The Trial Of Lancelot

Heather Dale

Amphisbaena Music, 2000

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It just sounds like a recipe to not be taken seriously, doesn't it? A self-trained musician from Canada whose most notable musical accomplishment up until recording her first CD was being a bard in the Society for Creative Anachronism is not exactly a high-powered bio for promotional material. Just goes to show you that histories can be deceiving. Heather Dale's debut CD from 2000, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Trial Of Lancelot, is one of the most haunting and well-performed pieces of work I've heard this year, and it'll be kept off this year's Top Ten only by an accident of chronology.

Dale describes her genre as 'modern Celtic music'. That is, I suppose, as good a term as any -- but this isn't Enya or Loreena McKennitt. Dale's music hearkens back to the days when stories, news, and happenings were related by music; Trial is a musical retelling of the tale of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, and frankly beats most recent attempts at that genre hollow. The term 'bard' is appropriate, as it rarely is in this day and age.

The CD's production is serviceable to good. The mix is most crucial, and it's done properly, bringing Dale's vocals to the forefront. And oh, what vocals they are -- a haunting alto that immediately reminded me of Mary Fahl of the late, lamented October Project or Maire Brennan of Clannad. (Dale lists Clannad as an influence.) The backing musicianship is good; the only question I had was a single use of sound effects on "Measure Of A Man". Upon the third or fourth listening the sound turned out to be a funeral pyre (or so I think) -- the first couple of times I was concerned my CD player was finally dying.

There isn't a weak song on this CD. However, there are definitely songs that stand out stylistically -- specific highlights include "Trial Of Lancelot", "Miles To Go", "Culhwch And Olwen", and the bitterly sad "Tarnished Silver". However, those pale before the chilling, eerie, and devastating "Mordred's Lullaby". Dale moves past the usual cartoon villainy inherent in portrayals of Arthur's bastard son into a vicious, cold-hearted world of manipulation and revenge.

The Trial of Lancelot is a brilliant piece of work, and it shouldn't be missed by fans of real song-writing. Check out Heather Dale today.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Amphisbaena Music, and is used for informational purposes only.