Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! Review (Vaughan van Dyk)

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

by Vaughan van Dyk August 14 1997

After three years of waiting, the new Enigma album finally arrived. What follows is my track-by-track analysis of this album and individual ratings out of ten are listed alongside the song titles.

Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! 9

Gentle choral synths build up this introduction that subtly blends into the second track. Transcripts of astronauts speaking to one another are heard in the background and the very well-known introductory music of the previous two albums, weaves its way around the song. A woman intones the famous saying "Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Roi" or The King is Dead, Long live the King. This is probably the only intro for an Enigma album that I feel could actually be extended into a complete song on its own, as it really sets the atmosphere of space and time.

Morphing Thru Time 10

From the title of this track we immediately realise it will deal with technology, space and science etc. The song in itself is actually a brilliant experimentation in sound: combining chants, opera and choirs into a unified whole. It starts with a voice quoting:"Earth: a biosphere, a complex subtly balanced life-support system." A gentle beat of basic rhythm soon follows, along with melancholic Gregorian chants. The music continues to swirl around and builds, as more instruments join in for Cretu's singing. His voice has many effects put on it, ensuring that it suits the technological atmosphere already created. Sandra's moans and utterances from the first album are heard faintly in-between Cretu's verses. After his verse, a Mongolian chant is heard (Cretu seems to enjoy sampling Mongolian instruments and chants, as these are both quite prominent on this album). A glorious choir, similar to those featured on the songs by the composer Palestrina, breaks the rather strong instrumentation before returning to Cretu's singing. Sandra interjects with another statement and the song begins to fade.

Third of Its Kind n/a

This is an extremely short track and is more like a prelude to Beyond the Invisible (and therefore I have not given it a rating). The words seem to have reference to the three Enigma albums. The first, MCMXC a.D. was a dark, authoritative work (like a father). The second, The Cross of Changes was more emotional and seemed to convey more care and interest in other matters (like a mother). The third, namely this album, combines all of these (like a child inherits attributes from his parents) but creates something completely new.

Beyond the Invisible 10

This song, the first single off the album, incorporates many principles that we will hear further on in Enigma 3. An ethnic flute ushers in the song, conjuring up a very desolate, tribal landscape. A Latvian chorus powerfully echoes throughout the song and creates a joyous atmosphere for Cretu's emotional vocals. After this chorus, a single Gregorian monk sings solemnly in the distance. Once again, Sandra's yeahs from the first album are softly heard in the background. This song is very well arranged and all the parts fit well together, perfectly creating a mystical world.

Why! ... 7

A heavy beat makes its way throughout this song. This sounds more like a song from one of Cretu's earlier albums. His voice is very emotional and powerful (especially in the chorus) as he tells us about how someone has died and he is wanting to know the reason for this. This song has been compared to Silent Warrior and it even features the same little click sound in the background occasionally. I would probably not go as far as to compare it to Silent Warrior (which is actually my very favourite Enigma song, along with Mea Culpa) as the chants that are used are right in the background and it is not as layered and mysterious as Silent Warrior.

Shadows in Silence 9

A gentle uplifting instrumental. It has a very calm beat with light instrumentation and resembles a lullaby in its style. The beginning of this song does not sound like it is of the same digital quality as all the other tracks. However this may have been done on purpose to create the dreamy atmosphere. Distant Mongolian cries make the song very alien and ghostly. From about 1:51 to 2:03 if one listens very carefully there is someone humming the tune in the background, it sounds like Cretu once again. A beautiful piece with a clever melody, ideal for advertisements or film music!

The Child In Us 10

A light, gentle song that can probably be deemed the main track of the album. A beautiful female chant sung in Sanskrit forms the basis of the song, as the Gregorian chants come back again. The Gregorian monks are singing a carol which seems to refer to the birth of Christ. The old, faithful digitally-slowed shakuhachi (Indian flute) from the first and second album makes a welcome reappearance, although this time it is not a lead instrument, but merely a supporting one. Another Mongolian chant forms a bridge between this introduction and Cretu's lyrics about the child (inner spirit) that is always with us. I wish that the Sanskrit chant would have been repeated at the end again, to round it off (it's just beautiful). This song is far more layered and sensitive than The Return to Innocence and would make an excellent single.

TNT for the Brain 10

I was very worried about this song after reading the title. I was expecting some hard-rock song with electric guitars, but it has turned out to probably be my very favourite song off the album. A tribal, tabla-style drumming drives this song straight ahead as Sandra sings/breathes her words (actually this song features the most singing by Sandra on this album, whereas the rest features Cretu mainly on vocals). Passionate strings create a very eerie atmosphere and various space samples are heard in the background again. Cretu sings in-between Sandra's verses making the song duet-like, which could have come from a Sandra album, but it is far more mysterious and layered. Out of all of Enigma's songs, this is the one probably most suited for the popular music market.

Almost Full Moon 8

This track goes to show, once again, that Cretu is an absolute master at composing instrumentals. He never fails in conjuring up untamed, yet serene landscapes with his music. This has another beautiful ethnic chant which lingers in the distance and never really intrudes on the delicate melody.

The Roundabout 10

Drum loops and hooks may have faded into the background for this album, but it abounds with striking rhythms and very refreshing melodies as demonstrated on this track. The lead rhythm sounds similar to the one used on Sandra's song No Taboo from her Close to Seven album. Early in the track, the music explodes in a similar style to Age of Loneliness. Cretu's voice is well suited for this type of song: it is powerful and layered. Suddenly a dominating African male voice (sounding very much like Cretu, although it is definitely taken from a sample CD) clearly chants "a-yeah, a-yeah, a-ye-ya-yah!" A woman states, with a brilliant delay-echo effect on her voice, that "Reason is lost. Passion is living. And dying is teaching us, how to live" (probably one of the best lyrics Cretu has written). The African chant repeats until the end of the song, which is way to soon. A wonderful uplifting track that would be even more wonderful had there been an extra minute or so.

Prism of Life 9

A woman, probably Louise Stanley, starts this song off by speaking the words that were sung by Cretu in The Roundabout. A male Zulu choir sings a verse repeatedly to form a backing (like the Latvian choir in Beyond the Invisible) for Cretu's singing. A Classical choir flows over the music, creating an even more peaceful atmosphere. Finally a new tribal chant comes in and leads the song to an end. This is another very powerful piece, but at the same time joyful and inspiring.

Odyssey of the Mind 8

This track starts with the intonement and astronaut's transcripts from the first track, played backwards. Then a female voice ends the album with her philosophical statement that "There's no teacher who can teach anything new. He can just help us to remember the things we always knew" as bleeping sounds fade into oblivion.

Overall 9

A brilliant piece of work! Definitely a different style of music with the drums not taking as predominant a role, as on the other albums. The album is also complexly arranged with the utmost attention to detail, especially in cross-fades which are fantastically done. The singing vocals are different this time round as they mainly feature Cretu as opposed to Sandra. The complete album seems to be comprised of two parts: one part being very space-orientated and dark (and can be thought of as containing the attributes of MCMXC a.D. with its use of Gregorian chants and much darker, eerier instrumentation). The other part is more uplifting and often very powerful (and can be thought of as having the attributes of The Cross of Changes with its use of native chants, that are extremely intricate and delicate, giving a sense of hope). However the album is not a re-hash of the principles of the previous albums: it creates an entirely new world of sound, and simply keeps the listener in touch with the previous Enigma songs. I've always seen Enigma as an experience, a journey, which carries on into uncharted territory with each new album. I look forward to the next exploration into the sonic globe that is Enigma.

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