Our top 10 Dead Can Dance songs list digs deep into the music of a musical duo whose music ooze folk and neo-classical gothic influences. Dead Can Dance was initially formed as a four-member band in 1981. However, the band eventually evolved into a music duo composed of founding members Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. The other founding members of the then band, Dead Can Dance, include bassist Paul Erikson and drummer Simon Monroe.
Brendan and Lisa first met in the Little Band scene, a Melbourne-based post-punk scene instigated by groups like Whirlywirld and Primitive Calculators. Other than tracing similar musical dreams, Brendan and Lisa found love in each other (though separated later). While the band was formed in Australia, Dead Can Dance would a year later relocate to London. In London, the band signed a recording contract under 4AD.
4AD was not a major record label having it only formed in 1980. Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins are among the record label’s first successful recording artists. Other artists who achieved success under 4AD include Bon Iver, Lush, Pixies, Bauhaus, This Mortal Coil, and Modern English. Dead Can Dance’s sixth LP, Into the Labyrinth, became 4AD’s best-selling album in 1993.
Dead Can Dance has also worked with other reputable record labels, including PIAS Recordings. It has not been a smooth ride for Dead Can Dance, having the band (now a music duo) face quite some tough times. It all started with a lack of commercial success, followed by a fallout between the members leaving Dead Can Dance as a music duo.
Nevertheless, Dead Can Dance has retained its charming musical direction over the years despite disbanding at some time. The band’s music is especially loved for its ambient rich sonic influences that blend darkwave, folk, art rock, gothic rock, and post-punk sounds. Before looking at our best pick for the ten best Dead Can Dance songs, let’s have a quick check at some foundational history of the duo and its progression to stardom and mainstream success.
Dead Can Dance’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
After coming together in 1981, Dead Can Dance’s members never made any release. The band would later fly to London, home to multi-instrumentalist and singer Brendan Perry. Here, the ensemble was contracted by 4AD, where it released its eponymous debut album in 1984. The eponymous debut album saw the band take on post-punk, ethereal wave, and gothic rock sonic vibes.
Dead Can Dance’s personnel during the release of the first album was already distorted, with drummer Simon Monroe no longer featuring in the band. Additional personnel featured on the album included James Pinker, Scott Roger, and Peter Ulrich. Unfortunately, the album wasn’t enough to catapult Dead Can Dance to mainstream success.
It took Dead Can Dance (then a duo) five more albums to finally rank up among other music acts. Lisa and Brendan enjoyed success after the release of the album Into the Labyrinth in 1993. The album was the duo’s first studio album to make it to the charts.
Dead Can Dance’s Album Releases over the Years
We cannot discount Dead Can Dance’s albums that came before and after its breakthrough album, Into the Labyrinth. After all, this is the only way we can get to understand the evolution of Dead Can Dance musical transition. One year after releasing its eponymous debut album, Dead Can Dance hit the studio in preparation for its sophomore album, Spleen and Ideal.
Despite not making it big in the mainstream, Spleen and Ideal marked the band’s transition to some neoclassical darkwave music. However, the album still featured a touch of gothic rock and post-punk sonic influences. By the time Dead Can Dance was releasing its sophomore LP, its lineup was drifting towards making Lisa and Brendan its mainstays. However, Lisa and Brendan hired quite an array of instrumentalists to help their musical project by enriching its sonic feel.
In 1987, Dead Can Dance went on to release its third LP, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. Within the Realm of a Dying Sun might not have been quite a reputable release, but its featured song has been quite an influence on other musicians’ careers. “Dawn of the Iconoclast” was sampled by Fergie on her 2017 hit “Hungry,” which features rapper Rick Ross. The British metal act Paradise Lost covered Dead Can Dance hit “Xavier,” featuring it on the limited edition of its 2002 LP, Symbol of Life.
By the time Dead Can Dance was releasing its fourth studio album, The Serpent’s Egg. The Serpent’s Egg marked the last album that Lisa and Brendan released while still romantically affiliated with each other. There’s no doubt that the album is one of the most amazing releases by Dead Can Dance despite not charting. The Chemical Brothers, G Herbo, Ulver, Cattle Decapitation, and Keny Arkana have sampled different songs from The Serpent’s Egg. “The Host of Seraphim” is one of the best Dead Can Dance songs from the album.
Dead Can Dance released its fifth LP, Aion, in 1990. Lisa and Brendan put their differences aside after their failed relationship by releasing this magical album. Aion saw the duo take on neoclassical darkwave music with a hint of medieval music. The twelve-track album also was not enough to catapult Dead Can Dance to stardom.
Dead Can Dance’s breakthrough came after the release of the duo’s sixth LP, Into the Labyrinth. Into the Labyrinth marked the duo’s first album to make it to the Billboard 200, peaking at number one hundred and twenty-two. The album also made it to the UK Albums chart, rising to the forty-seventh spot. Into the Labyrinth is home to some of the best Dead Can Dance songs, including “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove,” “Yulunga,” and “The Carnival Is Over.” The album sold over five hundred thousand copies worldwide, which marked 4AD’s record sales at the time.
After sharing the spoils of commercial and mainstream success, Dead Can Dance returned in 1996 with the LP, Spiritchaser. Spiritchaser saw the duo explore the worldbeat music genre while remaining faithful to its neoclassical dark sonic vibes. The album performed better than Into the Labyrinth on the Billboard 200, peaking at number seventy-five.
On the UK Albums chart, Spiritchaser ranked best at number forty-three. Spiritchaser also sold more than two hundred thousand albums in the United States alone. Some of the popular songs by Dead Can Dance from the LP include “Song of the Star,” “Indus,” “The Snake and the Moon,” and “Nierika.” Spiritchaser was cited for having been the duo’s dedication to Mark Gerrard, a deceased brother to Lisa.
Dead Can Dance disbanded in 1998, canceling any upcoming tours. The duo would briefly reunite in 2005 for a world tour performing several times in Europe and North America. Eventually, Dead Can Dance rejuvenated its musical pursuits in 2011. Anastasis marked the band’s first post-hiatus album release. The album’s title (of Greek origin) was metaphoric of Dead Can Dance’s reunion, having it mean “resurrection.”
Anastasis blends worldbeat with neoclassical darkwave music. The album was issued through PIAS Recordings. Anastasis was a success on the charts, peaking at number forty-six on the Billboard 200. The album remains the duo’s highest-charting LP to date. Its success was best evidenced in Poland, where it rose to the top of the album charts, achieving Gold certification. Some of the best Dead Can Dance songs from Anastasis include “Opium,” “Children of the Sun,” “Anabasis,” and “Kiko.”
Six years later, the band resumed with its ninth studio album, Dionysus. Dionysus was the band’s second release issued through PIAS Recordings. Despite the album not charting in the US, it managed to rise to number fifty-nine on the UK Albums chart. Dionysus has been cited to pay tribute to the Greek god of pleasure and wine.
Dead Can Dance’s Other Musical Pursuits
Despite having shared quite some successful times as a duo, Lisa and Brendan have both tried out a solo music career. The first of the two to attempt going solo is Lisa Gerrard. Lisa went solo while still an active member of Dead Can Dance in 1995. Her first studio album was The Mirror Pool, which charted at number thirty-eight on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. Over the years, Lisa has released more than five extra albums, some with other musicians.
On the other edge, Brendan Perry attempted a solo career in 1999 after Dead Can Dance went on hiatus. His first album release was Eye of the Hunter, which saw him focus on folk-rock and dream pop sounds. However, Brendan’s solo career is quite shallow compared to Lisa Gerrard’s. Dead Can Dance has also earned both composing and contributions rights for more than fifteen movie scores.
Dead Can Dance’s Accolades and Legacy
Unfortunately, there is nothing major in the duo’s awards cabinet to show. Dead Can Dance has only been nominated twice for the ARIA Music Awards. Its first time was in 1996 for the Best World Music Album, thanks to Spiritchaser. However, the duo lost to Ruino Vino by Mara!
Lisa Gerrard was nominated for the same award in 1998, thanks to her collaborative album, Duality, with Pieter Bourke. Dead Can Dance received its second ARIA Music Awards nomination for the Best World Music Album in 2012, thanks to Anastasis. However, the duo lost to Concerto of the Greater Sea by the five-time winner of the award, Joseph Tawadros. Here we present the ten best Dead Can Dance songs of all time.
#10 – The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
At number ten on our top 10 Dead Can Dance songs list is the breathtaking hit “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove.” The song is featured on the duo’s first charting LP, Into the Labyrinth. “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” has its title reference the fifty-seventh episode of the 1965 TV series Danger Man (known as Secret Agent in the US).
The song ranks as one of the duo’s most emotive songs having it allude to a sad love story. Despite quite a sad theme, the song’s melody is quite moving that it allows your soul to travel through the music. The success with the song’s melody is achieved thanks to blending Middle Eastern and mantras sonic sounds.
Brendan fully grabs the attention of the listeners with his mesmerizing vocal skills. “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” was sampled in the song “Here Comes the Gravediggaz” by Gravediggaz. The song has been covered by Disciples of Astaroth, Ex-Voto, and Nightfall. Nightfall adds some extreme metal vibes in its rendition.
#9 – Children Of The Sun
Stunning is the one word that describes our ninth pick on the ten best Dead Can Dance songs, “Children of the Sun.” The song is among the musical gems the duo released after its reunion from hiatus on the album, Anastasis. Unlike the previous song, Brendan Perry’s vocals go a little deeper.
“Children of the Sun” features an anthemic melody that complements the deep vocals of the singer. However, this doesn’t compromise Dead Can Dance’s signature sonic influences. In fact, the song boisterously exhibits the duo’s blend of neoclassical darkwave and worldbeat influences. “Children of the Sun” was penned by Lisa and Brendan, with its lyrics alluding to the primal foundation of the miraculous world.
#8 – Cantara
Our number eight pick for the ten best Dead Can Dance songs list is the stunning hit “Cantara.” The song is featured on the duo’s third studio album, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. “Cantara” is one of the fan’s favorite hits from the album. The song’s sounds bring Dead Can Dance’s best world music influences with a touch of Middle Eastern music sounds. “Cantara” features an ornate feel, thanks to the peculiar instrumentation employed by Dead Can Dance in the album, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun. Credit to Lisa Gerrard for introducing to us some of her wildest yet enthralling vocals.
#7 – Amnesia
“Amnesia” is yet another great hit from Dead Can Dance’s eighth studio album, Anastasis. The song is an original composition by Brendan and Lisa. Once again, Brendan delivers some magnificent vocals on this hit. The song’s sonic feel is absolutely stunning, having the beautiful synth melody brings an extra hint of emotive delivery.
#6 – The Carnival Is Over
Number six on our top 10 Dead Can Dance songs list is the magical hit “The Carnival Is Over.” The song is featured on the duo’s 1993 album, Into the Labyrinth. “The Carnival Is Over” is one of the most sought-after hits by Dead Can Dance, both by the duo’s fans and other artists. Ainars Mielavs and Leæther Strip are some of the artists to have covered this hit.
#5 – Rakim
After the release of the successful album, Into the Labyrinth, Dead Can Dance returned with a live album, Toward the Within, in 1994. The live album is home to our fifth pick on the ten best Dead Can Dance songs, “Rakim.” “Rakim” features the vocals of both Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry. Lisa’s vocals in this song mostly feature her singing in an indeterminate language.
Dead Can Dance’s first charting album, Into the Labyrinth, is home to our fourth best Dead Can Dance song, “Yulunga.” “Yulunga” has its lyrics allude to pushing on with life despite adversities so long as one is alive. This timeless hit brings the best of Lisa Gerrard’s vocals. Her vocals in the song are more of a chant than singing. “Yulunga” has been sampled by Ricky Le Roy in “Tuareg (Oasi Mix) and by Björk in “Utopia.” The Italian group EXP covered the song in 1998.
#3- Song of the Stars
Our third pick for the best Dead Can Dance songs list is the dazzling hit “Song of the Stars.” The song is featured on the duo’s seventh LP, Spiritchaser. “Song of the Stars” was penned by Lisa and Brendan, who also produced the song. Unlike most of the duo’s songs, “Song of the Stars” featured spoken vocals of Brendan before he later started singing in Haitian Creole.
Number two on our top 10 Dead Can Dance songs is the captivating hit “Opium.” The song is featured on the duo’s 2012 album, Anastasis. “Opium” alludes to not understanding who you are, accompanied by the feeling like there is something that is lacking in your life. The song paints the singer as a soul in dire need of freedom. “Opium” is one of the most popular post-4AD hits, with most of the best Dead Can Dance songs dating back to times before the band went on hiatus.
#1- The Host of Seraphim
“The Host of Seraphim” is a musical gem featured on Dead Can Dance’s fourth LP, The Serpent’s Egg. The song is an original hit penned by the duo. “The Host of Seraphim” has been described as a meditative hit. It is even hard to categorize the song owing to the diverse musical styles it incorporates.
This 1988 hit borrows from folk and Gregorian chants, making it an eerie music piece. “The Host of Seraphim” has been acclaimed worldwide, having it also serves as a musical backdrop to films like Baraka and The Mist.
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