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4.8 out of 5 stars17
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on April 2, 2004
It's not often that you find a band that's willing to experiment with several different music styles on the same album. Virgin Black's Sombre Romantic features songs in black metal style ("Drink the Midnight Hymn"), darkwave ("Lamenting Kiss"), gothic ("Museum of Iscariot"), opera/symphonic (opening two songs), and some other goodies thrown in. Rowan's operatic vocals are fantastic; it's nice to find a band with a trained male vocalist instead of the screamy 80's metal voice or overused black/death screaming & growling, the latter of which is becoming used in all the wrong places by some bands. There is very little black metal screaming on this album, and when it does appear, it is used effectively. The songs, composed by Rowan and guitarist Samantha Escarbe, are constantly changing and never get boring. The lyrics show some religious themes, but do not try to force anything down people's throats. It is a lyrically superb product overall. The compositions are very solid, and although no two songs sound alike, there is little disparity in quality of musicianship. Highly recommended to fans of anything from Tristania to Burzum.
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on December 3, 2006
Virgin Black is the darkest band I've found whose music and lyrics address spiritual crisis without mocking it. While a lot of metal sounds like the heat of killing, this band sounds like an hour later, when we stop and look at the dead all around us. If you've heard Saviour Machine, Virgin Black moves slower and heavier in that direction.

"Opera de Romanci" opens with a cello and Gregorian chant promising darkness to come. "Embrace" makes good on it with a dose of slow metal and orchestration worthy of a film score. Virgin Black strikes a great balance, alternating between "funeral metal" and orchestration. "Walk Without Limbs" starts with a cool beat, like Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business". Then it changes gears into an industrial-rock sound unusual for this band.

"Of Your Beauty" finally puts Rowan London's operatic voice in front. His voice and the exceptional lyrics pull the listener into a place where it's always 4 a.m., and Winter never quite yields to Spring. "Drink The Midnight Hymn" jumps out of the speakers with a dose of speed metal and shrieking akin to Mayhem. On this CD and the following "Elegant...and Dying", the songs change speeds and modes often. Samantha Escarbe plays guitar with restraint, valuing the songs over solos.

"Museum of Iscariot" is a three-part suite with a lot of variety, and less intensity than some of the tracks before and after. "Lamenting Kiss" has a semi-industrial beat and an opening chant that sounds like a train siren losing strength with distance. Then London's voice takes the lead again. "A Poet's Tears of Porcelain" is a powerful finale - Escarbe finally busts out some fierce guitar melodies. The metal cuts off abruptly, leaving a brief chanted melody to end the whole thing. The image I get from this album is of someone lying down on a stone altar in the dark, eyes open, and waiting.
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on April 30, 2005
Sombre Romantic makes a daring and death-defying leap onto the gothic/metal scene. There are elements of gothic metal that gothic metal has never seen before. The album is extremely melancholic and depressing. The music is mostly down-tempo, lots of melodies and orchestrating going on. The beauty in the album is the combination of operatic vocals with metallic growls. The whole album can be reminiscent of listening to a combination of Pink Floyd, Theatre of Tragedy, and Porcupine Tree. It sends you away to that part of your mind you never experimented with or ever used. This is not background music to be played while you are walking around. This is some serious music to be carefully listened to while you sit and comprehend the beauty and originality of it. The cruel and unusual behaviour of humanity is what Virgin Black sought to accomplish in their music, they have succeeded and then some. This album is amazing, it is a 44 minutes and 38 seconds of Victorian style operatic performances. All the mourning and tears are brought alive by this band.
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on February 18, 2002
wow i never thought they could make such wonderfully dark and poetic album in australia. this sounds like it could easily be at home in europe. anyway about the music...well its hard to categorise but the closest description would be gothic electronic metal with operatic and growled male vocals along with some female vocals....its like walking into an eerie carnival or circus from the victorian era england...the atmosphere is wonderfully dark and 'foggy'. the lyrics are brilliant. they also use a live orchestra and piano instead of the usual keyboards which makes them sound very authentic.
anyways this is a very good album which no fan of gothic,ambient or even dark and black metal should not miss
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on October 8, 2005
virgin black is an unbeleivable band i could'nt beleive my ears when i bought this cd and listen to it, iv'e been listening to opeth for the past six months and virgin black is the only band that has pulled me from listening to opeth. new comers trust me don't listen to the 30 second sound clips because theres not enough there to let you know what kind of band they are i recommend just buy the album you want be disappointed, if youre looking for something different then virgin black is the way to start
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on October 17, 2006
In the current musical mood of whiney bands singing about fake depression and supposedly "dark" passages of songs...ie. 15 seconds of a minor chord, it is ironacaly refreshing to find a band that projects genuine sadness in their music. This is not done through whiney vocals and teenage-poetry lyrics however. It is conveyed through a mixture of beautiful, classically trained vocal passages, mournful piano amd sweeping strings which are all mixed into virgins black dark yet beautiful brand of doom metal meeting neoclassical music.

The band themselves say that they sound like "comfort in dakness" and this is excactly right. Although the music is dark , it is not bleak suck as bands like opeth, and it is not cold like agalloch, but warm and beautiful.

This album consists of 10 tracks. Some of them can run together and pass without huge distinction, however this album will be worth any pennies you part with for the pure beauty of the albums better tracks. songs 1,2,4,6 are some of the darkest sounds ive ever heard. Imagine a mixture of gregorian chants anthony and the Johnsons, an orchestra and black metal.

The guitars could be better and are at times uninteresting, but this album is not about riffs and choruses, it is about atmospher, mood, texture and dynamics. I personally find that this release along with all of VB's efforts is carried by the vocals which are amazing. They are mournful and beautiful, classically trained though he is, he also has black metal influances and has high ,black screams at times.

It is the sort of album where individual songs themselves are not hugely important, but rather the listener should allow himself to be submerged in the warm darkness of the music. This is truly comfort in darkness and is definatly worth buying if you like ;

Orchestral black metal

opeth's darker moments

agalloch

anthony and the johnsons

my dying bride

anathema

etc...
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on August 29, 2005
Sombre Romantic is a step up if you will in the gothic metal genre. It is a very solid album from start to finish but has alot of layers that keep things interesting. Its not what you would really consider to be a "religious" album but there are many undertones that help get the message across. This point being made very clear in "Museum of Iscariot" which talks of Jesus from Judas' point of view.

Rowan's vocal stylings change to meet the moods of every song on this album, from low opera type to screaming, in a superb way that stays consistent and never gets old. If you are into relaxed darkwave/goth music this is a perfect album to purchase.
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on May 17, 2003
These guys have captured a sound that I've been trying to come up with for some time. Rowan's vocals are haunting, and he has the talent, range, and vocal strength to pull off an array of different styles. This album contains a generous amount of heavy songs and flowing guitar instrumentals, as well as the chanting, choral pieces, and orchestral sounds that flesh out this album to completion. There's lots of melodic interaction, contrast between sections, and well executed dashes of dissonance. The lyrics are sombre, romantic, challenging, and spiritual and don't simply harp on the same topics or overuse imagery like a lot of other bands do when trying to pull off this style. These guys (and girl) are professionals, and put on a live show that is the most gripping display of musicianship and on-stage presence I've seen. All in all, if you're looking for 100% gothic metal, good for either soaking it in with your eyes closed, or just as easily thrashing out to, get this album.
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on January 26, 2004
Virgin Black is absolutely the darkest and most atmospheric band in the world. This is a brilliant album. I love it, it kicks butt and plenty other things. Sombre Romantic is an album for the fan of the deep somewhat artsy music. If you liked the Smashing Pumpkins and want to go a bit more goth, this is the album for you. It starts out with a symphonic two tracks, a combination of chants, percussion, violoin, cello, and some sweet guitar. I do suggest this album to those with some intelectual depth. Such as in the song "Museum of Iscariot," it graphically depicts the reality of sin and the way people treat religion. I love this album, yet it is an album that will turn most people off, primarily their dark and gothic approach, yet to those who love the darker stuff and the artsy it is a great buy. I love this cd, but to the general public you most likely wont be too thrilled, but if you have some intelectual depth and an open mind you will love it. So BUY IT NOW!!!!
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on August 7, 2003
It really makes my day when I run across a band that can put together an album that sounds magnificent all the way through and that is what Virgin Black did with this album. Every song from the beginning to the end is unique and keeps your attention all the way through.
At first, I was a little shocked at how well and advanced the vocalist is. He has a phenomenal voice. He ranges from very heartfelt operatic vocals to the growl of black metal style vocals. The closest comparison I can find would be Simen Hestnaes from Borknagar fame but not exactly.
The music ranges from Omen style epic to acoustic and back to black metal. Of course, it has the underlying gothic influence throughout. You can be sure if you are a fan of black metal, gothic or any dark music, this is a definite must have.
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