12/12/2008 - Review by: Raising Iron
Virgin Black's beautifully brutal Requiem: Fortissimo has dropped to earth like a bank safe filled with anvils off Ayers Rock (they are from Australia after all!). This is actually the second album to be released as part of a trilogy entitled Requiem, but it's the third in the trilogy proper! Confused? Ok, here's the scoop, Part one, entitled Requiem: Pianissimo has been recorded but has yet to be released. Its focus, compositionally speaking, is orchestration with drums and guitars completely forgone. Part two, entitled Requiem: Mezzo Forte was released in 2007 and is in the traditional Virgin Black sound. For those not familiar, think early My Dying Bride ala The Angel and the Dark River but maybe with a bit more gothic/atmospheric overtones. Finally, at hand we have part three, Requiem: Fortissimo, released early in 2008, and what a weighty album it is.
Winter or Evoken immediately jump to mind when describing this slab of funeral doom. But whilst those bands strictly stay at the death end of the grave, Virgin Black still mixes in atmospheric choruses and orchestrations. The point of this effort, according to the band, was to end the trilogy heavy as hell and man have they succeeded. Founder/keyboardist Rowan London's guttural death vocals reach deep under the trampled earth and bestialize the listener while gorgeous and depressing female vocals move in and out of the background. I assume this is guitarist/cellist Samantha Escarbe doing the female vox but nothing in the booklet hints as to who is actually singing. A number of bands have attempted this style and succeeded to various degrees, but nothing I've heard in recent memory mixes these variant styles into exceptional dynamics to create such a seamless piece of misery as this.
Another bit of grace to be found here is the length of the album. Such excursions can carry on well past the hour mark and leave the listener bewildered in bleakness, but here things are mercifully cut short at the 44 minute mark. Now we're just waiting for the first part of this trilogy to be released to complete the entire triptych, then may we all find a dark corner to brood in, no wrist cutting please!
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