an in-depth analysis
Once more. The MAN - Mr. Doctor- does THE MIRACLE. I keep thinking that the last- masterwork; -the truly fabulous SACRILEGIUM- cannot be surpassed and then the new creation, DIES IRAE, surpasses it with such ease that it seems it was only natural. This is a timeless classic that transcends any genre- limitation: it can only be described as DEVIL DOLL music, a real psychic experience, the soundtrack of anybody's niqhtmare. A-kaleidoscope of coherent Chaos that magically turns into a breathtaking piece of poetry in the class of an Emily Dickinson, a Charles Baudelaire or an Edgar Allan Poe. Yes, Devil Doll are unique: a "love or hate" affair. Same as their Mastermind, the elusive Mr. Doctor, who refuses any contact with the outerworld. The esoteric and puzzling nature of His Works of Art would need a lot of explanations: double meanings, crossed quotations and subliminal messages spread all over Devil Doll albums and DIES IRAE is no exception. I have tried to analyse the complexities of some of the lyrics and the musical structure, trying to unveil some of the Hidden Secrets that probably only Mr. Doctor could fully explain. But, after all, isn't it true that Poetry, same as Magic, lives out; of its mysteries and, if explained, it would die?
Note: In the CD the "score" of DIES IRAE: a continuous suite of 46 minutes is divided in 16 cues that we are going to brief in detail:
1) DIES IRAE starts with a "praeludium" for string orchestra: a frightening rhythmical crescendo of shrieking bows in the brightest -"PSYCHO" tradition. A majestic explosion of cellos draws a powerful melody while the violins turns more and more into sharp blades, cutting the eardrums with some demented high-pitched screams. Silence. A distant piano lost in the storm- plays THE classic Devil Doll interval (augmented 4th which comprises three whole tones in the record: G and C sharp), the prohibited harmony, called In the old books Diabolus in Musica: It is the magic TRITONE. It introduces & mysterious melody of Slavic charm, first played by english horn and bassoon, then by the string sections of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra joined In its devastating finale by the whole electric sections of Devil Doll crashing the wall of sound. Apart from its evilish connotations the tritone has also a second meaning, peculiar to DIES IRAE: it is the same interval that introduces the CONCERTO MACABRE for Piano and Orchestra composed by George Harvey Bone, the fictitious musician to whom the whole album is dedicated (see credits in the CD booklet: in fact the CONCERTO is composed by the great Bernard Herrmann, and is available on a RCA CD called The Classic Film Scores of B.H.�). Bone is the main character of the movie HANGOVER SQUARE, a forgotten gem directed in 1944 by the German filmmaker John Brahm: he is a classical musician of great talent who unconsciously turns into a killer after hearing a certain dissonant harmony. At the premiere of his masterpiece, the CONCERTO MACABRE, George Harvey Bone (impersonated by young actor Laird Cregar who will die just before the release of the movie) finds death through flames in a memorable finale Fire: we all remember how Mr. Doctor escaped miraculously through flames when, on september 3rd 1993, during the mixing sessions of the first (and now lost) version of DIES IRAE, the Tivoli Studios of Ljubljana burnt completely. The diabolical thread that seemed to link the fate of George Harvey Bone and Mr. Doctor has been finally broken with the re-recording of DIES IRAE in 1995: the inlay card of the CD -inside the magic circle with the Devil Doll inside- with a touch of black humour states that "THE CURSE IS OVER".
2) The first words of the album surprisingly do not come from Mr. Doctor. A defamatory female voice sets the scene ending with an eerie glissando: the booklet notes reveal the presence of an exceptionally talented soprano, the young croatian vocalist Norina Radovan. Some tense Herrmannesque string pizzicatos introduces Mr. Doctor: over an Intricate choral background He whispers the first phrase, before two of His thousand voices run after each other in a vortex of dreamy psychedelic echoes. It's the signal: the group explodes in a sabbath of monolithic violence, dosed by a full group/orchestra coda.
3) The first classic "sprechstimme" of the album: Mr. Doctor brings to the extreme the technique explored by the expressionist master Hanns Eisler (whose works Mr. Doctor has recorded in a very rare 1989 album). Every word has its unique colour: the voice is once more free from the limitations of "normal" singing and can fly as a truly creative Instrument. The paradoxical "HIDDEN BEHIND MYSELF" is another symptom of the "syndrome of the double" that was the leit-motiv of the first album, the unforgettable THE GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH and, obviously, of the name MR. (Hyde) DOCTOR (Jekyll). While piano ends repeating the same SIX notes Mr. Doctor performs at the border of mental Insanity: "THE FURIOUS SMALL HAMMERS FULLY UPROOTED FROM THEIR KEY-SHAPED SKELETON, CRUELLY EXPLORE EVERY CRANIAL PATH, ALWAYS CLOSER, ALWAYS MORE PAINFUL". The last word is In fact substituted by a concrete female scream extracted, on Mr. Doctor's request, from the memorable sequence of the prematurial burial in Val Lewton' s movie ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945), as revealed by Devil Doll's sound engineer Jurij Toni in a recent interview.
4) One of the most exciting sequences of the whole record. The DELIRIUM part shows Mr. Doctor at His very best: syllable after syllable His deep voice -quiet and controlled at the start- becomes progressively more and more agitated. An unpredictable fanfare leads US to a tense oriental melody, broken by a violent strings intermezzo with Mr. Doctor shouting a triple "CRUCIFY!": the vocalising of Norina Radovan forewarns the apocalyptic FATHER OF SONS ALL DEFORMERD... section. Over a violent rhythm section, a barbaric rock ride of Subterranean Spirits, Mr. Doctor explodes into a memorable performance that eclipses the brilliance of the "TALK, TALK: YOU FOOLS" in the previous album SACRILEGIUM. His sudden changes of Octaves ,wild glissandos and touches of operatic virtuosity are dosed by an unforgettable demonic instrumental coda with Devil Doll, and piano player Francesco Carta in particular, proving once more their outstanding technical proficiency. The lyrics, filled with Poetish quotations, are the perfect complement to an unforgettable part: when fury reaches the peak, a church organ enters the scene with its perversely sacral flavour.
5) The pipes are silent and a liquid piano builds up the tension. With a tortured voice coming from the underworld Mr. Doctor declaims "HAEC VERBA AUDI - VITAM AETERNAM". The key-word seems to open the scene to a triumphant full orchestra topped by a glorious guitar solo (Bor Zuljan). The illusion lasts the space of a few seconds as the part ends among the notes of a thoughtful sad Shostakovian cello, drawing one of the most memorable melodies of the whole album.
6) A mind-blowing duet between Mr. Doctor and Norina Radovan opens the new scene while Devil Doll erupts again in a thundering barbaric ride of sparkling Metals. The ruthless violence turns in a wagnerian theme, played by the group with delightful countermelody by string orchestra and french horns. Another mysterious middle-east flavoured tune suddenly introduces a hypnotic piano with thunders and ram in the distance, while the desperate voice of a child moans "MAMA I`M COLD! LET ME IN! LET ME IN!". Impromptu organ enters while the Devil Chorus quote with ritual solemnity a phrase from Les Chants de Maldoror by Lautreaumont, possibly Mr. Doctor`s closest spiritual ancestor: the rock group takes over with a devastating coda.
7) The silence is broken by the theatrical voice of The Man, passionately visualising those "HOOKED HANDS STRETCHED OUT ABOVE IN THE ULTIMATE ENDEAVOUR TO CLUTCH AN ATOM THAT DOES NOT SINK...". The hissing reverberation of the last syllable fades under an upcoming surge of string tremolos and choruses: a dizzying whirl solved through an explosive rock violin solo (Sasha Olenjuk). A cluster leads to a deranged piano intermezzo and to a very bartokian string crescendo interrupted by the full mass of the pipes with the Devil Chorus intoning "DIES IRAE". (Running time: 3'37)
8) The lyrics show Devil Doll at their most apocalyptic: no cheap gore, though, as even the curse of a plague is described through highly poetic metaphors, with the Angels called "BIRDS OF SOUL" who "USHER IN THE RAYS OF CHAOS...." The climax is reached with a speaker's voice announcing dramatically: "FATAL INFECTION FOR ALL! EPIDEMY! EPIDEMY!". A very filmic theme in major mode (a rarity in Devil Doll's musical history!) is just a temporary relief before Mr. Doctor launches out into an expressionist waltz (reminiscent of the most theatrical sections of the previous album SACRILEGIUM) complete with creeping spirits "EACH ONE CHOOSING HIS OWN BELOVED PREY". And when the deadly fury is over, Sasha Olenjuk's sad violin closes the scene in melancholy.
9) The group and orchestra erupt this time in a 5/4 part closed masterly through a sharp guitar solo: Mr. Doctor... is left alone again for the greatest of Devil Doll's classic "sprechgesang" (spoken singing). Introduced by piano and voice, the part then reveals a complex arrangement for orchestra, with Mr. Doctor at the proscenium giving life to every syllable and proving once and for all that He is essentially a poet. The lyrics, with their symbolic charm, offer the usual deliberate ambiguities that can be submitted to many different interpretations: but the words used to depict the scene of the killing (Or the liberation of the Spirit, if you prefer) are extraordinary in their sublime poetic perfection. "AND THE VIRGIN BLADE KISSES, FREEING, YOUR WHITE THROAT". A vocal glissando marks the beginning of another bright demonstration of Devil Doll's unchecked fury, lead by the percussions of the great Roman Ratej. "NO PAIN! I AM QUITE SURE: SHE FEELS NO PAIN!" screams Mr. Doctor, "THE VOICE STILL THROBS: EACH MAN KILLS THE THING HE LOVES!". Apparently the quotation seems to come from Oscar Wilde's memorable Ballad of Reading Gaol, but to a closer analysis the lyrics reproduce the final sequence to Karl Freund's 1935 movie MAD LOVE, one of the few great expressionist creations made in America, with the cursed Dr. Gogol performed by an unsurpassable Peter Lorre.
10) THE INCUBUS. This is the most striking creation of Mr. Doctor: a mental Trip that anybody who have witnessed the DAY OF WRATH live dates indelibly remembers. The lyrics of this part are not included in the CD booklet nor in the LP inner cover: this is because a second INCUBUS had been recorded and the choice on which one was going to be included in the final release was made by Mr. Doctor at the very last minute. Devil Doll's expressive violence reaches the climax: the listener is brought to and beyond the outer limits of his perception in a unique, surreal pastiche of mind expanding geniality. In less than six minutes we travel throughout the kingdom of the Irrational, with Metaphor and Symbol as passwords, where Induction wins always over Deduction, where Exception is the Rule, where Space and Time are obliterated, for once. This, and only this is the moment when Devil Doll can freely vomit their Universe of deformed beauty.
The INCUBUS starts with a dreamy, eerie lullaby sung by a little child ("ONCE UPON A TIME...") it's the typical fable that grown-ups tell children before sleeping. But here, reversing roles, the child tells the fable bringing US sleep and, with it, the beginning of Terror. The lullaby is not finished yet when a sharp section of violins cut the brain cells: over a baroque organ melody Mr. Doctor implores: "WAKE ME UP! I KNOW, IT BEGINS!". A voice announces "THE DANCE OF DEATH!": and a waltz of spirits take place, through inaudible murmurs and perverse laughters. "THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING!", repeats twice a female voice before a wild scream tear our mind to pieces. "CARNIVAL IS OVER. CAROUSEL'S NO MORE..." sweetly sings Mr. Doctor with the angelic timbre of a child. But the string tremolos rebuild immediately the claustrophobic atmosphere: "AND ....... IF IT SHOULD BE... THE WILL OF MY INQUISITOR...", murmurs Mr. Doctor, "THE PRIVILEGE TO DIE!!!". The statement seems really a liberation as the group explodes in a pompous march for a few seconds. "CRUCIFIGE!" interrupts shouting the chorus, bringing back the memory of the killing that came before the INCUBUS.
As a sort of answer Mr. Doctor twice repeats "EACH MAN KILLS THE THING HE LOVES", while a violin melody adds a touch of nostalgic sorrow. But the nightmare goes on with a mental battle made of choral screams, with the organ flying up and down the keyboard and some female voices begging divine mercy. Four gothic brass notes seem to unravel chaos: "AND FINALLY: DESPAIR...": the music opens magically, giving the impression of enormous spaces, a cosmic solitude where Mr. Doctor is inevitably lost: "CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME? CAN ... ANYBODY... HEAR ME?" he repeats in total desperation. As mysterious character appears Mr. Doctor asks: "WHO ARE YOU?". The answer offers a great "coup de theatre": "I AM THE BEATING OF YOUR HEART, THE FOOTSTEP OF AN ASSASSIN. ..: DESTINY!". The full orchestra shows its power hardly hiding some of the most frightening screams ever devoted to record. The INCUBUS, a milestone in the Art of the Fifth dimension (the Psychic) is brought to its spine-chilling conclusion.
11) After the brief escape in the oniric world, we return to the scene of crime. Norina Radovan and Mr. Doctor duet dramatically in another highlight of the album. Death comes and THE instant is beautifully photographed: "SUDDENLY THE VOID FILLS YOUR FIRST BORN VIBRATION...". The Devil Chorus intones "YOU WILL NOT GET OUT OF ETERNAL PEACE", before the group breaks out with sheer energy: the barking crowd is submerged by a few gothic accents before a fearful piano melody drives to another fearful high pitched coda for solo strings.
12) The tension is solved through an excellent rock part in which the lyrical ambiguity reaches a peak in the closing line: "THIS IS MY BODY WHICH IS SACRIFICED FOR YOU!"
13) The low registers of Mr. Doctor's voice start the last piano/vocal part. The phantom of Edgar Allan Poe flutters in the lyrics, that quote his most perverse poetic creation: THE CONQUEROR WORM. The atmospheres of SACRILEGIUM ("For long endless...") are revived for once: Devil Doll are at their more theatrical, with piano and vocals sharing the same breath in a truly passionate performance.
14) A trash metal intro is followed by a demonic waltz, with Norina Radovan vocalising like a real witch and Mr. Doctor shouting with a thunderous martial accent the symbolic "CONQUEROR WORM". These words alter completely the scene: strings, exasperating the dynamics, build up a tension that finds solution in a glorious march. This, abruptly, turns into a perversely demented finale for solo organ (Michel Jesurum), the final triumph of the Conqueror Worm.
15) A dramatic Litany of Death by the Devil Chorus puts into music a delightful Emily Bronte lyric titled THE PRISONER. Yes, exactly the same title as the Patrick McGoohan series that was the key inspiration to THE GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH: not coincidental, I would say.
16) Undoubtedly the pinnacle of the whole record along with the INCUBUS- and my favourite finale ever. The (self) destructive apocalypse of the previous fifteen parts is summoned in the last monologue, with Mr. Doctor, jester of His own self-imposed DEMENTIA, supported by all the squads of the Devil Doll army. The lyrics set immediately the scene with the sharp precision of a filmic screenplay: "THE STILL LOOK CURLED UP IN THE STRAIGHT-JACKET. FADING OF TEARS."
A wonderfully cynical statement -"BEHIND EVERY KISS: A POTENTIAL JUDAS" -introduces a series of unrelated flashbacks dominated by self-punishment and gratuitous violence in the best tradition of all the monstrous children cruelties. We are not in the territory of our rational ethics, but in the quicksands of PURE EVIL, the PRIMITIVE evil, too "pure" to be dominated by DEMONS, too "evilish" to be touched by ANGELS, in an atmosphere of Ambiguity that reminds of Henry James' The turn of the screw. "DESIRE OF BITING THE VITAL ARTERY, MINE, OR OF THE FIRST PASSER-BY. INSECTS WITH LEGS TORN OFF MY NAILS ONE BY ONE. SHARDS OF GLASS IN EYES OF CAT."
The life of a SMILE can now turn in the death of its material equivalent, "simply: IVORY". And "GOOD NIGHT!" is none other than the equivalent of "PLUG DISCONNECTED". Death, in a word, with a last, cynical statement: "SOME FLOWERS IN THE FIRST MONTH. THEN JUST: EARTH."
Appendix: A list of Works of Art quoted by "Devil Doll" and/or essential to enter more deeper Into the Universe of THE MAN.
1) MOVIES/TV: C.T. Dreyer - VAMPYR (1932)
H. Harvey - CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1960)
R. Corman THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)
J. Brahm - HANGOVER SQUARE (1944)
F. Coppola - DEMENTIA 13 (1961)
E. Ulmer - THE BLACK CAT (1934)
T. Browning - FREAKS (1933)
J. Epstein - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1928)
J. Clayton - THE INNOCENTS (1961)
R. Wise - THE HAUNTING (1960)
C. Laughton - THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)
Hamer/Cavalcanti etc - DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
K. Freund - MAD LOVE (1935)
P. McGoohan - THE PRISONER - TV SERIES (1967)
A. Bierce - COMPLETE WORKS
I. Ducasse conte de Lautreaumont - MALDOROR
E. Dickinson - POEMS
E.A. Poe - POEMS and SHORT STORIES
H. James - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
B. Herrmann: CONCERTO MACABRE FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
D. Shostakovich: STRING QUARTET n.8
B. Bartok: CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA
w. Lutoslawski: FUNERAL MUSIC
B. Stevens: SYMPHONY OF LIBERATION
K. Penderecki: DIE TEUFEL VON LOUDUN