The Box is Too Small
This Canadian group has been honing its craft for 25 years, held together by Bill Leeb, the band’s only constant member throughout their long career. Delerium’s varied catalog ranges from dark industrial sounds to world-music inspired trance, incorporating vocals from notable guests such as Sarah McLachlan and Julee Cruise among dozens of others.
Music Box Opera, the group’s latest album, advances and evolves this hypnotic sound into a kind of long-winded orchestral pop. The songs are backed by smooth dance-oriented beats, neither too fast nor too slow, with less of the worldly sound they have had in the past. Layers upon layers of synthesized and sampled melodies wash over this rhythmic framework, weaving musical blankets around the listener’s ears. Finish the equation with angelic vocalists singing mysteriously about love and light and you’ve got Delerium’s trademark sound.
There is a heavy focus on the vocals in Music Box Opera, but some of the album’s finest moments come in songs like “Rain Down,” which is entirely instrumental, letting the piano do the singing. It is in these moments that the music gets a chance to stretch out and the listener gets a chance to explore. Most of the songs on the record hover around the 5 or 6 minute mark, which often seems a little short. Previous records have included longer, more eclectic arrangements, and songs that really evolved rather than developed. “Hammer,” an interesting track that begins in the middle of the woods and finishes in a poignant dance ballad almost exemplifies this former spirit but doesn’t quite encapsulate Delerium’s true potential.
Overall, Music Box Opera is a solid record from Delerium. All of the familiar elements of the group’s musical sensibilities are present, but their tendencies toward more radio-friendly arrangements and song structures may make some yearn for the older days of foreign influences and longer meandering tracks. There is nothing to complain about here, but maybe something to be desired.