(All Album Reviews by avestin)
Originally written for and posted at the Sonic Frontiers website.
Charting more bleak soundscapes…
The music territory that Virgin Black inhabit is as dark and uncharted as the name implies. Virgin Black are quite unique with regards to the music they create, and so do not fit well with any attempt at categorization. While their style is firmly rooted in doom/death metal (My Dying Bride is one of their influences, as they state it), this only partly represents their music and its experimental/avant-garde side. With this release, they aim to create a trilogy called Requiem with a varying degree of classical music and metal – Fortissimo, Mezzo Forte and Pianissimo. Fortissimo will feature the heaviest Virgin Black has ever done while Pianissimo will be an entirely classical album. The classical instrumentation in all albums is performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. As the name implies, this specific first part of the trilogy, Mezzo Forte, is where metal and classical reach a balance between them, resulting in a sort of “doom metal symphony” and this particular album in the Requiem trilogy is said by the band to be the closest in sound to their previous two albums, Sombre Romantic and Elegant… And Dying.
Like their previous albums, this one features the same feelings of anguish, grief and tortured spirit throughout the music and lyrics. London’s tenor along with Susan Johnson’s soprano backed by choirs, give a majestic volume and breadth to the music, amplifying the effect the music alone has on the listener. In line with previous albums are also the slow tempo of the songs, Samantha’s heavy distortion guitar and as expected, the classical instruments, which are given lead roles as well, enhancing the atmosphere Virgin Black are creating and giving a contrast to the heaviness of the band. The tracks themselves vary in terms of extent of use of both components (metal and classical) and intensity. The end result is beautiful, well crafted and balanced and makes for a good intermingle of seemingly opposing sounds.
Virgin Black is not an easy listening (not to imply that I don’t enjoy the listen). The nature of their sound, the gloominess, despair and depression that emanate from their songs, can be overwhelming at times. While this album is not as eccentric as its predecessors, it’s of no lower quality. However, what I miss in this album is the variety, experimenting and dynamics that were abundant in the previous ones. I also feel they could have made more of a use of the orchestra. That been said, I find this album to be mesmerizing and haunting, captivating until the end. While some might find this to be too much: too emotional, melodramatic and cumbersome, I am drawn to its bleak, somber sound and to the slow and ponderous kind of music they make. This release follows in the line of the previous two, and adds a progression to newer grounds for the band. Their albums, and this one is no different, are to be listened to at particular sets of mind, times when you’re receptive to such flavour of music.