The Screen Behind the Mirror Review (Joar Grimstvedt)
by Joar Grimstvedt January 16 2000
A long awaited fourth album from Enigma is here. Released in 2000, it's now been ten years since Enigma first appeared, with the single Sadeness' in October 1990. Since then, three albums have been released, and a boxed set containing these albums was made to naturally round this up, the set aptly called Trilogy.
With The Screen Behind The Mirror, Michael Cretu carries on his distinctive musical work which is Enigma. This time, one of the most striking observations is how much of the earlier Enigma sounds appear again. A couple of months ago, the first single from this album was released. Gravity Of Love already had some solid elements from all three Enigma albums to date, and this fourth album shows that the song was not alone with this. Throughout the album are countless sounds and instruments, instantly recognisable but perfectly fitting with the music.
The other big revelation is that a very famous classical piece is an integral part of the album. Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, more specifically the part O Fortuna, is a key part of Gravity Of Love, and on hearing the full album, the piece is found throughout. No less than four of the eleven songs are credited with the piece. As it turns out, the inclusions are well melded with the music.
As before, Enigma is mostly Michael Cretu's work. He is joined by Jens Gad as co-author of some of the songs, and as performer and guitarist on the album. Sandra and Michael Cretu once again supply vocals, along with the new voices Ruth-Ann, from Olive, Andru Donalds, who has been Cretu's main musical occupation along with Trance Atlantic Air Waves since the last Enigma album; and Elisabeth Houghton, who have replaced Louisa Stanley.
On to the songs. A tradition has become apparent - every Enigma album to date has started with a short introduction track, containing a spoken part, and a particular horn sound as Enigma's signature. The first album had The Voice Of Enigma, the next Second Chapter and the third album had Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!. On this fourth album, the introduction is called The Gate. This has a somewhat uplifting mood, with a female voice quoting the astronomical properties, not of the Earth but of the planet Mars, but otherwise in a manner identical to that of the title track of Vangelis' album Albedo 0.39. Into the
track, O Fortuna is heard for the first time, in all it's glory and menace.
Push The Limits takes over. If there ever is one track to front this new album, this is it. It has much of the energy and clever drums that Enigma at its best is famed for, and it's well stitched. Mid-point in the song, the tablas from I Love You ... I'll Kill You appear, along with some strange voices. Some of the reverse drums from the first album also enter, along with the breathing. The song has a great tension, and is a blast of an opening song.
The next, Gravity Of Love, was picked as the first single. It's perhaps the most traditionally structured song, and one of the songs with the most lyrics. It also features the Carmina Burana section in the chorus, where it plays along with the oft-used Led Zeppelin drums - a perfect match and a great musical trick. Ruth-Ann is the vocalist in the song, and she has a magic voice. Gravity Of Love as heard on the single ended with some massive drums, and one could hope that on the album the drums would go on and lead into the next song. Alas, the version on the album is identical and does not give a new ending. The song ends, and the next song starts anew.
Smell Of Desire has some very low-frequency bass sounds, and some other interesting rhythmical elements. In the song, familiar vocals by Sandra from Mea Culpa appear. These are the same words as in the original song, and are so faithfully said that I suspect they have been taken directly from the original recordings. The credits list David Fairstein, a steady Enigma collaborator on earlier albums, as co-author of the lyrics on this song, and the only involvement on the fourth album seems to be the inclusion of these old lyrics.
The next song, Modern Crusaders, is also one with extensive lyrics. Another property it shares with Gravity Of Love is using the Carmina Burana section as a key part. The context is different, as Modern Crusaders has a tempo twice that of Gravity Of Love, and the intensity with Carmina Burana becomes stronger. An electric guitar in the style of the one from I Love You ... I'll Kill You is added, and to further the act of using familiar sounds, the song finishes with the opening notes of Bach's Toccata And Fugue, last heard on one of the mixes of The Rivers Of Belief.
Modern Crusaders is a fast-paced song. As a great contrast comes Traces (Light And Weight). The rhythm is made up of a metronome ticking, the lighting of a match, and a water drop. To this some distant, gentle chords are played, at times joined by the sound of tubular bells. The song is similar in mood and spirit to last album's Shadows In Silence. If I were to pick a favourite song from The Screen Behind The Mirror, this would be it.
The title track once again hints back to the first Enigma album. The rhythm pattern used is the one from Sadeness, although the actual drum sounds are slightly different. Lyrics from Gravity Of Love are repeated, with the vocals being a blend of the female and the male voices, and joined by a humorous background chant. The solo line which plays has a flavour of T.N.T. For The Brain to it. Towards the end, the drum sounds transform flawlessly into the ones from Principles Of Lust, maintaining the rhythm pattern.
Endless Quest is one of those songs where the tempo is slow and where this gives the song an almost majestic feeling to it. The main instrument is the flute from the first album, with some additional percussion in the form of tablas from Principles Of Lust. A distinct, guitar-like instrument takes over as the song builds up, and goes into Camera Obscura. Backwards singing leads up to Carmina Burana once again. The backing music is similar to the one from Modern Crusaders, and in fact the backwards singing also turns out to be from this song. The comparison in form to Sadeness/Sadeness (Reprise) from MCMXC a.D. is close. With an added beat in the bass drum, the force and power of Carmina Burana is as high as can ever be. The result is frighteningly striking.
With such a display, it is logical to find Between Mind & Heart a gentle and low-key song. It has a relative in The Child In Us, and is a good closer for the album. Actually, as it turns out, there is one more song yet, but from a track listing revealed a couple of months before the release of the album, the two last songs did switch places in the end.
The final song is thus Silence Must Be Heard, where Ruth-Ann returns for the vocals. As with Push The Limits, this is an up-tempo song, which would fit well with the songs from Sandra's 1992 album Close To Seven. Being the last track, the music slowly drowns to give way for the horn heard in the opening, following the Enigma tradition.
Summing up, this is a more instrumental album. Gone are most of the "ethnic chants" from previous albums, and only in places are Gregorian chants, one of the key parts of MCMXC a.D., to be heard. The prevalence of famous Enigma sounds is staggering. It's like living in a dream, with all your favourite Enigma sounds appearing one by one. Play it again, play it with a different constellation. As Michael Cretu puts it, this "quoting" is for evoking a memory and putting it in a new context, rather than copying earlier works.
In interviews, Cretu says he's happy to have made an album with such youthness, freshness and energy. Indeed, considering he's been making music for 25 years, it's great to hear the music of The Screen Behind The Mirror and find it so powerful and attractive. For me, this album now comes a close second to MCMXC a.D. in terms of rating the four Enigma albums.
With the release of The Screen Behind The Mirror, Enigma fans should have ample reasons for enthusiastic listenings. Whether or not "a new chapter" starts with this fourth album, it shows that Enigma is well alive.
Reproduced without permission for private and research purposes only.