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Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic CD (album) cover


Virgin Black


Experimental/Post Metal

3.79 | 20 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Hailing from Australia, Virgin Black began their life as a death/doom metal style band under the name of 'Adelaide'. By the time the group had signed with a major label, and released their first album, they changed their name and also diversified their sound to include classical stylings by adding operatic and choral style passages, becoming more dynamic and diversified, and coming up with what has been called 'Gothic Doom', but actually has a much more refined and varied sound than that. Their music, when all put together, ends up being dark, yet emotional, sometimes harsh, but always with a sense of beauty and loneliness. Their music definitely strikes a chord far beyond just being noisy and depressing. It is well composed and is well deserving of being considered a progressive band which includes elements of symphonic and classical styles.

Through the years, the two founders Samantha Escarbe (lead guitar) and Rowan London (lead vocals, keyboards, piano) have lead the band. At the time of their debut full-length album 'Sombre Romantic', the rest of the band consisted of Craig Edis (vocals, guitar), Dino Cielo (drums), Ian Miller (bass, vocals), Aaron Nicholls (bass), and Chris Handley (guesting on cello) and even include a 7 person choir. In 2002, the album was re-pressed and included their EP 'Trance' as a bonus disk.

'Opera de Romanci I: Stare' begins with a short chant-like intro and then brings in the cello and guitar playing mournfully, and the music sounds pensive and dark, similar to 'Agalloch'. London's vocals begin in tenor register, and is supported by dramatic use of the choir. The music reminds me of 'Orff' s 'O Fortuna', the same dark and expansive sound of choirs. 'Opera de Romanci II: Embrace' follows the same style, but soon is interrupted by heavy guitar chord explosions and a slow rhythm, and then it calms to soft guitar and bells, then more dramatic, symphonic sound again, followed with a dark electric guitar solo. As it continues, the symphonic sound returns now creating a cinematic sound, and then full power slam of the guitars and percussion again.

This is the sound you will be experiencing on this album. And it is all very surprising how well it all works together. 'Walk Without Limbs' jumps around with dynamics, with a loud section and almost screaming vocals to beautiful choir sections and melodic passages. 'Of Your Beauty' shows the limitless range of London's vocals as now he sings in a lower register in full, almost operatic voice while piano chords play under his dramatic voice. Repeating piano chords and orchestral hits build up the tension while he continues to sing, and then continues when the choir follow behind him. Later, the piano plays in a rhapsodic fashion and the guitar comes in bringing in metal power at the same time, and it all fits together very well, not sounding tacky and contrived like other metal bands that have tried the same thing. This is musically a step above all of that.

'Drink the Midnight Hymn' starts off louder, with screaming vocals, which later become more melodic, but the singing is just as powerful as the screaming. So is the choir when it sings its parts. Again, dynamics play an important role as noise gives way to softness and then returns to thick and heavily layered guitar work with plenty of doom metal sound. 'Museum of Iscariot' is the longest track here and is actually divided up into 3 sections: 'Stagnation', 'Death' and 'Procession'. This one is more lyric heavy, but has a great guitar solo on the last section. "Lamenting Kiss" is my personal favorite of the album.

As the album continues, the music on this album is surprisingly clear and crisp, making it all the more interesting and dynamic. Most goth music tends to be thick and muddled, and that is almost the complete opposite on this album as it goes through both heavy and quiet sections, but all the while the music retains a dark and evil tone. There is a lot of beauty and emotion to this album and the thing that makes it all is the dynamics. It all proves that there is power not just in the heavy sections, but also in the quieter sections. There is plenty of great guitar here, but also progressiveness that sees the music soar to great heights and complexities. The album doesn't quite make the 5 star rating, but it definitely comes close and it is also a favorite of mine.

TCat | 4/5 |


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