Please click on the underlined track titles to hear the MP3 sample track…
“I was asked to compose this music for the BBC documentary, ‘Empire of Death’. This intriguing project looked at archaeological discoveries made in the 1930s in a region of the Sudan called Nubia. They found pyramids and the remains of a mighty black African empire, with kings who once rivalled the pharaohs of Egypt.
They also discovered evidence of a bizarre death culture. Enormous tombs were found where the king’s body would have been placed, and where the entire royal court would have been buried alive.
I began my compositions by taking inspiration from modes used in North African Arabic music; this was an enormous influence. I then aimed to create pieces to reflect the mood of the documentary which was primarily dark and mysterious. The resulting music is quite subtle and haunting.”
The musicians who played on the recordings are:
Sally Doherty | Vocals, Flute, Keyboards, Programming
Liz Hanks | Cello
Lizz Lipscombe | Violin
Karen Burland | Violin
Freya Bailes | Clarinet
Paula Reavey | Cornet
Reviews of Empire of Death
“Doherty’s soundtrack is every bit as eerie as its subject matter, contrasting Arabic modes, choral austerity, ritualistic percussion and proto-industrial electronics.”—The Wire, UK, May 2000.
“One knows this woman with her angel-like voice from her solo projects and from her work with Sol Invictus and every time she surprises you again with her expressive, empathetic music and her unique way of interpreting a subject matter. One is partly reminded of Dead Can Dance, but Sally has enough potential of her own to make this work a unique listening experience. 10 out of 10 points.” —Black Magazin, Germany.
“Sally Doherty’s third solo release takes us on a journey to another place at another time. She took inspiration from Arabic music and created mostly calm, dark and mysterious classical tracks to describe the mood of the images (in the documentary). Consequently the singing is delivered onomatopoeically and because of this my impressions of the film ‘Gladiator’ are still quite fresh. I can emphasise that these tracks could have fit perfectly into ‘Gladiator’s’ superb soundtrack as well (the music of which Lisa Gerrard contributed to).”—Black Magazin, Germany.
“We have already met Sally Doherty as a guest in the works of Tony Wakeford and in the debut of Sieben ‘Forbid the Sun’s Escape’ also in the two solo works of Sally Doherty; above all the second, ‘Sleepy Memory’, for which she incredibly remained relatively unobserved. Sally’s sensitivity lends itself perfectly well to this piece, immerses itself in this cult of death and without equal brings the everyday to life, giving it a new dimension. Accompanied by an all-female quartet of cello, violin, clarinet and cornet, Doherty (vocalist, flautist and pianist) has a sweet voice, which is quite classical but also has ethereal folk aspects and North African Arabic influence. A fascinatingly beautiful voice which is timeless and mysterious.”—Blow Up, Italy, Summer 2000.
“Another release from this excellent singer and flautist, other instances of wonderful music.”—Rockerilla, Italy, June 2000
“Although Sally Doherty enters the terrain of film music for the first time, she has already shown us her versatility in producing two solo albums and in working with the Shock Headed Peters, Sol Invictus, L’Orchestre Noir and Sieben. The atmospheric sounds on these tracks sometimes seem threatening and dark and at other times soothing with Arabic influences as a re-occuring feature. This is throned by Sally’s voice, which in this case is used solely as an instrument, articulating sounds rather than words. ‘Empire of Death’ is one of the very few soundtracks which are thoroughly enjoyable on their own without the need of pictures and it can be recommended whole-heartedly.”—Equinox, Germany, August 2000.
”Don’t worry, Sally Doherty has not moved to death metal as this album title might suggest. The work has been contracted by the BBC for a documentary about old Egyptian burial sites… The music consists mainly of string-arrangements fitting the subject perfectly. Even without the pictures you can feel the soothing quality of the music. Unlike in her previous work Sally uses her voice on this project merely as an instrument, singing not words but tones.”—Zillo, Germany, June 2000.
”Picture the more filmic moments of Dead Can Dance and the orchestral splendour of In the Nursery and you’ll have a gauge to measure these pieces which were composed for a BBC TV documentary about archaeological discoveries in the Sudan. ‘Empire of Death’, unlike many soundtrack titles does actually stand on its own without the need or the knowledge of its parent film… These pieces sound inevitably Arabic and ever-so-slightly Muslimgauze-like. An enchanting release and with enough mystery to embrace the remains of a mighty Black African Empire which were found in Nubia by the film-makers.”—a recommended release from Carbondisks, April 2000.
“Sally Doherty delights us with more instances of enchanting music… an ethereal, neo-folk journey resulting in extremely contemplative and dream-like music, yet pervading a sacred atmosphere that inspires visions of a distant time… It is not difficult to perceive the quality of this work, an album which is strongly resonant and suggestive. The music has the ability to communicate the magic of this dark and remote place revisited by this English artist.”—Rockerilla, Italy, June 2000.
“The third solo work of the Sheffield artist Sally Doherty (Sol Invictus, Sieben, L’Orchestre Noir) is in no way a regular album, but the soundtrack to a BBC documentary with the title ‘Empire of Death’. This reports on the archaeological discovery of a royal tomb in Sudan, where in olden times, a black African kingdom was to be found, whose culture was very strongly influenced by the Egypt of the pharaohs. Hence appropriate significance was given to life after death and the tomb of the respective rulers—so, for example, his whole household followed him into death. Inspired by North African and Arabian music, Miss Doherty strove to underscore this subject with musical pictures; all of which come across as mysterious, exotic and evocative. With spartan instrumentation—a few string and wind instruments and now and again a little percussion—a seemingly near-eastern sound collage becomes woven, and as soon as Sally raises her voice, all narrow-minded (sub-)cultural compartments such as world music, ‘heavenly voices’ or suchlike become once more destroyed. With respect to the optical creation, there is the Ramses Colossus of Abu Simpel, which is also pretty. Recommended for all who are interested in traditional music from outside of the European cultural circle.”—Andreas Diesel, Zinnober, Germany, Winter 00/01.
“Sally, my beloved Sally. I am always devoted to this rashly melancholic muse of neoclassicism. Maldoror gave me the opportunity to follow her career, her two solo albums and then her collaborations with the totemic Tony Wakeford. This, her third solo work, is a commission, music for a BBC documentary. Although it could be like Goya’s ‘Family of Carlos V’, here the theme is passionate because it deals with the archeological discoveries of a town which is unknown and which comes to rival the Egyptian Empire. Tombs, pyramids, burials, human funeral pyres… drenched in the tribal rituals of North Africa, our Sally has composed a series of pieces of singular beauty. Dark, whispering, mysterious, perfectly embellishing the atmosphere of the ‘Empire of Death’ documentary. Oboe, cello, violin, clarinet and her voice, a voice without words, which, moreover, turns itself into an instrument. Close to the routes of other muses like la gerard, this CD will bring delight to all those lovers of romantic mysticism and of the falling leaves of marvellous autumn, falling even now. Sshhh…”—Pedro Ortega, Maldoror, Spain, Canto XIII.