On Enigma's third album the material is more song-orientated, which basically means that besides the now prerequisite monastic chants there is more vocal work. Not a good idea, since Cretu's guttural voice (akin to the throaty vocals of Bryan Adams or Queen's Roger Taylor) sounds alien to the ambient backdrop. The album's strongest tracks are Why!... and The Roundabout, which are reminiscent of Foreigner or Journey, only with lush synths and ghostly grooves added. The dreamy The Child In Us (marred again by Cretu's old rocker croak) still sounds like poor man's Deep Forest. Cretu attempts to conjure up some pop-mysticism with female vocalists half-singing, half-muttering throughout like wannabe sibyls, but they end up making Le Roi sound like a series of dodgy remakes of Visage's Fade to Grey. The titles are intriguing (Morphing Thru Time, Prism of Life) and the Escher-like sleeve is cool, but the album itself is pure turkey.

Reproduced without permission from the Sunday Herald Sun for private and research purposes only.