Poem Review

by Gavin Stok November 7, 2000

To some Poem is not a Delerium album. Rhys Fulber, one half of the band, left Bill Leeb after their hugely successful Karma album in 1997. As a result the Delerium of today is primarily just Bill Leeb with some help from Chris Peterson. Purists of the original group should not be concerned however for Poem has lost none of the trademark Delerium sound. For example expect to hear subtle and not-so-subtle Enigma, Dead Can Dance, and Ennio Morricone samples. The beauty is that Poem continues to provide expected instrumentation and ambience while introducing new surprises. These include heavy use of vocals, primarily female, and strings. The latter, together with a lighter mix of acoustic guitar, is abundant in many tracks and adds to the already lush sounds that Leeb produces.

With the track Silence from Karma being such a huge global hit it is not surprising to see an album full of tracks containing vocals. Despite the possible temptation, however,  Leeb has crafted Poem to sound unlike a collection of 11 Silence clones. There is no Sarah MacLachlan on the album nor, disappointingly, Kristy Thirsk whose vocals appeared a number of times on Karma and Sematic Spaces. Instead, for the first time, he used a number of new and fairly unknown female vocalists such as Aude, Joanna Stevens (from Solar Twins), Rani, Jenifer McLaren, Kirsty Hawkshaw, and Leigh Nash (from Sixpence None the Richer). On Daylight he has also used a male vocalist, Matthew Sweet, for the first time plus what sounds like live drums.

Despite the use of so many vocalists the tracks do not generally suffer from the verse-chorus conundrum. While some tracks sound more like pop songs than others, Leeb appears emphatic about interspersing the vocals with brash percussion, floating harps, lush strings, and exotic chants helps to invoke an impassioned response from the listener. Only the final instrumental track, Among the Ruins, appears out of place with its many samples taken from Delerium and Leeb/Fulber side projects.

Strong tracks on the album include Terra Firma with its clear punchy percussion; an at first unrecognisable version of Aria to what appeared in late 1999 with its upbeat and addictive rhythmic dub; and both Fallen Icons and Poems for Byzantium with their catchy pop sound, the former with epic string arrangement. Indeed there are very few weak tracks on Poem at all making it a worthwhile addition to any collection. Delerium may be aiming for a more widestream audience but it has lost none of its identity in the process.

Track Listing

  1. Terra Firma (5:40)
  2. Innocente (6:30)
  3. Aria (6:51)
  4. Fallen Icons (6:31)
  5. Underwater (5:22)
  6. Myth (6:11)
  7. Nature's Kingdom (5:16)
  8. Daylight (5:33)
  9. Temptation (8:07)
  10. Poems for Byzantium (5:54)
  11. Among the Ruins (10:25)

Note: All track names and times are based on what I know, not from an official release.

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