01 December 2013 (released)
02 January 2014
Romanian born Michael Cretu conceived the idea for Enigma when he worked in German in the early 1990s - at a time when music was embracing dance in a new and not always exciting way. Best known for the early hit Sadeness (Part 1) - which now appears on Christmas compilations for some bizarre reason - Enigma were the early trailblazers for the chill-out style that would become hugely popular in different forms later in the decade.
Here the first five albums are collected together in a neat box-set - although sadly there are no notes to go with the CDs, which would have made this more collectable. The first album MCMXC a.d. still sounds fresh, albeit with that unmistakable feel of the early 1990s. The atmospheric rhythms and the Gregorian chants are entwined wonderfully on the lengthy Principles of Lust and Mea Culpa. The question after the worldwide success of that first album was always going to be, how to follow it up.
Three years later (1993) The Cross of Changes tried to do that, but used many of the familiar soundscapes heard before. The feel was slightly rockier and if anything more dramatic - with The Eyes Of Truth having a dark and sinister feel. Return To Innocence was a more standard single with an English vocal alongside male chants - but it failed to match the success of Sadeness.
1996's Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! encapsulated the sound of the first two albums - failing to move Enigma on - so by 2000's The Screen Behind The Mirror something different was needed. Here Cretu decided to use Carl Orff's powerful Carmina Burina as the backbone, at least bringing something new to the sound. By 2003, Voyageur ditched completely those early sounds for heavier dance rhythms and samples - alienating many of the hardcore fans - and the album now feels a little messy.
Enigma produced albums that were often as close to classical music as many of their listeners would ever get - and the idea of dark dance rhythms alongside Gregorian chants was a winner. Sadly for Cretu, the idea had a short shelf-life. This collection underlines that trajectory from global success early on - to the inevitable pain of Voyageur's lack of ideas.