Virgin Black is an Australian band that combines gothic-doom and symphonic metal influences. Signed to The End Records (for the United States) and Germany's Massacre Records (for Europe), the band has released 4 albums and 1 EP. Formed in 1993 in Adelaide, they have achieved international acclaim during their career, receiving praise from such magazines as Orkus, Metal Hammer and The Village Voice.
Having changed their line-up several times, Virgin Black currently consists of the founding members and main songwriters Samantha Escarbe (guitar) and Rowan London (keyboard, vocals), with Grayh (bass) and Luke Faz (drums) joining in 2007. The group explains the meaning of its name as "the juxtaposition of purity and humanity's darkness".
Virgin Black was originally formed in Adelaide by guitarist Samantha Escarbe, and vocalist and keyboards-player Rowan London.
In 1995, Virgin Black recorded a four-track self-titled demo in a doom/death style. Due to the rarity and demand for this recording, the band has speculated that it may be re-released at some point.
Their Trance EP was released in 1998, and the group began gaining international recognition with that recording. This EP was later included as part of a special limited edition (U.S. only) with the band's debut album, Sombre Romantic.
The group began recording their first full-length album Sombre Romantic in 1999. The album displays an expansively cinematic, symphonic style with London contributing a diverse vocal style from shrieks and growls to soaring melodies and choral chants. On the strength of this self-released debut, Virgin Black signed to Germany's Massacre Records for Europe and also to the U.S. label The End. Both labels then released Sombre Romantic in their territories.
After completing their second album during 2002, Virgin Black played at Germany's Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in 2003 and did a tour through the US west coast with Agalloch and Antimatter before returning to Australia and conducting a national tour. Elegant... and Dying featured Escarbe contributing cello and guest musician Sonia Wilkie playing flute. It was released in November and a month later the band appeared at the Metal for the Brain festival in Canberra. Early the following year, Virgin Black toured alongside Opeth in Australia, and later did a tour of the Australian east coast capitals with Sydney black metal band Nazxul before making a start on their next recordings.
Virgin Black's next project began with London and Escarbe composing a series of scores for what was to become the three-volume Requiem set. On 10 March 2006, The End Records issued a press release explaining the upcoming releases. The first part of the trilogy, Requiem - Pianissimo, is a strictly classically-oriented album featuring the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, choral singing, and solo singers. Requiem - Mezzo Forte features music similar to the band's previous releases with the last part Requiem - Fortissimo primarily having a death/doom metal sound. The albums were recorded primarily as the duo of London and Escarbe over the course of almost two years, during which Rowan London suffered the death of his father. Originally designed to be released simultaneously in 2006, on 23 July, The Labels announced that the albums would instead be released during 2007 in a staggered time scale. The second part of the trilogy, Requiem - Mezzo Forte was issued first, on 3 April 2007.
With a new line-up of Escarbe, London, Grayh on bass and drummer Luke Faz. Virgin Black played some Australian shows with Arcturus in March and headlined the Elements of Rock Festival in Switzerland in April. Mark Kelson of The Eternal joined them as guest-guitarist for these live performances. Virgin Black announced a US tour for June and July 2007, and played shows on the east and west coast of the U.S. with To/Die/For and headlined shows in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara.
The third part and the second installment in the Requiem trilogy, Requiem - Fortissimo was released on February 19, 2008 by The End Records. The Massacre Records release date remains unknown. Virgin Black played with Amorphis, Leaves' Eyes, and Samael for a North American tour during fall 2008. Readers of the website Metal Storm voted Requiem Fortissimo for "the best doom metal album of 2008".
The release date of Requiem - Pianissimo is yet to be announced.
Virgin Black's sound combines elements of doom metal and classical music, and the band's image incorporates gothic aesthetics. A critic described their style as having influences of "dark wave with gothic atmosphere" and "symphonic gothic-doom". Virgin Black states that their influences include the British group My Dying Bride, the American gothic metal band Saviour Machine and 19th century classical music. Their sound is typically sorrowful, representing mostly down-tempo arrangements. Rowan London employs various vocal styles including shrieking, death growls and melodramatic tenor and baritone singing, and the music often features choirs. Occasionally the lead guitarist Samantha Escarbe plays faster tremolo riffs typical of extreme metal, such as on "Drink the Midnight Hymn" from the debut album. Sometimes there are longer, mellow and emotional guitar solos such as on "Weep for Me". A great deal of variety can be found in their music. For instance, "Walk without Limbs" combines ominous cello with programmed drums for a softer darkwave style, the Requiem - Pianissimo album is entirely classical, whereas Requiem - Fortissimo's sound is firmly rooted in death/doom metal.
Virgin Black's lyrics are an introspective, melodramatic and poetic take on faith-based subjects. While members of Virgin Black have Christian beliefs, the band has often sought to explain that its music is an exploration of spirituality and attempts to highlight the difference between the organized Church and the spiritual aspects of Christianity. In response to a question on the "religious atmosphere" in their music, Rowan London responded: "We write our music and lyrics from a personal perspective, hence they do have a particular moral and meaning but we also encourage people to shape it to fit their specific situation. Museum Of Iscariot for example was written from a spiritual view point and is describing the struggle to step beyond the limitations that we all seem to put on ourselves. However, even though its written within a spiritual context it can also be applied to many different aspects of life. Its important to understand that we're not trying to act as if we know everything about life, it would just be great to see more people considering things other than purely the material world."
- Samantha Escarbe - guitar
- Rowan London - keyboard, vocals
- Grayh - bass
- Luke Faz - drums
Demos and EPs
- Virgin Black (1995)
- Trance (1998)
- Sombre Romantic (2001)
- Elegant... and Dying (2003)
- Requiem - Mezzo Forte (2007)
- Requiem - Fortissimo (2008)
- Requiem - Pianissimo (not yet released)