Virgin Black
Requiem –Fortissimo

Here is the winner for best release thus far in 2008. Virgin Black has created one hell of a masterpiece in Requiem-Fortissimo and probably the best album to come out of Australia in years.

Fortissimo means loud or played very loudly. Considering this is the second chapter in a trilogy by the band (Pianissimo being released later this year) the album title is befitting. Obviously, Virgin Black has an orchestrated sound that is not only operatic and romantic, but also very oppressive and grim on this particular venture. I personally have never listened to Virgin Black but from what I gather, this style of music is a first for the band. You’d never know.

Dissonant death/doom is what is served up on this record with a splash of female operatic vocals. The music is slow with symbol, bass drum, and snare hits being spaced out nicely. This band knows how serious each chord must sound in music this slow paced. The guitar tone is very bleak and crushing. Single note harmonies are used beautifully and some of the resolutions the musicians make between rhythm and lead guitars are just ecstasy. I found myself laughing in pure amazement and rewinding numerous times to feel these changes over and over again. Completely masterfully crafted music.

Vocally there is a lot happening. Mastermind Rowan London leaves his normal clean vocals behind and gives and outstanding low guttural that sounds stressed and uneasy yet not forced. He can also shriek and rasp which makes this CD sound grim. Normally that’s an odd choice of words to describe a form of doom but there is an evil black feel to this entire disc. Accompanying the death growls, female opera style vocals ala Draconian appear only to add atmosphere. This is a perfect way to incorporate opera style vocals because they do not seem overbearing or overdone, just placed nicely. Chanting almost hidden male and female vocals happen on numerous occasions as well and cello sounds making this fucker crawl with a creepy vibe.

All songs are orchestrated perfectly but the real winner here is track six “Darkness”; I really can’t explain in words how this ten-minute opus makes me feel. Every single chord raises hairs and goosebumps. Somewhere in the middle of the track these epic single notes are played over crushing chords and the resolution I was talking about earlier is fucking unbelievable. I almost came to tears and laughed at the same time. I wanted to call someone and tell them how overwhelmed this shit made me feel. That’s fucking great doom my metal friends and exactly why Fortissimo deserves your full attention from beginning to end. Believe me the end is the best part.

I haven’t heard any of Virgin Black’s other releases but I can tell you this fucker is unreal, truly landmark and original. I have spent days on this puppy and it unfolds brilliantly every time. Please, if you’re a doom fan check into this piece of art from a seriously underrated band.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shane Wolfensberger
January 17th, 2008

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