LABEL: Intravenal Sound Op
UPDATED VINYL RELEASE DATE: 6/16/2023
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: 1986
VARIANT: Black Vinyl LP
On June 30, 1986, the same day that Diamanda Galás's The Divine Punishment was released, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia's so-called sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick, criminalizing consensual sex between men. At the time, about 15, 000 people were known to have died of AIDS in the U.S. alone, with little government acknowledgement besides suggestions to quarantine homosexuals on island colonies. By the end of 2021, the number of AIDS deaths globally would exceed 36 million.
The first album in her Masque of the Red Death trilogy, The Divine Punishment is one of the most jarring works of art produced in response to the AIDS epidemic, and a milestone in Diamanda Galás's artistry and activism. Galás uses her famous voice both as an orational instrument and as well as a physical representation of AIDS and those it afflicts. The album features the panphonic* dirge work of Galás, accompanied by analogue synthesizers played by Dave Hunt. The texts are primarily taken from the Old Testament, contrasting the hectoring lawmakers of Leviticus with the desperate appeals of the Lamentations and Book of Psalms (Psalm 22, 59, and 88). In doing so, she indicts those who use religion to instigate the witch hunts that inevitably accompany real and perceived plagues. Today, The Divine Punishment sounds no less audacious than when it was released in 1986, but one hears it with a sense of shared trauma and a renewed call to action. Galás imbues all her work with the crushing weight of history-the hypnotic cadences of her vocal work are precisely aligned to the liturgical texts employed. Remastered with exceptional clarity by mastering engineer Heba Kadry working from the original mixes by London-based producer/composer Dave Hunt, it's a work of great empathy, solidarity, and physical power. Coming amid another pandemic marked by ignorance and division, it's anger and fervor feels remarkably urgent.
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