This is Rasputina's 5th full-length studio album --- for over 10 years now founder member Melora Creager has redefined cello music for a whole generation, sampling and distorting string music and combining with other instruments like dulcimer and drums and diverse influences from American folk music to gothic rock to create stunning musical landscapes. Oh Perilous World is perhaps her most ambitious concept to date. Rasputina have always written songs about weird and wonderful subjects (could any other band have written a song like Rats, about the Pope's decision to reclassify capybara, a South American rodent, as fish so Catholics could eat them on Friday) and so far they've managed to pull them off most of the time with breathtaking audacity.
This album tells the story of Mary Todd Lincoln, the queen of Florida and how she dealt with an uprising from Pitcairn Island led by Thursday October Christian, the son of Fletcher Christian. Melora has used songs based on past events like the extreme weather conditions of 1816 and the Children's Crusades of the Middle Ages to mirror events more recently like global warming or the use of child soldiers in African armies. As well as writing her own lyrics she has used lyrics based on other source material such as news reports of Hurricane Katrina or a speech by Osama Bin Laden.
It's undoubtedly a bold move but personally I didn't feel like it quite came off. They've kept their distinctive sound and even after 10 years they're still exploring variations (this album uses more dulcimer than before) and it sounds great but none of the tracks particularly stand out. It seems such a shame that such original music ends up as background music especially after all the effort that has gone into it. The album has beautiful artwork (and the deluxe package came with a set of postcards) that reflects the Victorian/steampunk style of Rasputina and deluxe editions came with a bonus CD of an extra 9 songs (2 remixes and 7 originals not on the main album). Maybe it was just me but I couldn't follow the concept through the various songs and I felt like using other source material almost made it sound like speaking in tongues at time. It was an ambitious concept and only a band like Rasputina would probably even attempt something like this. If you shoot for the moon and miss, you'll end up among the stars.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2008.