When The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus reared its head up from the Liverpool indieground in the late ‘80s with The Gift Of Tears, the critical lexicon to describe their sound didn’t quite exist. At least, it didn’t exist in the evangeli-market where their mix of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spiritual influences aroused a fringe of interest by dint of shared vocabulary and a sound that wasn’t anywhere to be found in the cassette selection at the local Gift & Bible. There’s definitely beaucoup European folk influences going on, but also industrial cacophony, disco beats, post-punk angularity and jazz rhythms and riffing. A quarter-century later, we know RAIJ can be at least loosely associated with the apocalyptic folk movement and with acts such as Current 93, Death In June, Dead Can Dance, Caroliner and Wovenhand. But RAIJ resides even on the perimeter of that fold, not only for the imagery they invoke, but the mystery surrounding it: there are no personnel listings on what few releases it has issued in the limited edition quantities in which they appear on various labels throughout the band’s tenure, and there’s not exactly reams to be read about the group on the Internet (RAIJ is on Facebook, but it has no Wikipedia entry). The band’s disparate sound blends over the course of an album or EP to be an enveloping, immersive experience that transports a listener to an alternate reality, where plainsong and operatic flights of vocal fancy meet tribal drums, didgeridoo and some of the harshest of synth sounds to capture a landscape half-realized at best. After The Fall’s three CDs collect Gift and everything else recorded in a studio — including two new tracks (among the shortest here, go figure) — by this quizzical co-ed collective in packaging handsome enough to pass for a Harmonia Mundi compilation of pre-baroque classical music. The only things that might have made this more wonderful would have been lyrics, reminiscences from the RAIJ themselves, a longer booklet essay, and a video of at least one of their rare, multimedia-abetted concerts. But any more than what’s here might dissipate the mystery that’s always been a good percentage of The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus’ raison d’etre.
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