“Requiem: Mezzo Forte” by Virgin Black

Artist: Virgin Black
Title: “Requiem – Mezzo Forte”
Label: The End Records
Release Date: 4/3/2007
Genre: Gothic Doom/Symphonic Doom
Rating: 3.5/5

As part of their three-volume “Requiem” set the band Virgin Black makes you feel as though you should be sitting in an elaborate Opera house as you absorb the second part of the trilogy, a brooding piece of music entitled “Mezzo Forte”. The bands skill at blending Classical and Operatic style into the often somber tones of Doom and Gothic Metal style is commendable but it will not be something that you can “get” at merely the first listen unless you are a diehard fan of this type of style. The intense drama and passion that comes at you on track after track must be absorbed and thought upon so that perhaps after your third listen you will be better able to appreciate what exactly they are doing. The band was founded by Rowan London and Samantha Escarbe back in 1993 in Adelaide, Australia. London handles keyboards and the male vocals while Escarbe is responsible for guitar. Both are core contributors in terms of the song-writing and composition on their albums. For “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” the group had the assistance of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Soprano Susan Johnson. On bass is Grayh and on drums is Dino Cielo. The resulting music is both thunderous and at the same time lush based on the orchestration and melodies. At times I felt as though I was observing from an ornate balcony as I wondered how so much diversity was fit into the time we being were presented. As the second of three parts this seems to be a mix of what the group has done throughout their career.

The first chapter entitled “Pianissimo” is largely piano-based while the third and final installment “Fortissimo” is said to be very Death and Doom Metal in content. The song “Dominie” gives us a taste of the heavier side and includes a Death vocal piece that works very well. It’s interesting to hear that type of style immediately followed by a soaring operatic male vocal. At first listen it is hard to determine who this group can be compared to and I am hard pressed to form any conclusions even after a number of tries. Suffice it to say if you are a fan of the Classical side of Metal and you lean deep into Symphonic and Operatic as well, then this is perfect for you. It is not for everyone of course yet for those who enjoy those genres there is a good chance that this release will find regular rotation on their CD changers. While I am unsure of the rationale in releasing the second chapter before the others I do admit that it does keep you interested and curious about the band. Of the seven epic tracks my favorites remained “Domine”, “And I Am Suffering” and “Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping); “Suffering” really finds Johnson at her best. My hope is that she works with this band once again, as she seems the perfect fit for what they are out to accomplish. My hope is that a band like this is able to influence more students of these particular styles to investigate Metal as a creative forum for their talents.

This is classical, dark and often imposing yet beautiful at the very same time. It is the kind of music that really shows you just how fresh the Metal genre remains as new worlds of musical color are presented on an ever-growing canvas on a regular basis. Leave it to The End Records to be the ones who introduced the larger populace of music fans to the band. I am now very curious to hear the other two segments and imagine listening to them all in sequence will be extraordinary.

Track Listing:
1. Requiem: Kyrie
2. In Death
3. Midnight’s Hymn
4. And I Am Suffering
5. Domine
6. Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping)
7. Rest Eternal

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