Diamanda Galàs is a bizarre and very charismatic presence in Broken Gargoyles – album review

If Muse treats apocalypticism like a roller coaster ride, then for Diamanda Galàs it’s no game. Since her recording debut 40 years ago, the American experimenter has amassed a tremendous body of work that deals with like an abject pit of despair. The texts are taken from the works of writers obsessed with death such as Charles Baudelaire. The subject includes psychosis, torture and illness, sung by Galàs with a clashing array of grunts, hisses, soprano notes and blackboard screams: an anti-aria for the end of the world.

His new album Broken Gargoyles deals with the sad subject of the maimed soldiers of the First World War, with lyrics taken from poems by the German Expressionist poet George Heym, a disciple of Baudelaire. It was born from an audiovisual installation produced in collaboration with the sound artist Daniel Neumann. There are two long titles, “Mutilatus” and “Abiectio”. This prodigious pair of tracks opens an eerily creaky door to the musical equivalent of an art house horror film.

His star is Galàs. At 66, she remains a very charismatic, if bizarre, presence on the mic. She recites Heym’s verses in a guttural, declamatory manner, as if the words were pieces of meat presented at a ceremonial feast. Even if you don’t understand German, you feel their physical strength like sound objects. Sometimes the electronic distortion gives her the demonic quality of a death metal singer. Elsewhere, she sings high-pitched, multi-track harmonies like a hellish choir or sags in unintelligible noise – a communicative breakdown.

The music scrolls like a cursed landscape. Low piano chords on the left side of the keyboard are struck with resounding accentuation. Electronic sounds clack and roar in the background. Every now and then the bright tone of a bell rings out, an effect borrowed from psychedelic music. There, it means a moment of higher consciousness. Here he opens our minds to the depths, a disconcerting but necessary act of calculation.

★★★★☆

Broken Gargoyles‘ is published by Intravenal Sound Operations

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