Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic
The End Records
Dark Atmospheric Experimental Metal
10 songs (44'42")
Release year: 2002
The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

Dark, romantic, symphonic … This is how Virgin Black’s Sombre Romantic was billed, and based on this simple description I really wanted to like it. In the end, these Australians left me feeling almost mad. So much talent, so much potential, yet not everything is put together well, and as a result the record sounds disjointed and not very cohesive. Something that had a chance to be “Surprise of the Year” will be “Oh So Close, but Definitely No Cigar”.

The two part opener Opera De Romanci offers an example of dark ambient style with little in the way of percussion. Something akin to what the US band Autumn Tears are doing. Dark and romantic, yes. Lots of church choir singing (maybe even a tad too much) supported by a very depressing piano and cello melody. Not what I expected, but an interesting and respectable piece of work. As soon as I settle in, wham, industrialized Walk Without Limbs comes in! A little more aggression in the vocal department and we would be talking about … And Oceans. Of Your Beauty finally has that symphonic feel I have been looking for, builds up nicely and suggests a hint of guitar. Mind you, Virgin Black is not about the guitar or interesting drum patterns. It is about atmosphere, stylishness and experimentation. OK, so after Of Your Beauty I decided that these guys can be Therion’s understudies. And as soon as I do that … they surprise again. With nothing less than an Emperor/Amor Fati styled piece Drink the Midnight Hymn. With aggressive black metal vocals! I am starting to feel that these guys simply want to make a statement: “There is no Metal style we can’t do, and there is no Metal style we will leave untouched.” The rest of the album offers a few more tracks that fit together like a square peg and a round hole, but Museum of Iscariot and, especially, A Poet’s Tears of Porcelain are true masterpieces. Why would the band “hide” them in the back of the album? A Poet’s Tears of Porcelain is without a doubt the best track on the album. The level of symphonic melancholy achieved on this song is stunning, Rowan London’s baritone conveys sadness and despair and all instruments have a role. Overall, the sound is clean, but, as I said before, you would have to search for a guitar in the mix. The cover art is stylish and very fitting.

In no way do I consider myself a creative genius, but I’ve got a piece of advice for Virgin Black. Guys, you are on the right track almost no matter which path you choose. There just ought to be ONE! The road can’t be all made up of crossroads with you not knowing what is it you want to choose. I am sure, once all influences from all the various genres will be processed, Virgin Black will come out with a record that will shake the masses. Or … they may leave the realm of Metal altogether, if they think it is too restrictive and boring for them.

Killing Songs :
Of Your Beauty, Museum of Iscariot, but most of all A Poet's Tears of Porcelain
Alex quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Virgin Black that we have reviewed:
Virgin Black - Requiem - Fortissimo reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Virgin Black - Requiem - Mezzo Forte reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
Virgin Black - Elegant ... And Dying reviewed by Alex and quoted 75 / 100
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