Review Summary: A classic case of unrepeatable excellence.
Conjuring up an at least decent band name isn’t exactly the challenge of a lifetime. Before we even begin listening to a group our first real impression will come with how good the name is. Some might just sound awesome when spoken such as Children of Bodom, Cannibal Corpse and Sepultura while others, though likely meant for humor, are just off-putting due to their names (The Devil Wears Prada, I Killed the Prom Queen, Job for a Cowboy, etc.). Regrettably for both sides, a weak name will often result in many not giving such groups a shot for said reason. As it turns out, several people I know won’t give Finnish act Eternal Tears of Sorrow a chance due to their “stupid name.” Though certainly not surprising, this realization is still unfortunate, as the band have released some great material, with their 2001 release A Virgin and a Whore
being the best indication of this.
Initially, the album might not seem to hold too much merit, especially if successor Before the Bleeding Sun
is heard beforehand. The production and overall sound isn’t necessarily striking and the influences are easy to pass off as negligible at first. However, the album simply begs for multiple listens as the strong points become more and more prominent each time. There’s an abundance of synthesizers and keyboards present in all of the tracks to create a gravely melodic and overall cold presence which persists from start to finish. From the high, almost chime-like keys which initiate “The Last One for Life” to the lonely atmosphere created on opening track “Aurora Borealis” and original album closer “Aeon,” this release brings much to tingle its listener’s spine.
To compliment the chilling style are some gothic inspirations, namely in the lyrics and general themes. Probably the best example of this comes in “The River Flows Frozen,” which sees two versions appearing on the album (one regular, the other acoustic, which concludes certain copies). There’s a definite feeling of loneliness, despair and a generally morose nature that can actually make the band’s name seem justified afterwards. . Settings also seem to work their way into much of the album’s subject matter, with “...a darkened sun…”, “…moonlight blackened…”
and “…dark dreams of the past…”
being just some of the occurrences.
There are points the band seek livelier standards during the album, which, while providing a bit of agitation to the music, doesn’t work as wonderfully when compared to the more relaxed sections. One only needs a single listen to each side of “The River Flows Frozen” to fully understand this. While the original track is handled very well on its own merits, the acoustic version definitely shows a superior utilization of both instrumental and vocal work (all clean) to develop the song as it should be. Though even with a more energetic song such as “Fall of Man” showing less worth than almost every other track, the band provide a surprisingly effective cover of Accept’s “Sick, Dirty & Mean.” While it’s very true to their core sound, this isn’t at the expense of the original track’s rebellious nature. As a result, it’s quite an effective cover.
A Virgin and a Whore
is an interesting album to assess from a critic’s standpoint. The music only begins to feel more and more elaborate with each successive listen, yet it’s difficult to fully explain how. Between the dark, bitter lyrics, occasionally harsh moments used to deliver some bite with the dominantly cold and melodic sound execution, the band happen to provide something near classic-worthy. If anything holds it back from such status, the occasional “good rather than great” moment and adequate but mostly unimposing death vocals do. Despite these shortcomings, A Virgin and a Whore
turns out to be a real treat, one that’s relaxing yet simultaneously engages the listener.