Arcanta's self-titled debut is one of those love-it-or-leave-it records -- if it captivates a listener, that listener will fall hard, but if it doesn't, nothing will change his or her mind on the subject. Consisting of four tracks -- the latter two of which would surface on The Eternal Return released the following year -- the album, like the band, is essentially a showcase for band leader Thomas-Carlyle Ayres' astonishing vocals. Drawing on a number of exultant religious vocal traditions, from Gregorian chant to Qawwali (similar to the breadth evidenced by Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard), Ayres gives a powerful majesty to his work, whether singing in English or in other tongues. The instinctive reaction is to bow your head in meditation -- he's that good. The opening number, "A Fool's Cry," consists of a brief, bravura solo performance, but "Desert Prayer" ups the effect with a layering of vocals interspersed between spare ambient keyboards and production. "Maya" adds a soft guitar to the majestic roll of Ayres' voice and the dark synth background. "Via Dolorosa" lives up to its melancholy title, again mixing dark sonics with Ayres' mystic calls.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett