Virgin Black - Requiem - Mezzo Forte
The End Records
Gothic Metal
7 songs (52'17")
Release year: 2007
The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

Australian gothic metallers Virgin Black continue to be possessed by visions of grandeur. The bug of sumptuous songwriting has originally hit the Rowan London/Samantha Escarbe creative team with Elegant … and Dying, and, instead of letting go, the contagion festered and spread. 2007 is about to unleash Requiem trilogy from Virgin Black.

Mezzo Forte is the middle installment, and one would question why the main course is served before appetizers, but I conjecture that Mezzo Forte, based on description of the other two parts, is the closest, at least theoretically, as to what Virgin Black is known to be musically - the combination of operatic and choral singing, orchestral instrumentation and arrangements as well as more traditional gothic metal elements. Thus, even though chronological sequence is defied, this album is a possible bridge to either all 19th century classical Pianissimo, or “the heaviest effort yet” Fortissimo. We’ll see …

The challenge with Mezzo Forte, or perhaps it was artists’ intent, is to separate it into the sum of individual tracks. Mezzo Forte certainly comes across as one whole piece of music, connected throughout by a melodic “theme”, and Rest Eternal coming all the way back to a tragic end anticipated at the beginning of Requiem, Kyrie. Most of the album proceeds at a mid- to slow pace, intermittent moments of “traditional metal” heavily framed by orchestral symphonics. The lead in the orchestra is given to Samantha’s cello, projecting the feeling of prideful grief, a prim and proper elderly dame at the old lover’s funeral. The quiet, transitional moments are rather numerous on the album, but there are lots for a gothic metal fan to grab onto. In Death is practically an explosion by Virgin Black standards, the chords laying it bottom heavy and drumming sounding off as an execution squad about to carry out its duties. The creepy little keys of Midnight’s Hymn and very low tone strings set off a feeling of dreadful anticipation, resulting in the end crescendo. Distorted doomdeath guitar trudges in grief on … And I Am Suffering, with the lead firmly taking the role of the song’s main axis. Finally, the opening riff on Lacrimosa (I Am Blind with Weeping) is the best one the band came up with since Sombre Romantic, its sheer weight and dejectedness stunning. To all of this stateliness and majesty, Rowan and Samantha donate their voices, almost operatic in quality, but never straining beyond the god-given range. Rowan, having improved in clarity of his delivery, sounds off as a crying emotional preacher appealing to the crowd of his loyal disciples (as in the end of Midnight’s Hymn, which has its original roots on Sombre Romantic).

My classical music upbringing and my general love for pensive music ought to be screaming in my ear to embrace Mezzo Forte as the weighty masterpiece it is striving to be. I certainly enjoy the album, yet the same fundamental ideas that went into the album’s creation seem to be the ones I question the most. Many composers attempted a Requiem, an exercise in Church Mass music, yet Mozart remains unsurpassed. It does take an absolute genius to captivate the listener throughout a lengthy piece of funereal music, the aforementioned “empty spaces” and transitions between melodies being the most difficult to accomplish. Virgin Black does a valiant effort, improving significantly from Elegant … and Dying which had huge compositional gaps, but the attention wanes periodically. Making the album revolve around the “theme” can also be judged with a double standard. Where one would see innovation, trying to connect the individual tracks, the other could spot the lack of melodic ideas.

Requiem - Mezzo Forte is a definite statement of an album, but I still long for the days of Sombre Romantic, where Virgin Black was a fresh and captivating gothic metal band, not the collective not willing to settle for anything less than massive. Delineating the tracks and not challenging Mozart on every turn should not be considered a sign of weakness.

Killing Songs :
Requiem, Kyrie; Domine; Lacrimosa (I Am Blind with Weeping)
Alex quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Virgin Black that we have reviewed:
Virgin Black - Requiem - Fortissimo reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Virgin Black - Elegant ... And Dying reviewed by Alex and quoted 75 / 100
Virgin Black - Sombre Romantic reviewed by Alex and quoted 72 / 100
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