Cuban-American darkwave artist Voltaire (real name Aurelio Voltaire Hernández), released his fourth studio album "Then and Again" in 2004, following the success of his third album "Boo Hoo" which featured his most famous track to date "BRAINS!". Unlike many of his albums "Then and Again" sees Voltaire in a more serious mood as he sings mainly about love rather than the demons and zombies that he is better known for (though they do make an late appearance in the album).
The album starts off with "Crusade" a song that shows the immediate seriousness of the album. Although the track has several references to dragons and a slightly medieval sound to it, it's certainly not got the fun feeling of a number of Voltaires other tracks and instead appears to be a bit of an anti-war track more than anything else. It also appears that Voltaire is showing his anger towards religion with a hint that the song is also against the Christian Crusades (hence the title) though I may be reading between the lines slightly there.
The second track on the album will be much, much more familiar with most out there as it's a cover of The Cure's classic "Lovesong". Whilst I don't think Voltaire's version is quite up there with that of Robert Smith and the rest of his crew the track is pretty close to the original and Voltaire doesn't try to change a very good song instead recreating a similar feel, and sound to the original.
"The Happy Song" is the third track on the album and is another song devoid of the fun I personally expect of Voltaire. Sadly after two solid tracks this is a bit of a disappointment and although the chorus may have you singing along after a few listens it lacks the sparkle that it really needs to be memorable. It's almost like he's done a very good song, then deliberately sucked the life out of it to give a pretty tiresome experience, which is a real shame. After the dreary and overly-long "The Happy Song", we get the slightly better "Wall of Pride" a song that whilst still not "fun" is a slightly quicker track and much more bearable. This track, oddly, makes me think of a Nick Cave track, and whilst I like Nick Cave (who doesn't?) this feels like it's still missing something. "Welcome To The World" is the mid-point of the album (track 5, of 9) and is again a slow, serious sounding track that fails to really inspire me. Although it does show more life than "The Happy Song" it doesn't really do it's self any favours by sounding like a man on some really strong sedatives.
Sadly after 3 rather tiresome tracks in the album I could under-stand people thinking this isn't actually worth a try, however it suddenly picks up with the excellent "Believe", a track that is certainly laced with Christian imagery. The track, although still slow, is a much better song and one that's worth listening to. It's much catchier song than the previous 3 and whilst there are religions images, there is also a second story of lovers (or friends) that gives the track a very solid reason to listen to it.
The albums 7th track is "Halló Elskan Mín" (which translate from Icelandic as "Hello, My Dearest") and is partially sung in Icelandic (one of a number of languages Voltaire has sung in in the past, along with Spanish, English and Japanese). Although the song is a bit weird for some, it's certainly a solid track from beginning to end and is much better than the trio of sleep inducing tracks in the middle of the album.
The penultimate track on the album is "Born Bad", a track that does, to some extent, show Voltaire's ability to be a story teller in his songs. Although it's still a painfully slow and unexciting track it's not the worst on the album (though I think that says more about some of the tracks on the album).
Thankfully we get a glimpse of "the real Voltaire" at the end of the album with the genuinely brilliant "Goodnight Demonslayer", a song that shows the fun, horror side of Voltaire. Whilst the track isn't catchy or fast paced, it's a very fun track full of brilliant imagery as if a father is singing a nursery rhyme to a child and trying to re-assure to child that they can sleep. This is the standout track on the album, and it's just a real shame that it comes so late in the album that I actually imagine people will have given up on it well before they hear this.
With just 9 tracks on the album it'd be easy to suggest that the album is too short, sadly however the opposite is true with 4 or 5 tracks in the middle really dragging down the quality. The opening 2 tracks and the final track are really the only ones that I'd advise making an effort to listen to, and when 60% of an album sucks I can't recommend anyone to go out and buy the whole thing. The seriousness of much of the album is sadly too much and as a result it's a rather dull album.