VIRGIN BLACK - "Requiem - mezzo forte" (2007)

Dark Metal Opera

Requiem - mezzo forte / Cover

My worst fears about the next output from that band of the century, Virgin Black, have not in the least come true… for the truth is now on my table, and it is a lot "worse" than I had ever dared to imagine…

"Metal" and classical opera have at last completely amalgamated and are defined once and for all for the freakin' rest of days. The two preceding albums, "Sombre Romantic" (2000) and "Elegant… and dying" (2003), have paved the way, and they already overshot the mark in their own ways. Both were supreme milestones of music history and not to be compared to anything or anyone. Abysmal depths were revealed, blacker and deeper than ever, but still the protective hand of hope spread over the calamity. However, that which is now beginning to be revealed, basically remains unfathomable…

For starters, I really don't want to know why they have composed a requiem, as a work with such a title usually does not augur well at all – from composers preparing for their own deaths, to the glorification of certain characters or final preparations for the impending Day of Judgment… well,… yes… no… maybe? Is this a leave-taking? A horrible scenario is evoked. Could there be a world without Virgin Black?
Back down to earth! As I wrote my review of "Elegant… and dying", the sky was in fact blue, "the sun was beaming and the birds singing". The change of weather that I wrote about was only metaphorical…

With "Requiem – mezzo forte", things are quite different – what follows is a true story! Today, 21 March 2007, is the first day of spring. The promo arrived sooner than I had expected, and I put it on as if in "Trance". With the first notes of the opening piece, the weather started acting strangely. As if pre-arranged, the sunlight was suddenly blocked out by mountainous clouds, darkening the sky and creating a menacing twilight that sent one chill after another down my (crooked) spine. And as if this hadn't been enough, a wild snowstorm began without warning! How fitting! Simply incredible… That was the freakiest first day of spring within living memory…

The Australian requiem strikes me with an intensity that otherwise I only know from "the one"…! However, affinities to Richard Wagner are basically nonexistent apart from the atmospheric density of compositions. The common requiem attains new dimensions of meaning in this context. The liturgical mass for the dead experiences a multiplication of its
original possibilities in the coexistence with all sorts of electronics. Mountains of mournful noblesse rise from deepest darkness - a mighty soundtrack of deepest spirituality that the world has not yet seen. A gigantic weeping willow grows towards heaven…
Part two of the trilogy "Requiem" is being released first. The first part, "Requiem – pianissimo" is a purely classical output and probably a risk of sorts, which is probably why it will be released later. Too bad, for "mezzo forte" also has its risks and side effects. Such heaviness is definitely not for everyone. In addition, the "classical" elements feature in a rather high proportion, and are not really to be compared with the orchestral arrangements on "Sombre Romantic" and "Elegant… and dying". Average metal Joes and lowbrow headbangers are known to have had problems with the preceding albums, and access to this monumental work of art will probably forever elude them.

Whoever, in retrospect, manages to define the congenial predecessors as steps into higher realms, will simultaneously experience a musical twilight of the gods, a revelation and a grand opera with "Requiem – mezzo forte". Dealing with individual tracks makes absolutely no sense to me – that I will leave to the copycat colleagues on the one hand, and on the other, to the true experts who will certainly celebrate orgies of interpretation and/or define themselves into the madhouse with this album.

The cooperation of the band with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Bruce Stewart), the Adelaide Stamford Academy Choir and the talented soprano Susan Johnson is simply fabulous! The two people in charge, Samantha Escarbe and Rowan London, have finally put into action ideas that have existed for a longer time (as "Midnight's Hymn" clearly shows), and in doing so have excelled themselves by far. The groundbreaking sound artists have written and composed until their fingers bled, in order to transport this unearthly project in a superhuman tour-de-force from the realm of creativity to the harsh reality of this oh so beautiful blue planet. From darkest dreams, a sublime work of audible art, a theatrical kaleidoscope of elegy was born. The metamorphosis of a painful passion touches our very hearts and leads us onto the ancient paths that we have not tread in ages, and had been wanting to forget forever.

"Requiem – mezzo forte" was written for eternity. The tremendous dramaturgy of suffering is final! No one can interpret the tragedy of our existence, all the pain, the anguish and the endless torment more precisely than this God-gifted band. At any rate, not in this world…

And yet the whole of this dark monument will not be revealed until all parts of the heart-shaking trilogy are released. How hard THAT will be to cope with, only time will tell…

"Mezzo forte" means "with medium force". Oh my God… and by all other gods available… how then will Part Three make its appearance?! I sense something unsettling, terrifying, relentless coming… for not only does "Requiem – mezzo forte" conclude rather abruptly, which may be of some import, but "fortissimo" means "very loud" or "with full force"! 

It may well be that with the first part, and especially with the final one, I will start lacking adjectives…

…but there will never be an end to my enthusiasm and admiration for, my fascination with, and my endless gratitude to Virgin Black.
In conclusion, a musical wonder of the world. Transfigured sensuality. A dark dramatic overkill.


12++/12 points

Thomas Lawall - March 2007
(translation: Patrick Maiwald -




Track list:

01. Requiem, Kyrie
02. In death
03. Midnight's hymn
04. ... and I am suffering
05. Domine
06. Lacrimosa (I am blind with weeping)
07. Rest eternal


Susan Johnson: Soprano
Rowan London: Tenor

Samantha Escarbe: Guitars
Grayh: Bass
Dino Cielo: Drums
Rowan London: Piano

Present Lineup:

Rowan London: Vocals, piano, songwriter
Samantha Escarbe: Guitar, songwriter
Grayh: Bass, vocals
Luke Faz: Drums



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