Requiem - Fortissimo by Virgin Black
Release date : February 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Their fourth full length, Adelaide, Australia's Virgin Black meticulously plot a triumphant return to the world of extreme in writing the third (and second to be issued) installment of the Requiem trilogy, namely Fortissimo. The series' inaugural installment, the forthcoming Pianissimo, boasts a classical veneer which rigidly binds audacious choral and orchestral arrangements. April 2007's Mezzo Forte, the series' sophomore effort, was a familiar hybrid of beauty and extremeties. Hearking back towards 2001's Sombre Romantic, it nonetheless forsook previously trodden ground. The Requiem series' conclusive dictum, Fortissimo is a deferential composite of its two predecessors. A heavier vantage chiefly looms - a potent vantage which longtime devotees have been mourning to hear.
Solely penned by vocalist Rowan London in collaboration with guitarist Samantha Escarbe, the Requiem series likely proved an inevitably daunting prospect to author (given the fact that the Requiem series has been only a slightly less daunting prospect to actually comprehend). A weighty range of operatic solo vocalists donate their services yet again, not to mention the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide's Grainger Studios supplied a recording location for the orchestra's sessions, purportedly a “lush environment” according to one such press release. Those dual components form a principal aspect of Mezzo Forte and Fortissimo, a feature as important as the members of Virgin Black themselves. Featuring primary violinist Michael Milton, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra's Bruce Stewart handled conducting duties.
A discernably more straightforward affair in comparison to Mezzo Forte, curious extreme Metal listeners should gradually immerse themselves in the complicated world of Virgin Black, and a great way to achieve that aim is to make Fortissimo one's inaugural Virgin Black purchase. An overtly Death Metal semblance largely dominates the vocal delivery, lending a distinctly heavier tone to the album overall - even when actually speaking of the record's lighter aspects. A strange trait to be featured within a Virgin Black record, the group's numerous musical influences audibly distinguish themselves. In this case, sprinklings of Doom Metal teamed with Death Metal inclinations emerge as those aforementioned influences. Wholly distinctive, vivid glimpses of such career influences as Candlemass, Entombed, Opeth and Solitude Aeturnus radiantly shine nonetheless.
Throughout Fortissimo, operatic voices trade multiple blows. Armed courtesy of hauntingly angst-ridden vocal execution, London supplies a fresh dimension to Virgin Black's overall poise. London's voice assumes the role of a gloomy mask, consequently a character possessing depth and grace. This chosen approach firmly dismisses the notion of undertaking an erratically point black assault, an assault which numerous vocalists from the genre comfortably opt for. Virgin Black delicately craft a Sistine Chapel-esque framework in which the lyrics can dwell, and that breathtaking achievement affords London an opportunity few others can grasp. In steady palms, extreme Metal still wields limitless possibilities. Exemplary examples of this manifest in quick succession, namely the pairing of “Silent” and “God in Dust”.
This reviewer has never affirmed such an observation on so many occasions than when speaking of Virgin Black, although Escarbe surpasses even herself during Fortissimo. Emotionally charged, the guitar applications immediately warm their path into your very heart. Overtly forthright, Escarbe's soloing makes itself evidently noteworthy. Immaculately fusing against the music, it still overwhelms the listener at each and every juncture. Hinting towards a fresh path, instead, it fiercely drags you down the path you're currently treading. Sublime documents of musical artistry, teenage axemen (and axewomen) who hold the aspirations to shun modern Metal's imposed conventions will faithfully study both “In Winters Ash” and “Darkness” in years to come. When asked to thoroughly critique a group like Virgin Black, it's a difficult assignment to undertake. In a modest part of the musical sphere which unfortunately disregards elements of individuality, Virgin Black stands tall. Virgin Black's grasp extends significantly beyond the Metal realms, yet in penning Fortissimo the group tone down their usual stylings ever so marginally. When an extreme Metal listener initially witnesses Virgin Black's funereal image, this is likely the inaugural assumption which that listener will draw.