Daemonia Nymphe, Prikosnovenie, 2007
For over two thousand years, the shadow of the Olympian Gods has touched Western science, language, art, and literature.
But what about our music? The Pagan revival of the 20th century focused heavily on Celtic, Norse, and Hindu sources for musical inspiration, and while the Greek deities were honored in ritual, musical groups often name-checked those Gods under hated Roman names.
This trend ended when a collective of Pagan Greek singers and musicians founded Daemonia Nymphe in 1994. Combining Classical Greek lyrics and instruments with modern Gothic sensibilities, the band joined the slow yet inexorable march of European Pagan revival bands like Corvis Corax and The Soil Bleeds Black. In the wake of Dead Can Dance and other dark ethereal Neomedievalists, Nymphe achieved a measure of fame overseas. Now, thanks to the Internet, American Witches can share the fun as well.
Named for the “Great Lightning” of Olympian enlightenment (and displeasure), Daemonia Nymphe’s third album is their most accessible work to date. Although short by North American standards (roughly 37 minutes), Krataia Asterope features moody choruses, pounding percussion, and lyrical (if often simple) instrumentation. Unlike the long ritualistic chants of their previous release, The Bacchic Dance of the Nymphs Tyrvasia, Krataia Asterope favors short, compelling songs based on Orphic, Omeric, and even Sapphic odes. These tracks favor a more contemporary sound than the band’s older albums, and although the lyrics are literally Greek to me, the passion behind songs like “Ecstatic Orchesis,” “Mouson,” “Krataia Asterope,” and “Sirens of Ulysses” (my favorite track) remains clear.
Musically, Daemonia Nymphe draws clear influences from Dead Can Dance, Corvis Corax, and possibly Faith and the Muse. Heavy drumming presents a strong foundation for soaring vocal work and droning harmonies. Song structures remain simple, with additional layers weaving depth into constant rhythmic patterns. Although echo effects have probably been added, most — if not all — of the album’s music involves organic voice work and reconstructed ancient instruments. Though their sources are far older than their Neomedieval peers, Daemonia Nymphe stand closer to the neotraditionalist style than to conventional Gothic rock.
Like many Neomedieval groups, DM isn’t for everyone. Classical Greek music often seems dissonant to modern ears, and although Krataia Asterope sounds more conventional than the band’s earlier works, songs like “Nocturnal Hekate” and “Hymenaios” may seem grating to folks more familiar with Enya or McK-ennitt. For listeners who can appreciate the strange beauty of ancient Greece, however, this album’s a real treat. Although their music remains obscure on American play lists, Daemonia Nymphe deserves a place in every Pagan’s music collection. Available from www.projekt.com
This review first appeared in newWitch #18