Review Summary: Unique and powerful.
A band doesn't necessarily have to be original to be good and while Virgin Black's third effort "Requiem - Mezzo Forte" (the first of the as of yet unfinished "Requiem" trilogy) might not be unlike anything you've ever heard, it still manages to be different enough to where it stands out from the crowd, but not so much so that it severs itself from the genre it preforms. That said, the album was nothing short of stunning when I first heard it and still remains a very much loved addition to my album collection.
After the good but not great "Sombre Romantic" and the disappointing "Elegant... and Dying", Virgin Black had drifted off my radar a bit and I didn't purchase "Mezzo Forte" until several years after its release. But upon my first listen, I was pleased to hear the band had drastically improved their sound, increasing the classical elements to a much higher degree, and to a point where calling this a classical album with metal elements wouldn't be totally wrong. So instead just a violin, cello, piano or brief choir cropping up once or twice in a couple songs, there is an entire orchestra that is present from start to finish and makes up half the entire sound created, with many songs relying purely on it's saddened classical influence to carry the sound. Incluing the opener "Requiem, Kyrie" which itself is purely a classical piece, with a perfect but not overdone emotional touch of depression and gloom.
The classical influence is added even more by the vocals. Rowan London's voice has improved alot, as his tenor, which was not used as much and when it was sounded a bit strained in the last two releases, sounds much more natural and, save for the occasional death growls (see "Domine") are what he sticks to. It sounds even better when Susan Johnson (guest vocalist) steps in for female soprano vocals to sing on her own or as a duet with Rowan.
Guitars (done by Samantha Escarbe) are thick and moody while the drums (done by Dino Cielo) are brooding and heavy. I have to compliment Samantha's work here in paticular though, as she plays very minimalistic yet captivating riffs that showcase alot of emotion and coupled with the heavy use of symphony and choir add alot to overall memorability of the songs.
"Requiem - Mezzo Forte" is V.B. best effort to date. A emotive and beautiful release that I would say has something that everyone to enjoy.