Peter Ulrich,
Enter the Mysterium
(City Canyons, 2006)

Peter Ulrich has a history with legendary world music band Dead Can Dance, and that without question is a resume listing that will open a lot of doors for a solo artist. Certainly, it caught my eye as Enter the Mysterium, his second CD, passed over my desk with an endless stream of incoming review materials.

But, while his credentials encouraged the disc into my stereo, Ulrich can only ride the wave of past glories so far. To his credit, Ulrich brings his chops as DCD's percussionist to the new project, and the music certainly carries with it that outstanding signature sound. Unfortunately, he doesn't have either the vocal or songwriting skills of DCD's leading duo, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. And it's at this point that the inevitable comparison to Perry and Gerrard's work is more curse than blessing.

The music here is rich, lush and filled with possibilities. Ulrich paints lovely soundscapes punctuated by intense, gripping percussion. But, although the music easily caught my attention, it didn't hold it. It was pretty material, but it failed to inspire repeated listening.

Ulrich's voice lacks the attention-grabbing power of Perry's. His lyrics, too, strive for depth without success. In "At Mortlake," for instance, he sings, "Enter the mysterium with hunger for its knowledge; Secrets of the universe may languish in its tomes. Codes and ciphers, augers and signs, Riddles to confound even the sharpest minds." Individually, the words and phrases may be steeped in mystery, but combined they sound silly and strained.

Similarly, the oft-repeated chorus of "The True Cross" goes, "Whose hands were nailed here? Whose stains of blood? Prophet or saviour? Mortal or God?" What must have been intended as a sincere profession of religious awe comes across as merely awkward.

Enter the Mysterium is a creative effort, and it certainly retains enough elements of the Dead Can Dance sound to attract fans while creating distance between Ulrich's music and the DCD body of work. Even so, it was not enough to make me want to seek out more by this artist.

by Tom Knapp
19 August 2006

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