Ever since their inception in 1995, Australian VIRGIN BLACK have been almost everything under the sun but predictable. They will not let anyone pin them down to one particular style, so that kind of is their style, not to have one. Last year they delivered one of the best Metal albums Australia has ever seen in “Requiem – Mezzo Forte”, an epic masterpiece of truly symphonic (Doom) Metal, now they are stepping up the heaviness meter considerably with “Requiem – Fortissimo”.
As mentioned in my previous review, VIRGIN BLACK are re-creating the Requiem Mass, just that they shake things up a little in terms of order, as this second part is technically supposed to be the third, while the still missing “Pianissimo” is due to be out some time next year or so, but that should not detract us from the album at hand. Almost everything that could make a song heavier, has intensified, the thundering guitar work, the deep growls, the atmosphere, just listen to the opening riffing of “The Fragile Breath” for proof, this is almost Thrash! Any clear male vocals have disappeared; instead the growls reign supreme, adding to the album’s depressing, hopeless atmosphere, while the choir is only there to accentuate and add its eerie touch here and there for best effect.
While “In Winter’s Ash” submerges into full Doom/Death territory, enticing with some irresistible melodies woven throughout the tapestry that sucks your will to live right out of you, which will become near impenetrable on the following steam roller “Silent”. Now if some of the riffs might sound familiar, you are right, there are some similarities between “Mezzo Forte” and “Fortissimo”, but do not forget, that both of them are part of basically one big, big album, so it is not coincidence, but part of the overall experience. It is amazing that VIRGIN BLACK continue to be musical chameleons, while still maintaining this certain touch that marks them as themselves, unmistakably, where “Mezzo Forte” was a mix between grandeur and sorrow, “Fortissimo” is utter despair and bleakness and it is no coincidence either how the album is structured.
This CD has one heart-piece and everything builds up to the culmination of darkness in the aptly titled almost 12-minute long monolith that is “Darkness”, building up an almost palpable, oppressing, suffocating veil of darkness closing in more and more, you really have to hear this to be able to comprehend, but be warned, if you are depressive, this track might very well push you over the edge... This is not for the faint of heart.
“Requiem-Mezzo Forte” was an incredible album, “Requiem-Fortissimo” is as well, just on a completely different level and I am sure that “Requiem-Pianissimo”, completely bereft of guitars and instead bringing in a full orchestra, will be as well, just why did they not release them in order? Anyways, that is a minor complaint, this is another album of extreme quality coming out of Australia!
(Online May 29, 2008)