Most helpful critical review
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2004
Before this review is started, let it be known that I LOVE Virgin Black's first album Sombre Romantic. I love it to death. So, obviously I was expecting the same greatness from their follow-up.
First thing I noticed, before even popping the disc in the CD player, is that the songwriting is not nearly up to par with Sombre Romantic's. While Virgin Black is NOT a Christian band, as some have said they are (they're pretty darn anti-Christian if their lyrics say anything about them), at least their first album had some meaning instead of the cliche "God, you've made my life a living hell" that this one says for all intensive purposes. But that's a minor issue. Now onto the music. They surely have abandoned most of their metal influences, instead becoming quite content to produce something that the 'goth' crowd would surely get a kick out of. I admire the classical influences, but in reality, the only one doing anything for this band is Rowan London. Unfortunately, he's the showcase of the album. Why do I say unfortunately? Because a great deal of the time, he's the ONLY member playing anything. I will certainly not contest that he's got hands made for the piano and a throat carved for singing, but the whole purpose of having a *band* is to have every member contribute something. Their drummer is still way out of time with the rest of the band, too. He's good, but should practice keeping time a little more.
Rowan's vocals seem to be turned down a notch from Sombre Romantic. In some of the songs, he sounds like Østen Bergøy (Morendoes/Tristania), which isn't a bad thing, but I certainly like to hear his operatic vocals take center stage. As for the music itself, it could be compared to Burzum's Hliðskjalf in terms of the atmosphere created (although this has vocals and guitars, so that takes some away from its ethereal essence), so it's a pretty dark and haunting piece, although I think I'd play this one before Sombre Romantic as bedtime music. The orchestration and instrumentation is very good, but more simplistic. I'd say they probably could've gotten away with just one guitarist on this album, because the guitar isn't used all too often as a lead instrument. The leads are definitely there, but as the average song length is about eight or nine minutes ("The Everlasting" is a drawn-out 17 minutes), they show up relatively sparingly throughout the duration of the album. This is offset by the fact that the piano/keyboard work is phenomenal. The songs do get a little long for a gothic band, in the vein of The Sins of Thy Beloved, albeit with far better structure and euphonics.
What will the future hold for Virgin Black? Well, if they decide to pop out another album, I'm sure I'll get hold of a copy, but it certainly won't be on the top ten segment of my wish list. All things considered, this was worth the money I paid for it, but just seems to lack the passion and inspiration of Sombre Romantic. Worth your money if you liked the first album, but just don't expect a repeat.