Virgin Black

Sombre Romantic

Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic ©2001 The End Records
1. Opera De Romanci
2. Walk Without Limbs
3. Of Your Beauty
4. Drink The Midnight Hymn
5. Museum Of Iscariot
6. Lamenting Kiss
7. Weep For Me
8. I Sleep With The Emperor
9. A Poet’s Tears Of Porcelain

It can be argued that once a certain person has a word named after him or her, then he or she has reached the very culminating point of public recognition. After all, Federico Fellini and George Orwell, are evidence of this.

In order to pick a word that aptly describes the music of Virgin Black - as opposed to blatantly showing off over-indulgent adjectives - I am afraid that I would have to refer to the former individual. Australia’s Virgin Black is indeed a dark, Felliniesque romp through a turn- of-the-century, European circus tent or theatre, all while random colors and shades project out of cracks in the floorboards and the walls.

There is a certain sense of drama in the music of Virgin Black. This notion is further accentuated in both the pictures of the band and the remarkably well-written, darkly poetic lyrics that are surprisingly unpretentious in approach. I suppose what impresses me most about Virgin Black is their unique ability to weave melody, cacophony, subtle electronics, and classical elements and still manage to make every subtle nuance sound as if it were meant to be there. Yes, there are solos, but the solos are executed tastefully and are totally devoid of wankery.

The band is at its creative best when they decide to push the heaviness to the back and let acoustics, mood, and atmosphere move to their rightful place at the forefront. In fact, if I could fault Virgin Black for anything, it would have to be for frontman and pianist/keyboardist Rowan’s capable but untrained singing voice. While his voice is rich in tone and is able to occupy a wide amount of "space" within the song (a certain Nick Cave is brought to mind, at times), when he attempts to hit some of the higher notes, he tends to waver offkey, on occasion.* However, this is a minor quibble as he delivers his words with conviction, ebullience, and vigor.

While 2001 is undeniably - and thankfully - over, I can find no fault in providing a late addition to the "best of 2001" list of albums.

*Rowan has since told me via a recent telephone interview that he has since taken up Opera lessons with one of the foremost Opera instructors in the world.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 02/2002

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Elegant...and Dying

Virgin Black - Elegant...and Dying ©2003 The End Records
1. Adorned In Ashes
2. Velvet Tongue
3. And The Kiss Of God's Mouth Part 1
4. And The Kiss Of God's Mouth Part 2
5. Renaissance
6. The Everlasting
7. Cult Of Crucifixion
8. Beloved
9. Our Wings Are Burning

Ever since Celtic Frost began introducing elements of classical music on To Mega Therion and particularly Into the Pandemonium, metal has had a somewhat odd association with classical elements. Perhaps it was the method for musicians to disassociate themselves with the more meatheaded element of the audience, but the past fifteen years has found more than a few band dabble (or downright dive into) with classical music, from backing orchestration and operatic vocals to neo-classical music. Bands such as Therion, Dargaard, Dark Sanctuary, Die Verbannten Kinder Eva's, Hollenthon, Elend and Haggard have all given us their take on what metal and classical music can be as a hybrid. Some took on their role very seriously, such as Dark Sanctuary or, more terrifingly, Elend. Others tried to meld classic metal with choirs and orchestration, such as Therion. One of the latest bands to venture into this realm is Virgin Black, who are now on their second full length for The End Records. Unfortunately, Elegant...and Dying is nothing more than a tedious affair that suggests this marriage of musical styles is best headed for divorce court.

First and foremost, Elegant...and Dying drags. The arrangements of the songs do not stir the pot of soup briskly and punk mofos like myself are often left wondering if this band is more interested in hearing the notes they play or creating a moving piece of music that will sweep listeners right off their, um, ears. The vocals remind me of Candlemass, the occasional dip into heavy guitar work reminds me of Therion in their latter, boring phase, but never do Virgin Black stand out as Virgin Black. It has been noted quite a few times that vocalist Rowan London has taken some lessons from an actual opera singer in the time since the band's last album, Sombre Romantic. I would daresay there's an improvement, but the truth is that Sombre Romantic was so completely bland that I don't remember a single note from it. However, his voice does sound stong and confident, although sometimes too overblown in delivering his lines. The band tries to weave in orchestration and a moody, pensive atmosphere, but everything just stands completely still at all times. And you thought John Cage's "4'32" masterpiece went nowhere. At least he didn't waste any notes. At an hour and fifteen minutes, Elegant...and Dying overstays its welcome by at least an hour and thirteen minutes.

Hopelessly bland, Virgin Black is the type of band that a coffee shop spoken word poet type might trump as an artful victory for modern music. But that same poet probably writes the most trite, self-absorbed bland drivel in a very pitiful attempt to attract members of the opposite sex for extremely pedestrian carnal relations. I'd rather listen to Extreme's attempt at orchestration on III Sides to Every Story. At least their guitarist could shred.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2003

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