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VIRGIN BLACK

Experimental/Post Metal • Australia


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Virgin Black biography
Virgin Black (ver-jin blak) : An anomalous harmony between the juxtapositions of purity and humanity's darkness. (Taken From www.virginblack.com)

Music and spirit of the band:

Weird, quirky, left-field, out-there, avant-garde, experimental; all of these are some of the descriptions that Virgin Black has received alongside with doom-metal, gothic-metal. But those latter ones are misleading as they miss the true spirit of this band, which is beyond being simply a metal band. They have surpassed this and are creating an original sound which metal is one attribute in it, but not necessarily the main one. This is even more true when you look at their upcoming Requiem release in which one is a full blown orchestral piece without any modern instruments within it.

Somber, extremely dark to the point of being depressive, mostly slow and heavy (although there are faster and more energetic parts); those describe well the mood of their two full length releases - Sombre Romantic and Elegant. And Dying. The metal element is there for sure, but there are many acoustic passages in which the piano or cello give the general feel and the vocals complement with their anguish tone and the appropriate lyrics. There is a sort of majestic feel to those albums (primarily due to the choir - the band and guests chanting - and the cello, flute, piano and other keyboards. Aside of the usual rock instrumentation, there are the cello (played by Samantha Escarbe along with the lead guitar), piano and the bands choir vocals. Here is the place to mention Rowan London's vocals. While I personally like them and think that his tortured voice fits the music perfectly, it can deter people. Hard to describe, but they are deep and sound as if he is in pain (or as I mentioned, tortured).

Background and releases:

Virgin black is an Australian band from Adelaide. They released a self-titled demo in 1995 and had a big success even outside of their hometown and it lead to three of the tracks there appear there to be on the "Falling On Deaf Ears" compilation. The track Mother Of Cripples was even played in their 2003 shows. It is scheduled to be re-released and is reported to be of high recording quality.

1998 saw the release of their EP Trance. As is said in the band's website: ""Trance" represented a progression toward the experimental with classical and industrial angles becoming evident." It has been remastered and expenaded.

In 200...
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Sombre RomanticSombre Romantic
The End Records 2002
Audio CD$6.25
$3.97 (used)
Elegant...and DyingElegant...and Dying
The End Records 2003
Audio CD$8.99
$6.89 (used)
Requiem: Mezzo ForteRequiem: Mezzo Forte
The End Records 2007
Audio CD$6.76
$1.01 (used)
Requiem: FortissimoRequiem: Fortissimo
The End Records 2008
Audio CD$6.88
$5.98 (used)
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VIRGIN BLACK discography


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VIRGIN BLACK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 14 ratings
Sombre Romantic
2001
3.67 | 13 ratings
Elegant... and Dying
2003
3.84 | 20 ratings
Requiem - Mezzo Forte
2007
2.60 | 9 ratings
Requiem - Fortissimo
2008

VIRGIN BLACK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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3.00 | 1 ratings
Trance
1998

VIRGIN BLACK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Requiem - Mezzo Forte by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.84 | 20 ratings

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Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Virgin Black's sound on this first entry in their Requiem trilogy is mostly rooted in gothic metal - song titles like Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping) are the big clue there - with elements of doom metal and symphonic metal skillfully woven into their sound. The end result is somewhat more progressively flavoured than gothic metal typically gets, and the band show excellent taste in how they integrate the orchestra and choir they are backed by here into their sound. "Symphonic doomy gothic metal" is a very specific niche to try and capture, but Virgin Black do an excellent job of it.

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 Elegant... and Dying by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.67 | 13 ratings

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Elegant... and Dying
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 4.5 stars. It was Avestin's personal review of this album about a year and a half ago that moved me to purchase this record. Assaf has recommended so many bands and albums to me over the years that i've lost track. Yes this is dark and melancholic but it has lots of life to it as well with those distorted guitars and heavy outbreaks all of which reminded me of IN THE WOODS... more than any other band. I really do enjoy this style of music once in a while, I think it's that emotion that cries out of the darkness that moves me. I think anyone who's been on this planet as long as I have knows pain, and I know it very personally.

"Adorned In Ashes" is dark with these choir-like sounds and a beat. Cello and atmosphere follow.The vocals and style here remind me of DEAD CAN DANCE but I can honestly say that this was the only time I thought of them. Piano and a calm late. "Velvet Tongue" has these almost spoken words as a heavy beat joins in. More passionate vocals before 2 1/2 minutes with mournful guitar riffs.The tempo then picks up and he's almost screaming the words at one point. It settles again as contrasts continue. "And The Kiss Of God's Mouth Part 1" is slow moving with keys then some emotional guitar joins in. Whispered words late as it blends into "And The Kiss Of God's Mouth Part 2". It kicks in fairly heavily before calming right down with piano and reserved vocals.The guitar replaces the vocals as it turns more powerful. It kicks in even more before 3 minutes and later at 4 minutes. Love this !

"Renaissance" sounds amazing ! Heavy chanting and riffs to start. It calms down with fragile vocals before 2 minutes.The chanting is back after 4 1/2 minutes and it gets heavier when they stop. "The Everlasting" is the over 17 minute epic. Piano as vocal expressions join in. Atmosphere rules 1 1/2 minutes in as vocal sounds come and go. It's fuller with vocals 4 minutes in. It calm down with piano only before 7 minutes then a beat joins in. It kicks back in before 10 1/2 minutes. Nice.Vocals are back 13 1/2 minutes and he's screaming 15 minutes in, then this beautiful calm takes over and waves of sound ends it. "Cult Of Crucifixion" opens with percussion and angelic sounds. Piano joins in. Guitar and a heavy sound kicks in at 1 1/2 mintes. Vocals before 3 minutes as it settles. It kicks back in a minute later and the vocals are emotional before we get another calm. It's heavy again before 6 minutes then it picks up. "Beloved" is mellow then it kicks in.The vocals cry out. Mournful guitar 5 1/2 minutes in and it's building a minute later. Nice. Growly vocals late are AGALLOCH-like. "Our Wings Are Burning" opens with piano and percussion standing out. Reserved vocals join in. Strummed guitar follows then we get heavy guitars before 3 1/2 minutes. Passionate vocals a minute later. My God ! It settles back again and the guitar solos tastefully.

This might become a five star album for me. It's long at 74 minutes so there's lots to digest but man I love this album.

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 Elegant... and Dying by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.67 | 13 ratings

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Elegant... and Dying
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Virgin Black's second album is a 75 minute opus that should suppress any remaining doubts that they mean business. Big epic melodramatic business.

The result is still very satisfying but it's become a less versatile album then the debut. It is quieter and more coherent but only seems to explore its dramatic Goth potential. The metal and progressive sides of the music have become less prominent. As it turned out, alternating metal-styled albums with more laid-back material turned out to be something of a career choice for Virgin Black, quite similar to the US Goth metallists of Christian Death, who must have been an obvious point of inspiration.

There are great pieces of music where looming doom-riffs and spacey blues guitar leads provide memorable moments as on The Kiss of God's Mouth and Cult of Crucifixion. But with only one mood to sustain for 75 minutes, the album is too long. The operatic 20 minute musical drama of Everlasting goes entirely over all bombastic peaks reached by other Goth bands before them. Quite an achievement that is. I'm not too impressed by the music but still it's more attractive then Hammill's House of Usher for example. At least here it sounds really spooky and chilling.

Virgin Black is a great band with more talent then 20 random Goth bands put together. Their inclusion of operatic metal and ambitious drama might sure make them an interesting listen if you're attracted to the idea of progressive Goth rock. To be checked by lovers of Therion, My Dying Bride Type O Negative and Hammill's House of Usher. (That might be an eclectic bunch of people actually) 3.5 stars.

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 Sombre Romantic by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.98 | 14 ratings

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Sombre Romantic
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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.

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 Requiem - Fortissimo by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2008
2.60 | 9 ratings

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Requiem - Fortissimo
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Requiem Fortissimo' - Virgin Black (3/10)

While it might not be the most inspiring word-of-mouth introduction for a band to hear your friend tell you to give 'one of the worst albums he has ever listened to' a try, but as always, music is a very subjective experience and I like to treat it as such. While there are aspects of music that appeal to a majority of people, there will always be pieces of music that some may hate, and others love depending on their outlook and ear.

'Requiem Fortissimo' may well be one of those albums that could be perceived as a total masterpiece by one with an ear attuned enough to doom metal to appreciate it. While I have dabbled in the realm of doom before (from the likes of early Anathema and Katatonia to Shades Of Despair and Draconian) I've been able to see real beauty in some of the music the genre spits out, but above anything, its a real hit-or-miss deal. If something doesn't work, it really won't work. 'Requiem' definately had alot of thought put into it, but in the end; a few shortcomings in the work truly mar what might have been a landmark doom record.

When I speak of the 'thought' and effort put into the making of it, its important to know that the band went as far as to enlist the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (generally perceived to be Austrailia's flagship philharmonic) and choral sections to add to the sound. While this does certainly make 'Requiem' a much more worthy venture than other albums I've listened to, the rest of the mix hurts the orchestration alot. The guitar riffs are generally unimaginative save for a few precious arrangements, and the growl vocals are truly atrocious. While there are a few soprano operatic sections, and parts where the orchestra has room to breathe, these sections frankly aren't worth going through all of the monotonous guitar drone and grunting to get to them.

While it might be a suitable backdrop for a wintery, frostbitten evening, this depressing and dissapointing opus from Virgin Black will not appeal to many outside of the doom metal circle. I for one, can find stuff to appreciate here, and it's certainly not the worst album I've ever heard, but I would much rather delve into a more fulfilling record then this; as there are plenty out there that trump over this one.

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 Elegant... and Dying by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.67 | 13 ratings

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Elegant... and Dying
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars 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.

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 Requiem - Fortissimo by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2008
2.60 | 9 ratings

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Requiem - Fortissimo
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Reviewed for Sonic Frontiers at http://www.sonicfrontiers.net/php/review-150.html and kindly approved for re-posting in PA

Virgin Black is still Black but no longer Virgin.

A promising first few seconds in this album made my heart rush. It starts with a bang, but then it recedes to Doom/Death metal realms. Early My Dying Bride comes to mind as a reference point (and all other imitators and practitioners of this style). But alas, Virgin Black have shed away here all that makes them special and have released a bland doom/death metal album at times bordering on the Funeral Doom style. A band I admire and love every release of theirs have released an album I don't like and which is a disappointment to me. The album has a few of the orchestra,operatic vocals and choir background vocals left but nothing of the special traits that made Virgin Black noticeable and distinguishable from other bands. Had I not known this is a Virgin Black album, I could be fooled to believe it is by some other Doom metal band. I understand that this was supposed to be their heaviest album of the trilogy but not only this is not what I was expecting (so lets leave my disappointment aside), this goes quite a long way from the Virgin Black style and sound. There are the familiar riffs and recognizable patterns (like in the beginning of In Winter's Ash) but other than that, I can't find much of the band I love and look up to.

It's not all bad or bland, but it is mostly not thrilling or has the quality I find in previous VB albums. One track that is quite good and does give me hope they have not abandoned their roots is Silent which does manage to combine their "usual" characteristics with the more brutal and heavy aspect of this album (with a glance at a musical line from the Mezzo Forte album). God In Dust is another decent track However with the other five tracks, there is the issue of not giving each track enough identity and differentiating them from the others, aside from the absence of the VB style. But all in all, there is too much of a "samey" feel in this album as I feel as if the music is repeated and rehashed.

Bottom line - I'm disappointed with this release and can't recommend to other Virgin Black fans like me. I can recommend it to folks into Doom/Death/Funeral Doom Metal and even then, it's not that good or impressive an album, but not a bad one in itself. Most of what makes Virgin Black unique is absent here. The bleakness is still here, but the magic is gone. I hope that the third and last installment in this Requiem trilogy will not disappoint me like this. The 3 stars is more to say that it's an ok release in itself, but as far as Virgin Black standards, this is a step down.

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 Requiem - Mezzo Forte by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.84 | 20 ratings

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Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by pianomandust

5 stars This is a beautiful album. I have never enjoyed (or even wanted to enjoy, for that matter) gothic music. It seemed too slow, too depressing, and just too boring to keep my interest. That is, until I found this little cd. At first listen, it can be described as a slow- paced, kind of depressing venture with a mix of death metal and classical (particularly Romantic-era) music. This cd sat in my iTunes playlist for quite sometime before I gave it another try. This time, something clicked. The soundscapes finally hit, and I was hooked. This is just beautiful music.

What we have is a perfect mix of past and present with a depressing yet still hopeful message. This is a Christian band (if you don't believe me, check out the lyrics). It seemed a little hypocritical to have a Christian band singing about many bleak and depressing things, but there is always hope left in the songs. It is more introspective that I had initially perceived.

The music follows almost an arch form, with similar first and last songs. Most movements of a Mass are represented here, including the gorgeous but lamentful Lacrymosa. The music is not very technical; the focus is more on beauty. The singing is almost all operatic, except for hints of death metal vocals scattered throughout. There is nothing overly spectacular about it, but it is strong nonetheless.

To dissect this album would be a disservice. As mentioned, there is nothing overly spectacular by itself, but put together as a whole, there is not a note out of place. Every song builds perfectly to a strong climax and my favorite for this is the second track, In Death. This is just the perfect musical journey to go on that may have its depressing moments, but ends hopefully. I don't know about anyone else, but this is an absolutely essential album in my music collection. It really takes me to another world., and that is the best compliment I can give a band.

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 Requiem - Mezzo Forte by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.84 | 20 ratings

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Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Originally written for and posted at the Sonic Frontiers website at http://www.sonicfrontiers.net/php/review-96.html and kindly approved for re-posting in PA

Charting more bleak soundscapes.

(3.5 stars)

The music territory that Virgin Black inhabit in 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.

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 Sombre Romantic by VIRGIN BLACK album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.98 | 14 ratings

BUY
Sombre Romantic
Virgin Black Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Tristan Mulders
Prog Reviewer

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.

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