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MCMXC aD Enigma cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released10 December 1990
StudioA.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: 1 October 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 mixing of 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.

Background and inspiration[edit]

Michael Cretu had an uncle who played the violin[1] and wanted Cretu to play the piano, believing that he had talent and Cretu and his parents obliged.[2][3] From 1976 - 1978, Cretu studied at the Frankfurter Music Academy[3] and got a degree.[2][4] However, Cretu started shifting his focus towards pop music. He recalls making the realzation of him wanting to make pop music when he was listening to "Golden Slumbers" from Abbey Road by The Beatles. When Cretu told his mom as she was coming in, she screamed, "Aaargh! Disaster! Do you want to end up starving?"[1] Cretu has joked that he, "started writing hits the day [he] sold [his] piano."[3]

While some of his inspirations for Enigma were The Art of Noise and Pink Floyd,[3] the moment that inspired Cretu the most was in 1987 when Cretu worked with Sandra on her song, "Everlasting Love".[5] Cretu experimented with gregorian chants while working on the song with Sandra. This would spark his fascination with incorporating archaic sounds into contemporary songs.[5] Cretu married Sandra in 1988[6] and they moved to the Spanish island of Ibiza.[7]

Development and release[edit]

MCMXC a.D. was recorded in 1990 across eight months at A.R.T. Studios located in Ibiza.[8] Cretu conceived the album as one continuous song.[3] Michael Cretu produced the album with creative input from Fabrice Cuitad and Frank Peterson.[5][9] Cretu's philosphy when creating MCMXC a.D. was "Contrary to the usual record-company philosophy, people are open-minded and starved for something unique."[10]

The first song they made for the album was the song, "Sadeness (Part I)". After making the song, Cretu told his wife, Sandra, that "This will be a huge hit or nothing at all."[1] "Sadeness (Part I)" was released on 1 October 1990.[11] Michael Cretu wanted to be anonymous and there to be very few promotion of the single because he believed that consumers would buy the single for the song itself, not the producer, so he was credited as Curly M.C.[12] with Frank Peterson being credited as F. Gregorian and Fabrice Cuitad being credited as David Fairstein.[9][13] Virgin promoted the song by radio and club play only.[11] Despite having virtually no promotion, "Sadeness (Part I)" was the fastest German song to reach number 1 and was an international hit.[1][11]

MCMXC a.D. was released on 3 December 1990 in Europe through Virgin and on 12 February 1991 in the United States through Charisma.[3] Michael Cretu still wanted to remain anonymous.[1] The three producers were credited the same as on "Sadeness (Part I)", Michael Cretu as Curly M.C., Frenk Peterson as F. Gregorian, and Fabrice Cuitad as David Fairstein.[14]


MCMXC a.D. is 40 minutes and 16 seconds and has seven tracks, two of which are divided into three songs.[14] "The Voice Of Enigma" was solely written by Michael Cretu[14] and starts with a foghorn sound that is known as the "Enigma horn".[15] After the foghorn sound, Louisa Stanley[15] starts talking and invites the listener to relax and take a deep breath.[16] Meanwhile, a soundscape of environmental sounds play in the background.[17] "The Principles of Lust" is divided into three songs, "Sadeness", "Find Love", and "Sadeness (Reprise)".[14] The track overall consists of an R&B drum-beat and flute synth lines played throughout the track along with Sandra's[3][18] whispers and "orgasmic breathing that marks the song's break."[19] "Sadeness" is the highlight song in this track[19] and saw contributions from David Fairstein and Frank Peterson.[13] "Sadeness" uses Gregorian chant taken from the verse, "Procedamus in pace!" sung by the Capella Antiqua München.[20] The french lyrics are a defense and quizzical look at 18th-century writer, Marquis de Sade who was notorious for writing literature delving into themes of sexual violence and domination.[12][18]

"Callas Went Away" was written solely by Michael Cretu[14] and samples Maria Callas's singing.[16] "Mea Culpa" was written by Michael Cretu and David Fairstein[14] and is a follow-up to "Sadeness".[18] Like "Sadeness", "Mea Culpa" samples Gregorian chant from the Capella Antiqua München[21] and has the same "atmosphere" as "Sadeness".[10] "The Voice and the Snake" is based off the Book of Revelation[22] and was written by Michael Cretu and Frank Peterson.[14] "Knocking on Forbidden Doors" was written solely by Michael Cretu.[14] "Back to the Rivers of Belief" is split into three songs: "Way to Eternity", "Hallelujah", and "The Rivers of Belief". All three songs were mainly written by Michael Cretu, with "The Rivers of Belief" seeing contribution from David Fairstein.[14]


Four songs from MCMXC a.D. were released as singles. "Sadeness (Part I)" was released in November 1990 to commercial success.[23] The singles "Mea Culpa (Part II)" , "Principles of Lust" and "The Rivers of Belief" were released in 1991.

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 bright light, and a Christian cross in the lower center of the album for an emphasis on 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 will 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 artwork.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[16]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[17]

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 the listening public in general.[24]

Commercial performance[edit]

MCMXC a.D. was a worldwide commercial success. The New York Times has reported that three years after the album's release, the album was sold 12 million times worldwide.[25] In Germany, MCMXC a.D. entered the official charts in the week of 10 December 1990 at number 60.[26] It peaked at number 3 on the week of 24 December 1990 and left the charts on the week of 8 July 1991 at number 72.[26] The album re-entered charts on the week of 21 February 1994 as number 68 and left on the week of 21 March 1991 as number 69. The album re-entered the charts again on the week of 9 December 1996 as number 80 and left on the week of 13 January 1997 as number 73.[26] The album was on German charts overall for a span of 46 weeks.[26] MCMXC a.D. was platinum certified twice by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie, indicating that the album was shipped to Germany around two million times.[27]


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.[21]


A limited-edition of MCMXC a.D. was released on 4 November 1991 with four remixed tracks.[28] 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.[29]

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 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
    1991 "The Limited Edition"
    8."Sadeness (Meditation)"Curly M.C., Gregorian, Fairstein2:43
    9."Mea Culpa (Fading Shades)"Curly M.C., Fairstein6:04
    10."Principles of Lust (Everlasting Lust)"Curly M.C.4:50
    11."The Rivers of Belief (The Returning Silence)"Curly M.C., Fairstein7:04
    1999 bonus disc edition
    1."Sadeness (Part I) - Meditation Mix"Curly M.C., Fairstein3:00
    2."Sadeness (Part I) - Extended Trance Mix"Curly M.C., Fairstein5:01
    3."Sadeness (Part I) - Violent U.S. Remix"Curly M.C., Fairstein5:03
    4."Mea Culpa (Part II) - Fading Shades Mix"Curly M.C., Fairstein6:13
    5."Mea Culpa (Part II) - Orthodox Version"Curly M.C., Fairstein4:00
    6."Mea Culpa (Part II) - Catholic Version"Curly M.C., Fairstein3:55



    • Michael Cretu (credited as "Curly M.C.") – record producer, lead vocals
    • Sandra Cretu – lead vocals, voices
    • Fabrice Cuitad (credited as "D. Fairstein") – lyrics
    • Frank Peterson (credited as "F. Gregorian") – samples
    • Louisa Stanley – voices


    Weekly charts[edit]

    Chart (1990–95) Peak
    Australian Albums (ARIA)[30] 2
    Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[31] 3
    Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[32] 3
    Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)[33] 2
    Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[34] 7
    French Albums (SNEP)[35] 63
    German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[26] 3
    New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[36] 2
    Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[37] 4
    Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[38] 3
    Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[39] 2
    UK Albums (OCC)[40] 1
    US Billboard 200[41] 6


    Region Certification Certified units/sales
    Argentina (CAPIF)[42] Gold 30,000^
    Australia (ARIA)[43] 3× Platinum 210,000^
    Austria (IFPI Austria)[44] Gold 25,000*
    Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[45] Gold 100,000*
    Canada (Music Canada)[46] 2× Platinum 200,000^
    France (SNEP)[48] 2× Platinum 918,700[47]
    Germany (BVMI)[27] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
    Netherlands (NVPI)[49] Platinum 100,000^
    New Zealand (RMNZ)[50] Gold 7,500^
    Sweden (GLF)[51] Gold 50,000^
    Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[52] 2× Platinum 100,000^
    United Kingdom (BPI)[53] 3× Platinum 900,000^
    United States (RIAA)[54] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

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


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    External links[edit]