Diamanda Galas' first album, originally issued as a 45rpm 12" on Y Records in 1982 and subsequently reissued on Mute, heralded the appearance of the most viscerally exciting and extreme vocalist to appear on the new music scene in many a year. Her incredible voice and enormous range, from the subtlest whispers to guttural bellows to impassioned shrieks with everything in between, and her huge sense of drama commanded instant attention. The Litanies of Satan consists of two pieces, the title track based on texts of Baudelaire and "Wild Women with Steak-Knives" listed as being "for solo scream". The latter is actually a series of vignettes with differing vocal characteristics employed for each section, from piercing banshee wails to quiet, whispered invective. The lyrics appear to relate to the ravings of a particularly vicious madwoman, and when Galas yells out, "And I am not talkin' about meatballs, I am talkin' about steak!" the cowering listener feels compelled to rush out and deliver her order. On "The Litanies of Satan," she employs electronic effects both to enhance certain qualities of her voice (for example, extending its sibilance) and to overlay multiple lines, creating an unearthly choir of demons. Its evocation of life in Hell is both gripping and, most important, without a trace of the maudlin or superficially gothic. Rather, it is one of the most successful vocal/electronic works produced in its time. It's arguable that Galas never surpassed her first effort in either passion or creativity but The Litanies of Satan is certainly the disc to start one's exploration of her career and an amazing document on its own.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick