Music Reviews
Diamanda Galas

Diamanda Galas

Broken Gargoyles

Intravenal Sound Operations

Diamanda Galas is the queen of uneasy listening. The singer / composer has achieved a level of infamy. For years, musos searching for the outer reaches of sonic experience would brag about their Throbbing Gristle collection, only to have some smartass counter with, “but have you heard Diamanda Galas?” Since her recordings are hard to classify and hard to find, she remained something of a chimera to me for years.

Diamanda Galas’s reputation as a confrontational artist began with her 1982 debut, The Litanies of Satan. Over the years, she has composed works about the AIDS epidemic, genocide, political corruption, and outsider literature. Her collaborators include John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Barry Adamson (Buzzcocks, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), Erasure, and John Zorn. Galas uses her operatically trained voice and acoustic and electronic instruments to create sonic landscapes teeming with fear, despair, and disorientation. When you put on one of Diamanda Galas’s records, you’re leaving planet pop behind and entering her strange and bewildering world.

Broken Gargoyles evolved over a series of live performances and sound installations. The first incarnation of the work was played as a sound installation at the former Kapellen Leprosarium (Leper Sanctuary) in Hanover, Germany. Broken Gargoyles is inspired by the ordeal of soldiers who suffered severe facial injuries during World War I. The soldiers were called “broken gargoyles” by hospital staff and military brass.

The composition is divided into two parts. “Mutilarus” focuses on the suffering of the soldiers in the trenches and the hospitals. The soldiers were subjected to medical experimentation, some of which was actually intended to benefit the injured. The second part, “Abiectio,” deals with the humiliation and despair the soldiers experienced once they left the hospital. The disfigured men were forced to wear tin masks and seek shelter in forests, where they could live apart from “normal” society.

The words on Broken Gargoyles are inspired by poems from a German anti-war activist during the 1920s. Galas delivers lines in German, reflecting dejection, despondency, and the uncaring doctors and generals who treated these soldiers as an embarrassment of war. As one would expect, the sounds are an uncomfortable wash of distorted acoustic instruments and electronic noises.

It’s a harrowing and disorienting experience that will leave you in an altered state.

Diamanda Galas


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