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MCMXC aD Enigma cover.jpg
Studio album by Enigma
Released 10 December 1990
Recorded 1990 at A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, Spain
Genre New-age, ambient house, downtempo, chill-out
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

MCMXC a.D. ("1990" in Roman numerals followed by an abbreviation of Anno Domini) is the first studio album from the German music project Enigma, headed by Romanian-German musician Michael Cretu, released in November 1990 on Virgin Records in the United Kingdom and Charisma Records in the United States.

Before he founded Enigma, Cretu had released several solo records, collaborated with various artists, and produced albums from his then wife, German pop singer Sandra. Following their marriage in 1988, Cretu developed an idea for a New-age music project named Enigma. MCMXC a.D. was recorded in eight months in 1990 at A.R.T. Studios located in Cretu's home in Ibiza, Spain. It is one of the first albums recorded onto a hard disk drive. 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. Nevertheless, the album was a worldwide success, reaching the top 10 in ten countries, including the UK, and No. 6 in the U.S. 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 1)" was the most successful single which topped the singles charts in several countries. The album was re-released with additional remixed tracks in 1991 and 1999.



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. It is one of the first albums recorded on a hard disk drive.

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. 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.

MCMXC a.D. is considered a landmark and innovative New-age album. Cretu developed the idea of sampling. Though samples had been used by artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre and Klaus Schulze, Cretu built his music around whole sequences of previously recorded parts. This method was adopted by many hip-hop and electronic music artists.[1]


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 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 Cretu's wife Sandra. "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 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 the English rock 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 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 voices from the first track reappears and repeats itself. The final section, "The Rivers of Belief", features Cretu singing the chorus. After the music stops completely, and John Forst 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".

Sleeve design[edit]

The album's artwork was designed by Johann Zambrysk, who would design the covers for the next four Enigma albums. It depictes 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 some resemblance to the Dead Can Dance album Spleen and Ideal (1986).

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 10 December 1990. It was an expected 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.[2][3] By January 1994, the album had sold 14 million copies worldwide.[4] The album received a total of over 60 Platinum awards.[5]

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
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[6]
Entertainment Weekly (A-)[7]


Controversy surrounded the album for both its religious and sexual overtones. The music videos "Sadeness (Part I)" and "Principles of Lust" were banned from MTV and most television stations for their themes and connotations. Some critics described the album as blasphemous.

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.[8]


A limited edition of MCMXC a.D. was released in 4 November 1991 with four remixed tracks.[9] 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.[10]

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

Track listing[edit]

Note: Some subsequent reissues dedicate a separate track to each individual song.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
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., Fairstein 5:03
5. "The Voice & The Snake"   Curly M.C., F. Gregorian 1:39
6. "Knocking on Forbidden Doors"   Curly M.C. 4:31
7. "Back to the Rivers of Belief" Curly M.C., Fairstein ("The Rivers of Belief") 10:32



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)
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



Additional personnel:



  1. ^ "Musical Memories 3 | Experimental Enigma Musical Memories". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Catalog Albums". Billboard. 1997-04-19. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Biography E3 Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (1996)". enigmaspace. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Humphrey Yogart (January 1994). "ENIGMA -- The Answer". Music Mag (Mueller For Music). Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  5. ^ "Enigma Band History". Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Allmusic review". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Marisa Fox (1991-03-15). "MCMXC a.D. Review | Music Reviews and News". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Weinert, Ellie (14 September 1991). ""Sadeness" Creator Settles Sample Suit; Will Compensate For Unauthorised Usage". Billboard: 80. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Enigma Archives (1998-04-10). "Section 3: The Catalogue". The Enigma Archives. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  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