(All Album Reviews by avestin)
It's autumn 2004. Late at night while everyone is asleep I am still awake. Thoughts keep filling my head; worry and distress keep me up. So I decide to put a record on; one that would fit my current mood and perhaps alleviate some of the pain. Some people would put on uplifting music, an album they know and that always puts a smile on their face.
Not being my way, I put on an album that is as dark as was my (then) current state of mind. Elegant And Dying, the second full-length album by the Australian doom/gothic metal band Virgin Black fits perfectly. The music resonates with grief and agony. The intensity of angst and heartache is overwhelming here. The saw-like riffs of the guitar cut through the silence of the night. The tormented voice of Rowan London, the main writer along with guitarist and cellist, Samantha Escarbe, is a guiding light amidst the sea of pain oozing from their music. Going from low to higher pitches, from soft singing to anguish filled tones to angry and frustrated cries, he thus achieves a wide range of sentiments and sensations (though mostly of the dark and melancholic kind). His voice personifies the entire emotions the music creates and that the lyrics tell about. Words about love and religion, loss and desertion, suffering and desire, despair and betrayal; but most of all, hope. Yes, it seems odd, but hope is in here, quite revealed in the text; the yearning to amend things, to improve life, aspiring for a change, the need to make things better.
You should not expect songs, not a usual path of music writing but a depiction of a human state of mind, a mind in extreme conditions, on the edge of sanity, the brink of collapse. And yet the music is beautiful, despite whatever mood it reflects and regardless of how odd it may sound at times, as the band is not timid of going into unconventional musical landscapes. Yes the music takes the form of doom and gothic metal, but the outcome is beyond that, for me. It is the emotional connection perhaps, but to my ears (or more exactly, brain) the end product here is has high impact with its beauty, intensity, intricacy and emotional characteristic. There is variety here, though it may elude some. A mellow and quiet approach, say with keyboards or piano alongside the choir is substituted for an abrupt aggressive sounding guitar lead segment and intense (mostly slow) drumming. Velvet Tongue is a fine example for their shifting directions and emotional surges. Their more "experimental" and out-there moments are also fascinating. As an example, the long song, The Everlasting, is an eerie and peculiar piece, very spooky when listened to late at night in the dark and very appropriate as well. It could fit very well in old black and white mystery or horror movies. There is a tremendous sense of gloom and despair but of power as well that emanates from the music here. The song goes from an abstract form to more a constructed sense and follows with the full band joining in full force later on in a brutal (in Virgin Black standards) aural assault and driving guitar riff and drumming. In fact this is the best song to hear what drummer Dino Cielo is capable of. It is also a fine example of how much anger lurks in the core of their music, in the back of their minds. This is an outcome of frustration, of being suffocated emotionally and spiritually. All the buried anger bursts out explosively, and the music here depicts it beautifully.
The songs are mostly linked or at least flowing naturally from one to the other and this way form, as I hear it, an uninterrupted course that makes this album one long piece that is divided into several sections. Not that it's impossible to listen to individual songs, but I prefer mostly to listen to it in its entirety and don't pay too much attention to what song I listen to at a particular moment.
This is an album for those who ache but want a way out, a way to relieve themselves from pain; an album for those who would like to hear a different take on doom metal, an exploratory form that puts high emphasis on the emotional side of composing. A perfect companion in late winter nights, with a hot beverage in hand.