I always find myself coming at bands backwards. This is another band where I’ve heard a later album first so my impression of them is distorted by what they did later. In this case, the band sounds pretty much the same which is both a good thing (I knew what I was getting into this time) and a bad thing (it’s hard to tell whether there was much evolution between this record and that later record).
I don’t know anything about “neoclassical darkwave,” a “genre” I became familiar with in part because of this band. I do know that nothing in the name – not “neoclassical” and not “dark” – indicates much about how Dead Can Dance sound. What they sound like is like a Hollywood movie’s idea of world music only I suspect that this Hollywood idea of world music very much comes from people in Hollywood listening to Dead Can Dance. (I don’t know of too many bands that sound like this from the 1980s.)
This particular record is more ethereal, more mysterious than the later record I heard so one thing I can say is that, if they evolved, they evolved into more conventional songs. That’s both a plus and a minus as there is less to grab you here but this record sounds considerably more far out from the mainstream of music being made in 1988. Off the top of my head, I can think of nothing that sounds like it; it’s caught between the 1980s and the Middle Ages or the 1980s in the West and the something in the rest of the world that hasn’t been “corrupted” by modern genres and technology.
Anyway, I mostly really like this and I can imagine that, had I heard this before I got into a lot of music that took inspiration from the past and from “world music” I would have been absolutely blown away by it when I was younger.