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MCMXC aD Enigma cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released10 December 1990
Recorded1990 at A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, Spain
LabelVirgin, Charisma
ProducerMichael 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

MCMXC a.D. is the first studio album by the German music project Enigma, headed by Romanian-German musician Michael Cretu. It was released on 10 December 1990 by Virgin Records in the United Kingdom, and on 28 January 1991 by Charisma Records in the United States.

Before he founded Enigma, Cretu had released several solo records, collaborated with various artists, and produced albums for his then wife, German pop singer Sandra. Following their marriage in 1988, Cretu developed an idea for a New-age music project and recorded MCMXC a.D. in eight months at A.R.T. Studios, his home studio in Ibiza, Spain. It is one of the first albums recorded onto a hard disk. Cretu makes extensive use of Gregorian chants, dance beats, and flute sounds.

MCMXC a.D. received some criticism for its sexual and religious themes and connotations, but, nonetheless, became a worldwide success, reaching the top 10 in ten countries, including the United Kingdom, and No. 6 in the United States where it sold over 4 million copies and stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for 282 weeks. Four singles from the album were released—"Sadeness (Part I)", "Mea Culpa (Part II)", "Principles of Lust", and "The Rivers of Belief". "Sadeness (Part I)" topped the singles charts worldwide and remains Enigma's most successful single. In 1991 and 1999, the album was re-released with additional remixed tracks.



MCMXC a.D. was recorded in 1990 across eight months at A.R.T. Studios located in Cretu's home on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

The chants used on "Sadeness" and "Mea Culpa" were mostly taken from Paschale Mysterium (1976) by the German choir Capella Antiqua München with conductor Konrad Ruhland, specifically from the track "Procedamus in pace! (Antiphon)". The vocals were used without permission which led to a lawsuit.

MCMXC a.D. is considered a landmark and innovative New Age album. Cretu developed the idea of sampling in a new direction. Though samples of up to several seconds' length had been used extensively in hip-hop for decades and in electronic genres by artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre and Klaus Schulze, Cretu built his music around much longer previously recorded sequences, which was novel both to the New Age audience and to the listening public in general.[1]


The introduction of MCMXC a.D. starts with a sample from "Not Forgotten" by Leftfield[2] played backwards (which started to be famously used in Enigma's music), 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 three-part "Principles of Lust". The first, "Sadeness", received the most attention through its unique and previously unheard mix of Gregorian chants and dance beat. The track features triangles and synthesized shakuhachi flutes with French lyrics and breathy sounds from Sandra, as well as samples from "Inifinity" by Greek band Aphrodite's Child. As for the male voice speaking in French during the track, Cretu only described him as a good friend of his. "Sadeness" fades into the second part, "Find Love", in which Sandra instructs the listener to follow their lust. Reversed chants signal the start of "Sadeness (Reprise)" and continues with a short piano theme based on the earlier shakuhachi flutes. The flute returns as chants of "Hosanna" gradually bring "Principles of Lust" to an end.

"Callas Went Away" is a tribute to the opera singer Maria Callas. Chirps from electronic birds at the beginning, mixed with a slow beat [3] 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 Jules Massenet.

The rain at the beginning of "Mea Culpa" is taken from the introduction of "Black Sabbath" by English heavy metal band Black Sabbath. The chant "Kyrie Eleison" (from Mass XI, Orbis Factor, in the Liber usualis) appears predominantly alongside Sandra's vocals and flutes. The song segues into "The Voice & The Snake", which is based on "Seven Bowls" by 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 into "Knocking on Forbidden Doors". The drum beats in the song were made to resemble the sound of a door being knocked. A guitar enters and slips aside quietly for Gregorian chants, this time a part of "Salve Regina", and fading into the "Back to the Rivers of Belief", another three-part track. It begins with "Way to Eternity", featuring composer John Williams' five-toned notes from the science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which leads to mellow Gregorian chants. The beat from "Sadeness" returns with violins for the start of the second part, "Hallelujah". The triangle and voice from the first track reappears and repeats itself. The final section, "The Rivers of Belief", features Cretu singing the chorus. After that, the music stops completely, and John Forst's unfamiliar male voice recites 8:1 from the Book of Revelation — "When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, silence covered the sky" — which is sampled from 666 (The Apocalypse of John, 13/18) (1972) by Aphrodite's Child. Incidentally, the sentence about the seventh seal enters at the seventh minute and seventh second of the seventh track on some pressings of the album. The music closes with shakuhachi flutes, Cretu's vocals, and a falling star effect followed by the "Enigma horn" (i.e. the reversed Leftfield sample from the first track). The song fades out and, when the album is played on repeat mode, fades right into the first song again creating a full loop.

Sleeve design[edit]

The album's artwork was designed by Johann Zambrysky, who would design the covers for the next four Enigma albums. It depicts a 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 resemblance to that of the 1986 Dead Can Dance album Spleen and Ideal.

Several quotes are printed on the booklet, 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.


MCMXC a.D. was released on 3 December 1990. It was an unexpected worldwide commercial success, reaching the top 10 in ten countries, including the UK for one week, and No. 6 in the U.S. where it sold over 4 million copies and stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for 282 weeks, a period of over five years.[4][5] By January 1994, the album had sold 14 million copies worldwide.[6] The album received a total of over 60 Platinum awards.[7]

Four songs from MCMXC a.D. were released as singles. "Sadeness (Part I)" was released in November 1990 to commercial success. The singles "Mea Culpa (Part II)" , "Principles of Lust" and "The Rivers of Belief" were released in 1991.

The success of MCMXC a.D. influenced the works of B-Tribe (Fiesta Fatal!), Delerium (Semantic Spaces, Karma), Banco de Gaia, and 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, founded by Frank Peterson prior to his falling out with Cretu.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[8]
Entertainment Weekly(A-)[9]


In 1991, Polydor Germany sued Cretu and Virgin Germany for infringing on its "right of personality" in the Gregorian chant 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 case did not cover copyright infringement as the 1976 chant recordings were in the public domain.[10]


A limited edition of MCMXC a.D. was released on 4 November 1991 with four remixed tracks.[11] 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.[12]

The November 1999 reissue includes six remixed tracks on a second disc.

In March 2016 a numbered Limited Edition was released on Hybrid SACD in Hong Kong.

Track listing[edit]

Note: Some subsequent reissues dedicate a separate track to each individual song. On the first release only, "Principles of Lust" and "Back to the Rivers of Belief" are combined in a single track, but the sub-parts can be accessed as Indices that are supported by some CD players.

1."The Voice of Enigma"Curly M.C.2:21
2."Principles of Lust"
  • a. "Sadeness"
  • b. "Find Love"
  • c. "Sadeness (Reprise)"
Curly M.C., David Fairstein ("Sadeness", "Sadeness (Reprise)"), F. Gregorian ("Sadeness", "Sadeness (Reprise)")11:43
3."Callas Went Away"Curly M.C.4:27
4."Mea Culpa"Curly M.C., Fairstein5:03
5."The Voice & the Snake"Curly M.C., F. Gregorian1:39
6."Knocking on Forbidden Doors"Curly M.C.4:31
7."Back to the Rivers of Belief"
  • a. "Way to Eternity"
  • b. "Hallelujah"
  • c. "The Rivers of Belief"
  • Curly M.C., Fairstein ("The Rivers of Belief")10:32



    Region Certification Certified units/Sales
    Australia (ARIA)[13] 3× Platinum 210,000^
    Argentina (CAPIF)[14] Gold 30,000^
    Austria (IFPI Austria)[15] Gold 25,000*
    Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[16] Gold 100,000*
    Canada (Music Canada)[17] 2× Platinum 200,000^
    France (SNEP)[19] 2× Platinum 918,700[18]
    Germany (BVMI)[20] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
    Netherlands (NVPI)[21] Platinum 100,000^
    New Zealand (RMNZ)[22] Gold 7,500^
    Sweden (GLF)[23] Gold 50,000^
    Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[24] 2× Platinum 100,000^
    United Kingdom (BPI)[25] 3× Platinum 900,000^
    United States (RIAA)[26] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

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


    Billboard (North America)
    Single Chart (1991) Position
    "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



    Weekly charts[edit]

    Chart (1990–95) Peak
    Australian Albums (ARIA)[27] 2
    Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[28] 3
    Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[29] 7
    German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[30] 3
    New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[31] 2
    Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[32] 4
    Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[33] 3
    UK Albums (OCC)[34] 1
    US Billboard 200[35] 6



    1. ^ "Musical Memories 3 | Experimental Enigma Musical Memories". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
    2. ^ "Enigma's 'The Voice of Enigma' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
    3. ^ The chirping birds and the basic beat were both sampled from the 1985 song "Par Avion", by Mike + the Mechanics, from their self-titled debut album. This sample, like all the other ones featured on the album (Gregorian chant, Aphrodite's Child's 666 album, Black Sabbath) was uncredited and used without permission.
    4. ^ "Catalog Albums". Billboard. 19 April 1997. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
    5. ^ "Biography E3 Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (1996)". enigmaspace. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
    6. ^ Humphrey Yogart (January 1994). "ENIGMA -- The Answer". Music Mag (Mueller For Music). Retrieved 21 February 2011.
    7. ^ "Enigma Band History". Retrieved 6 March 2011.
    8. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Allmusic review". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
    9. ^ Marisa Fox (15 March 1991). "MCMXC a.D. Review | Music Reviews and News". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
    10. ^ Weinert, Ellie (14 September 1991). ""Sadeness" Creator Settles Sample Suit; Will Compensate For Unauthorised Usage". Billboard. p. 80.
    11. ^
    12. ^ The Enigma Archives (10 April 1998). "Section 3: The Catalogue". The Enigma Archives. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
    13. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
    14. ^ "Argentinian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC AD". Argentine Chamber of Phonograms and Videograms Producers.
    15. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in German). IFPI Austria.
    16. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in Portuguese). Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos.
    17. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." Music Canada.
    18. ^ "Les Albums Double Or :" (in French). Archived from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
    19. ^ "French album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in French). InfoDisc. Select ENIGMA and click OK. 
    20. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Enigma; 'MCMXC a.D.')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
    21. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Enter MCMXC a.D. in the "Artiest of titel" box.
    22. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." Recorded Music NZ.
    23. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
    24. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Enigma; 'MCMXC a. D.')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
    25. ^ "British album certifications – Enigma – MCMXC a.D." British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type MCMXC a.D. in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
    26. ^ "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. 
    27. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D.". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    28. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D." (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    29. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D." (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    30. ^ " – Top 100 Longplay". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
    31. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D.". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    32. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D.". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    33. ^ " – Enigma – MCMXC A. D.". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 3, 1990.
    34. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 20, 1991.
    35. ^ "Enigma Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved March 2, 1990.

    External links[edit]