Diamanda Galas: Double-Barrel Prayer

Diamanda Galas is many things: Tall, Dark, Greek, possessing an astonishing five and a half octave vocal range and pretty much someone you don’t want to mess with. With albums including Plague Mass (about the AIDS epidemic which claimed her brother), Defixiones Will and Testament (about the massacre of Armenian refugees during the first world war), and the much more accessible The Sporting Life, featuring one of my favourite songs “Do You Take This Man” she’s prolific and sometimes confronting as a musical artist. She also does artwork too, which you can find on her website.

Double-Barrel Prayer is an album I’ve owned a few years, one of the last from the original collection I dumped out the front of my house in Fitzroy North back when I didn’t listen to Vinyl anymore. Can’t remember why I kept this one to be honest, other than the fact it’s a rather fetching multicolour pressing. I had a green vinyl pressing of Silent Running though, and that was lost. Maybe I thought I was going to live with the cool kids and throw away childish things? What a dummy I was.

Multicoloured pressing from 1988
Multicoloured pressing from 1988

It’s a twelve inch single, with two tracks: the title, Double- Barrel Prayer and Malediction; both are taken “from the forthcoming album & compact disc You Must Be Certain of The Devil”. Back in 1988, album companies did things like this. These days, they concentrate on breaking CD formats with pointless DRM, because everyone’s a pirate. Not like the old days when we used to tape our records and share them amongst friends.

Right, onto the album.

Track one, Double-Barrel Prayer is simply something you don’t want to be listening to on your own in a dark house, unless, as a couple of friends have indeed stated, you’re female and very annoyed. They were female, and have been very annoyed as they are more than entitled to be.

Diamanda Galas does screaming very well, and you can definitely hear her coming; Indeed, I was at her last Melbourne concert about 5 years ago, and saw her Defixiones concert. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I saw some very perplexed people wondering what the hell had hit them. Her next concert was basically her more accessible material, and included the brilliant Baby’s Insane and See That My Grave is Kept Clean (which she’s done quite a few versions of, and is a cover of a very old blues song which is quite jaunty by comparison). But her voice is not her only talent; she’s a really good piano player, and thanks to Wikipedia, I know she plays other instruments too. Thanks Interwebz.

Track two (side two), Malediction, is more like a piano-accompanied rap song and listening to this track, I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy her music, albeit her more accessible stuff. While Defixiones is very heavy going (and rightly so! It’s about a bloody genocide!), there’s tracks like this, which includes lyrics like:

The arms that you cut off that Sunday night

are the arms that point me to the red eyes

of the pentecostal killers and the black eyes

of the roman catholic killers and the blue eyes

of the pinhead skinhead killers…

Seriously, she is singing from the depths of fury and injustice, putting it to a screaming piano and wrapping her arms around you before she bites you, hard.

(I had a shocking moment though when the needle seemed to hit a scratch. It turned out to be a cat hair. Goddamn it Pixel!)

I’m probably being extremely stereotypical; the tall dark powerful woman who is all violence and fury? Diamanda Galas is an outspoken artist and I’ve got nothing but praise for those who can express themselves so beautifully clearly.

Found: I think it was around 2008?

Where: eBay

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.