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Studio album by Enigma
Released 10 December 1990
Recorded A.R.T. Studios, Ibiza, 1990
Genre New-age, ambient house Downtempo, Synthpop Chillout
Length 40:16
Label Virgin, Charisma
Producer Michael Cretu
Enigma chronology
The Cross of Changes
Singles from MCMXC a.D.
  1. "Sadeness (Part I)"
    Released: November 1990
  2. "Mea Culpa (Part II)"
    Released: 17 April 1991
  3. "Principles of Lust"
    Released: 1 July 1991
  4. "The Rivers of Belief"
    Released: 7 October 1991
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Entertainment Weekly (A-)[2]

MCMXC a.D. ("1990" in Roman numerals followed by an abbreviation of "Anno Domini") is the first studio album from the electronic music group Enigma, headed by Michael Cretu. Recorded at A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, it is one of the first albums to be recorded on a computer's hard disk drive.

Released in 1990 on Virgin Records, the album reached number one in 41 countries[3] including the UK. It peaked at number 6 in the United States, and remained on the Billboard 200 for 282 weeks. The album spawned four singles: "Sadeness (Part I)", "Principles of Lust", "Mea Culpa (Part II)" and "The Rivers of Belief". "Sadeness (Part 1)" topped the UK singles charts and peaked in the US at number 5.


MCMXC a.D. starts with the mellow sounds of a foghorn, later on to be known as the "Enigma horn" and the voice of Louisa Stanley, who at the time was an executive at Virgin Records speaking in "The Voice of Enigma". The Gregorian chant "Procedamus in pace!" then segues into the first three-part movement of the album even before it starts, "Principles of Lust".

The first part, "Sadeness", received the most attention through its unique and previously unheard mix of Gregorian chants and dance beat. Triangles and synthesized shakuhachi flutes add to the French vocals and breathy sounds of Michael's wife, Sandra. Cretu did not say who was the male voice speaking in French in "Sadeness (Part I)", only describing him as a good friend of his. The song fades into "Find Love", in which Sandra instructs the listeners to follow their lust. Reversed chants signal the start of "Sadeness (reprise)" and continues with a short piano piece, based on the same tunes as the shakuhachi flute earlier. The flute returns as chants of "Hosanna" gradually bring an end to the movement.

The next song, "Callas Went Away" is a tribute to the opera singer, Maria Callas. Chirps from electronic birds at the beginning, mixed with a slow beat and sounds of a piano leads to Sandra's whispers and ends with some samples of Callas singing the aria Ces lettres, ces lettres from the opera Werther by Massenet.

The rain at the beginning of "Mea Culpa" is a sample taken from the introduction of Black Sabbath's self-titled album and song. The plainsong chant "Kyrie Eleison" (from Mass XI, Orbis Factor, in the Liber usualis) appears predominantly, alongside Sandra's vocals and the same flute. It fades into the experimental track, "The Voice and the Snake", which is based on "Seven Bowls", a song from Aphrodite's Child where a group of people describe the end of the world in an eerie and haunting manner, as mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

A bowl falls to the ground and breaks, leading it to "Knocking on Forbidden Doors". The drums beats in the song made to resemble the sound of a door being knocked, before it progresses into a faster beat. A guitar enters and slips aside quietly for more Gregorian chants, this time a part of "Salve Regina", and fading into the following track.

The second three-part movement in the album, "Back to the Rivers of Belief", begins slowly with John Williams' five-toned notes from Steven Spielberg's movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which leads to mellow Gregorian chants in the first part of the movement, "Way to Eternity". The same beat from "Sadeness" enters for the start of "Hallelujah" as the strong sounds of violins accompany the beat. The triangle and voices from the first track reappears and repeats itself. An Orthodox/Byzantine chanting style is apparent in this part and segues into the next part, "The Rivers of Belief", the only track where Michael Cretu sings in the album. After Cretu sings the chorus, the music stops completely and an unfamiliar male voice intones Revelation 8:1: "When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, silence covered the sky". This is also sampled from Aphrodite's Child album 666 (the voice here is of John Forst). The sentence about the Seventh Seal enters at the 7th minute and 7th second of the 7th track, although in some pressings, it appears at the 7th minute and 17th second. The music resumes with the shakuhachi flute and Cretu's vocals. The album ends with the falling star effect and the "Enigma horn".

Impact of MCMXC a.D.[edit]

The album was named as one of the most important albums of mainstream New Age in the 1990s. The album not only popularized the "Enigmatic" music style but also introduced some technical music production changes. With MCMXC a.D., Michael Cretu developed the technical features and intentions of sampling. Though samples were in use long before (introduced by such musicians as Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze and others), Cretu built his own music around whole sequences of previously recorded parts. His method was not remixing and remodelling, but rather recontextualisation: changing a piece of music’s natural environment. This new method of composing and album creating process was mainly adopted by hip-hop artists, as well as electronic music producers. It was one of the first albums to be recorded directly to hard drive. MCMXC a.D. was one of the first steps in a series of developments which would eradicate the division between mainstream and underground culture.[4]

Controversy surrounded the music in the album for both its religious and sexual overtones, particularly on the first three singles. The video clip for "Principles of Lust" was banned from MTV and most TV stations, who were also unwilling to play the music video for "Sadeness (Part I)". The album itself was banned in several countries because of that same reason,[citation needed] while critics slammed the songs on the album as blasphemous. Nevertheless, the popularity of the album shot up to number one in at least 24 different countries in where it was released, reaching gold and platinum status.

The success of MCMXC a.D. influenced the works of B-Tribe (Fiesta Fatal!), Delerium (Semantic Spaces, Karma), Banco de Gaia, and even Sarah Brightman (Eden). The album was also a stepping stone for the creation of many other groups who mainly include Gregorian chants in their music, such as Era and Gregorian, which was founded by Frank Peterson prior to his falling out with Michael Cretu.

In addition, Cretu received a total of 1.4 million pre-orders of their next album, The Cross of Changes which was launched even before MCMXC a.D. fell out of the charts after four years.

In 1994, Polydor Germany sued Cretu and Virgin Germany for infringing on its "right of personality" in the samples used in "Sadeness (Part I)" and "Mea Culpa". The lawsuit was settled out of court, after Cretu agreed to pay compensation to the original creator of the samples.


The artwork on the sleeve of MCMXC a.D. was designed by Johann Zambryski, who also continued to design the sleeves of the next four albums after MCMXC a.D. and its compilation and DVD covers. It depicted a thick, black frame surrounding a silhouette of a figure being enshrouded in a bright light, and a Christian cross in the lower centre of the album for emphasis towards the themes of the album. The sleeve bears a strong resemblance to that of the 1986 Dead Can Dance album Spleen and Ideal.

Several quotes are printed on the booklet of the album, including the following:

The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom.

William Blake (a misquote of "The Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.")

The pleasure of satisfying a savage instinct, undomesticated by the ego, is uncomparably much more intense than the one of satisfying a tamed instinct. The reason is becoming the enemy that prevents us from a lot of possibilities of pleasure.

If you believe in the light, it's because of obscurity, if you believe in happiness it's because of unhappiness, and if you believe in God then you'll have to believe in the devil.

—Father X, Exorcist, Church of Notre Dame, Paris

The cover of the "Limited Edition" of the album is the same as for the original release, but has a grainy dark green background instead of black. The first million copies of the album also have a holograph of the monk and cross on top of the album instead of the normal art work.

Track listing[edit]

Original album[edit]

Most releases contain these seven tracks; some subsequent releases gave a track to each part.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Voice of Enigma"   Curly M.C. 2:21
2. "Principles of Lust"
"Find Love"
"Sadeness (reprise)"  

Curly, David Fairstein, F. Gregorian
Curly, Fairstein, Gregorian
3. "Callas Went Away"   Curly 4:27
4. "Mea Culpa"   Curly, Fairstein 5:03
5. "The Voice & The Snake"   Curly, Gregorian 1:39
6. "Knocking on Forbidden Doors"   Curly 4:31
7. "Back to the Rivers of Belief"
"Way to Eternity"
"The Rivers of Belief"  

Curly, Fairstein
Total length:

The limited edition[edit]

Released in November 1991, included the songs from the original album and 4 additional remixes. The original part of the album blends into the first of the four additional tracks, and each of the additional tracks also blend into each other. This gives the album a sense of continuation from start to finish. One of the remixes, The Returning Silence of The Rivers of Belief, does not appear on any of the singles.[5]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. "Sadeness (Meditation)"   Curly, Gregorian, Fairstein 2:43
9. "Mea Culpa (Fading Shades)"   Curly, Fairstein 6:04
10. "Principles of Lust (Everlasting Lust)"   Curly 4:50
11. "The Rivers of Belief (The Returning Silence)"   Curly, Fairstein 7:04

Bonus disc[edit]

Released in November 1999, included re-release of the original album and 6 remixes of 2 songs from the album on a separate disc.

All songs written and composed by Curly, Fairstein. 

No. Title Length
1. "Sadeness (Part I) (Meditation Mix)"   3:00
2. "Sadeness (Part I) (Extended Trance Mix)"   5:01
3. "Sadeness (Part I) (Violent U.S. Remix)"   5:03
4. "Mea Culpa (Part II) (Fading Shades Mix)"   6:13
5. "Mea Culpa (Part II) (Orthodox Version)"   4:00
6. "Mea Culpa (Part II) (Catholic Version)"   3:55



Release history[edit]

Release Date
Original album 10 December 1990
The Limited Edition 4 November 1991[6]


The album reached number 1 in 41 countries.[7] The album spent 184 weeks (over 3 years) on UK Top 200 Albums Chart, including 87 weeks in Top 75.[citation needed] It spent 282 weeks (over 5 years) on Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and 332 weeks in Top Catalog Albums Chart in the USA.[8] As of 1994, it sold over 14 million copies.[9] The album received over 60 platinum awards worldwide.[10]



Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[11] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Argentina (CAPIF)[12] Gold 30,000x
Austria (IFPI Austria)[13] Gold 25,000x
Brazil (ABPD)[14] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[15] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[16] 2× Platinum 918,700[17]
Germany (BVMI)[18] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[19] Platinum 100,000^
Sweden (GLF)[20] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[21] 2× Platinum 100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] 3× Platinum 900,000^
United States (RIAA)[23] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1991 "Sadeness (Part I)" The Billboard Hot 100 5
Modern Rock Tracks 6
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks 67
Hot Dance Music/Club Play 1
Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 1



  1. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Allmusic review". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Marisa Fox (1991-03-15). "MCMXC a.D. Review | Music Reviews and News". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Enigma Biography". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "Musical Memories 3 | Experimental Enigma Musical Memories". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  5. ^ The Enigma Archives (1998-04-10). "Section 3: The Catalogue". The Enigma Archives. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Biography E3 Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (1996)". enigmaspace. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  8. ^ "Catalog Albums". Billboard. 1997-04-19. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Humphrey Yogart (January 1994). "ENIGMA -- The Answer". Music Mag (Mueller For Music). Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "Enigma Band History". Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1996 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
  12. ^ "Argentinian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC AD". Argentine Chamber of Phonograms and Videograms Producers. 
  13. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in German). IFPI Austria.  Enter Enigma in the field Interpret. Enter MCMXC a.D. in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen
  14. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in Portuguese). Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos. 
  15. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D.". Music Canada. 
  16. ^ "French album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in French). InfoDisc.  Select ENIGMA and click OK
  17. ^ "Les Albums Double Or :" (in French). Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Enigma; 'MCMXC a.D.')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  19. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. 
  20. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 
  21. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Enigma; 'MCMXC a. D.')". Hung Medien. 
  22. ^ "British album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D.". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter MCMXC a.D. in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  23. ^ "American album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D.". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Immaculate Collection by Madonna
UK number one album
26 January 1991 – 1 February 1991
Succeeded by
The Soul Cages by Sting