Virgin Black - Somber Romantic

Year of Release: 2002
Label: The End Records
Catalog Number: TE023
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:43:00

A lonely priest walks through the dank and musty halls of the retired abbey, listening to his heart beat with heavy toil of doubt as moonshine stretches across the miniature slits built into the walls. A drab robe covers his tonsured head, and his feet move silently in their naked frailty while his brothers sleep. The heavy pounding alarms him needlessly, for he knows that no man can know the troubles that slowly fracture his dying faith, no man, but God knows. God? Has he forsaken us? Is he truly there above us? Have I lost my faith? If so, dear God forgive me.

Enveloped by a passionate darkness that echoes as if in the deep confines of a medieval Gothic church, and alternating with Gregorian chants of spiritual reach and threatening atmosphere, Virgin Black offers a haunting album of shadows and spiritual questioning that resounds with conviction, originality, and unnerving power. The voice of Rowan London emerges with a quasi-operatic quality that befits its aural surroundings in gloomy wedlock, and the resulting effect moves the music of Sombre Romantic to vast vaults of spiritual reckoning at times, and to confined claustrophobic crevices of doubt and cruelty at others. Dynamics are conjured to offer the listener bursts of choral tension after shady whispers slither forth, moments of heartrending emotion that move one nearly to tears, and accentuating elements such as stark distortion, industrial overtones, and sudden, although fortunately rare, attacks of typical black metal cacophony.

The ensuing impact of such control and melodramatic ambition is a record that in its scope and reach truly corresponds to the description of beauty in darkness; a term that unfortunately has been continually abused by those whose amok nihilism will edge them to qualify anything and anyone of dark musical intentions as genius. Sombre Romantic is not merely dark; it is an offering of somber quality that surpasses that of many of its contemporaries who are simply content with developing levels of stupidity to incredible levels. The sparse and simple solos of Samantha Escarbe, for instance, are tainted with an honestly plaintive emotion that grace the work of her companions and grant it an added touch of melancholy that others can only dream of achieving with direct honesty.

And although at times the general concept is overdrawn or obscured by moments that are simply too unrestrained or predictable, as in the black metal annoyance of "Drink The Midnight Hymn," the compositions of Virgin Black constitute a dark web of passion that truly reaches for the listener in enticing pulses of inspired dusk. A careful witness will immediately recognize the grandiose ambition and force of the gorgeously ominous "Opera De Romanci," and the sheer intensity that more refined black metal touches confer to "I Sleep With The Emperor," but the most absorbing work of Sombre Romantic is, almost without a doubt, "Museum Of Iscariot." It is then that the mournful character of this band comes to life in unadulterated essence and unveils an innocent acoustic questioning of true beauty and trembling faith, showing the very soul of Virgin Black and the soft promises it holds. The paths of the spirit are many, and the vessels by which they are to be traveled even more so. Grand string arrangements pulsating with Gregorian chants, acoustic dirges of fragile beauty, and even stark industrial samples all find a home in the heart of this way and the treacherous road that lies ahead. Melancholic beauty emerges from the ashes, and one is finally led to knowledge that not all is lost. And in the face of such trials, there is no choice but to follow the path of Sombre Romantic and become one with the darkness and the rebirth that it will signify.

Similar artists: Arcturus, Devil Doll, Therion, Candlemass, Moonspell

Opera De Romanci: I. Stare (3:57) / II. Embrace (3:52) / Walk Without Limbs (4:27) / Of Your Beauty (4:00) / Drink The Midnight Hymn (5:14) / Museum Of Iscariot: I. Stagnation - II. Death - III. Procession (7:42) / Lamenting Kiss (5:25) / Weep For Me (1:52) / I Sleep With The Emperor (2:41) / A Poet's Tears Of Porcelain (5:20)

Rowan London - vocals, keyboards
Samantha Escarbe - lead guitar
Craig Edis - guitar, vocals
Ian Miller - bass, vocals
Dino Cielo - drums

Guest musicians:

Chris Handley - cello

Somber Romance (2002)
Elegant And Dying (2003)
Requiem: Mezzo Forte (2007)
Requiem: Fortissimo (2008)

Genre: Dark-Doom Metal


Added: May 18th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 1178
Language: english


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