Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. - Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven)
"Sleep, sleep, little angel...", the voice of death coaxes and comforts a dying child.
A jaded soul, in their last moments, finds solace and contentment, as they prepare to relieve themselves of life's torments.
The despondent cries of the grief-stricken prophet ring out in the night, as they astutely witness the horrors of a fallen world closing in on them.
If death could speak, what would it say? Would it tenderly console us in our last moments with a placatory whisper, or would it unabashedly scream bestial torments into our psyche, before tearing the life from our bodies like a bloody, thirsty predator?
Is death friend, or foe?
What awaits us, beyond our last breath, beyond the grave?
If death had eyes to view the world around us, a soul to inhabit, a sound and a voice with which to express itself, it would most possibly personify Dark Sanctuary.
Dark Sanctuary is a French ethereal, "dark atmospheric" band, formed in 1996. Musically, their sound is a mesh of neoclassical orchestrations and poetic balladry, with vocals delivered in an operatic style.
Their subject matter ranges from variations of old wive’s tales, to the fan-fiction of popular folklore and historical religious scripture.
Although Dark Sanctuary has been described as melancholic, morose or gloomy, a deeper examination and understanding of their tristeful creations unveils something more -- a musical and poetic itinerary for a journey into the darker aspects of the human condition, inciting contemplation and inflaming emotion.
In "Au Milieu Des Sepultures" (Amidst The Graves), we're presented with the sentiments of a despondent, weary angel, as they listlessly meander through a cemetery.
An ode to Catholic antiquity, entitled "Miserere", which incorporates the lyrics of "Dies Irae" (or Day of Wrath), written by Thomas of Celano, a 13th century Franciscan friar and poet, details the uncertainty on the minds of the devout, as they await their final judgement.
During the 12 years of their musical output, Dark Sanctuary enjoyed much success throughout Europe, establishing themselves as one of the greatest acts within their genre, winning the hearts everyone from die-hard, classical music buffs, to goth and heavy metal fans alike.
In 2008, Dark Sanctuary released their latest album to date. Simply titled "Dark Sanctuary", the project is a 12-song production which accompanies a book of artwork by Spanish artist Victoria Frances, each illustration inspired by and dedicated to the music respectively.
They've produced 8 extraordinary albums, as well as a tribute to the Australian band Dead Can Dance. In 2009, Dark Sanctuary recorded a live concert in St. Pancras Church, in London. Snippets of this yet to be released show may been seen here and here.
A personal favorite, and my entertainment pick for this week, is a haunting, yet beautiful piece off of their 2004 release Les Memoires Blessees, entitled "L'instant Funebre" (or The Funeral Moment).
For convenience, I've translated the French lyrics and included English subtitles.