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Virgin Black

Experimental/Post Metal

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Virgin Black Sombre Romantic album cover
3.79 | 20 ratings | 4 reviews | 20% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Opera de Romanci I. Stare (3:57)
2. Opera de Romanci II. Embrace (3:52)
3. Walk Without Limbs (4:26)
4. Of Your Beauty (4:00)
5. Drink The Midnight Hymn (5:14)
6. Museum Of Iscariot (7:41):
I. Stagnation
II. Death
III. Procession
7. Lamenting Kiss (5:25)
8. Weep For Me (1:52)
9. I Sleep With The Emperor (2:40)
10. A Poet's Tears Of Porcelain (5:20)
11. Hidden track (0:11)

Line-up / Musicians

- Rowan London / vocals, piano, keyboards, choir vocals
- Samantha Escarbe / lead guitar
- Dino Cielo / drums, choir vocals
- Craig Edis / guitars, choir vocals
- Ian Miller / bass, vocals

Cello parts written by Samantha Escarbe

- Chris Handley / cello
- Brad Bessel, Stephanie Bessel. Aaron Nicholls / choir vocals

Releases information

The End Records, TE 023

Thanks to avestin for the addition
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Buy VIRGIN BLACK Sombre Romantic Music

VIRGIN BLACK Sombre Romantic ratings distribution

(20 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(55%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

VIRGIN BLACK Sombre Romantic reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Tristan Mulders
4 stars Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic

When I first heard the band name 'Virgin Black' come up in conversation I thought this had to be some sort of gothic metal band with all band members wearing long dresses and corpse paint on their face... An average metal band that 16-year old high school 'metal experts' listen to nowadays (no offence meant to anyone)... And in a way these preconceptions were actually right!

For Virgin Black is indeed a band that could partially be categorized as a gothic metal outfit. Yet that banner would not do enough justification to this bunch of talented musicians, for they go beyond the boundaries of conventional gothic metal.

There's this new wave of (progressive) artists who seem to incorporate classical music into their compositions, think of the likes of Epica, Nightwish and most noticeably Swedish prog metal outfit Therion, but Virgin Black surpasses each and every one of them. Yes, all of them share that longing for operatic vocals, yet Virgin Black's music is not about the bombastic nature of songs. These 5 Australians make music without reaching out to conventional metal... it's not all about heavy metal riffs or pompous drumming... No, Virgin Black seem to enjoy minimalist moments as well, some segments are pure classical or operatic pieces of music, where other moments are pure acoustic brilliance!

Come to think of it, perhaps 'doom metal' would be a more appropriate tag for this branch of music. The dramatic vocals, either operatic or normal singing in low key, don't make the happiest of conditions to listen to music, but they do somehow manage to charm the listener. To give you an idea of what to expect: lead vocalist Rowan London's voice is a sort of compromise of those trademark high-pitched prog metal vocalists and low-key opera vocalists, whereas bass player Ian Miller's additional vocals are pure black metal in origin, i.e. he growls. Yet, his growling is not at all bothersome, mainly because most of the time when he sings, you hear London backing him up with his low and dynamic voice or visa versa.

Musically seen this band made a great debut with this album, but it was not until 2 years later, with the release of the follow-up album "Elegant & Dying", that these musicians found what I consider to be their perfect sound.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Virgin Black's debut does exactly what the album title promises. They are clearly deep in mourning and decadently romantic. Their music is hard to put into just one category, there are elements of goth, black and doom metal, but also soft acoustic guitat parts, mostly melodic and slightly operatic vocals, beautiful bluesy guitar solos, symphonic keyboards and melodious pianos.

Because the music is hard to describe, I need to refer to other bands to draw similarities. A first is My Dying Bride from around their second album Turn Loose The Swans. Virgin Black improves that sound with better vocals and great Gilmouresque guitar solos as on Museum Of Iscariot. A second reference would be Therion. The second track Embrace for instance features a choir introduction that sounds just like Therion on a particularly drowsy day. Also Agalloch can be mentioned. On Drink the Midnight Hymn Virgin Black bring an operatic version of a similar type of epic black metal. Also the overall sound is quite similar to Agalloch's albums. The integration of moody acoustic pieces and ambient experimentalism adds Ulver to this extensive list of references.

The songwriting is excellent throughout and with the extensive range of styles it makes for a varied and dynamic album. Fans of the bands listed shouldn't hesitate, and others shouldn't turn their backs too quickly neither. This music incorporates many forms of modern metal but it can hardly be tagged extreme. Instead it's heavy, dark, melodic and very moving.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Sombre Romantic" is the debut full-length studio album by Australian goth/doom/symphonic metal act Virgin Black. The album was originally self-released in February 2001 but saw a label release through The End Records in 2002. Virgin Black were formed in Adelaide, Australia in 1995 and they released the "Trance" EP in 1998 as their first release.

The music on "Sombre Romantic" is a rather eclectic goth/doom metal style including choirs, strings, piano, and semi- operatic singing. The atmosphere is drenched in melancholy, which can be heard in both the way the vocals are performed and in how the melodies sound. While it's truly an epic release with several majestic moments, it's also quite a dynamic release also featuring more stripped down and quiet melancholic sections. Some tracks also feature more extreme type vocals, and it's safe to say "Sombre Romantic" is a diverse release.

The diversity also makes it slightly inconsistent in style, which can be a strength or a weakness depending on the ears who hear, but personally I could have wished for a more stylistically "clean" release. Not that variation isn't a good thing, but more because Virgin Black are more convincing playing some styles than others. The album for example opens very strong with "Opera de Romanci: I. Stare" and "Opera de Romanci: II. Embrace", but can't quite follow up the powerful and epic opening with something equally breathtaking. All material on the 10 track, 44:25 minutes long album is still very well written though, and overall "Sombre Romantic" is quite the intriguing release.

The sound production is professional, clear, and well sounding, and upon conclusion "Sombre Romantic" doesn't sound like a typical debut album. Other than the flow of the album, which is disturbed slightly by the stylistic diversity of the music, it's a pretty impressive release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally written for Metal Music Archives)

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

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