On the sound of the album, the group commented, "We realised we had been limiting our musical visions [before], relying around guitar, bass and drums. These instruments weren't adequate to express a lot of the things we were hearing." On the making of the album, 4AD label owner Ivo Watts-Russell commented, "I think the relationship between them and [producer] John Rivers was at its peak with [Within the Realm of a Dying Sun]. It's probably my favourite record of theirs".
Lisa Gerrard's vocals feature prominently on the second half of the album, and her singing style often has mellifluous oriental overtones, especially on the track titled "Cantara".