Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
What I aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews has found them useful.
Tonight's edition of the Guide will be focusing on something a little different - don't let the genre description fool you!
Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Musical Genre: Symphonic Gothic/Doom Metal, Classical
Running Time: 52 minutes
# of Tracks: 7
Particularly noteworthy songs: There are no songs on this album.
No, I'm not covering up the fact I don't really have any favorite songs on this album by humorously insisting there weren't any to begin with, I actually meant that. Keep reading and I'll tell you why.
It's no great secret that I love Metal - most of these articles I write are about Metal albums of some sort or other, I'm part of The Metal Group, and I surface from time to time in the Off-Topic section as a Metal apologist. It's also no secret that of the myriad sub-genres, music of a symphonic bent is my particular favorite variety - perhaps it's yours as well. If that's the case, take this next sentence to heart:
This album is not Symphonic Metal like you know it.
See, the thing about Symphonic Metal bands is that they're Metal first and Symphonic second, and it's not really a distinct "sub-genre" in the first place, as bands described as such tend to have another more dominant aspect to their sound - thus you get things like "Symphonic Power Metal". At their core, they're still Rock's more awesome descendant, just with the addition of choirs or strings or what have you; there may be passages entirely given over to lush orchestration, but invariably the Metal is the star of the show.
With their earlier albums Virgin Black was no exception - the Adelaide, Australia group specialized in somber, down-tempo and introspective Gothic Metal (with elements of Doom in places) that becomes sublime when the addition of strings and choirs are added in-studio. Of course, if you're a fan of Gothic Metal than that description probably reminds you of at least half a dozen other bands, so I should also point out that Virgin Black have a greater classical focus than most - their music typically sounds like some fusion of epic 'modern classical' film soundtrack compositions with the archetypal Gothic Metal style (only perhaps more mournful than some).
This album though, the centerpiece of their 2 and a half hour long magnum opus, the Requiem cycle, is different: this isn't symphonic metal, it's a metallic symphony (more specifically a Gothic/Doom Metal Symphony), the ideal fusion of the two mediums, existing in perfect balance. Requiem - Mezzo Forte is the 2nd album out of a cycle of 3, and was recorded at the same time as parts 1 and 3 with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. For whatever reason the label decided to release the second album first back in 2007 - the following year saw the release of the far heavier Requiem - Fortissimo, which the infrequent Doom Metal growls in Mezzo Forte had hinted at. Part one, Requiem - Pianissimo, has not yet been released and will be all classical.
A very specific sort of classical however: the title of the overall work, Requiem, is not just a name, but an accurate descriptor of the music itself - as you might know, a requiem is either a mass for the dead or a song composed for one, and that's essentially what this album is. If you're not looking for hauntingly beautiful but immensely depressing music conveying themes of loss and anguish, you should read no further, as I guarantee you won't find this album at all to your tastes. In other words, you cannot rock out to this (not even a little bit).
Remember how I said at the beginning that there weren't any 'songs' on the album? Well what I meant by that choice of words was that if this album can be considered the second 'movement' of a symphony, the tracks on it are 'sections' of that movement - each flows into the next, and the various themes and refrains introduced in one might resurface in another, so while they all have names like "In Death" or "Lacrimosa (I Am Blind With Weeping)", they aren't so much distinctive songs as they are parts of a whole. And given the lyrics alternate between Latin and operatically delivered English and the average track length is 8 and a half minutes, it's safe to say this is not music you're going to sing along to (and you definitely won't hear it on the radio).
So you're still reading, either out of morbid curiosity or because I've piqued your interest, and now you're probably wondering just what this sounds like. Well, engage with me in a brief thought exercise:
Picture you are the protagonist in an epic fantasy movie, and you've just returned to your homelands to find them in flames, your loved ones dead or dying before your eyes. As the camera pulls back to show the full horror of your loss, then returns to your character as you cradle a loved one's body in your arms and cry out to the heavens in heart-rending grief, the music playing at that exact moment will sound something like this.
Vocalist/keyboard player/chief musical mastermind Rowan London alternates between an operatic tenor delivery, often in a duet with guest vocalist Susan Johnson's soprano, and an oppressive and ominous Doom Metal growl, while the full choir provides for some wonderful dynamics. The instrumentals vary, with the orchestra and the metal band each coming to the fore during different passages, and merging seamlessly in others - the music itself is not especially complex, but when the soaring strings are married with the haunting soprano and choir as the timpani booms and the down-tuned guitars sonorously wail, it doesn't really have to be.
I'm under no illusions that the track above will resonate with most listeners, but if you're one of that illustrious subset who shares my musical tastes (whether partially or in full), odds are good you've found something sublime to add to your collection (you're welcome). Whether you enjoyed it or not though, thanks for reading, and remember: Good music isn't subjective, it's whatever an
egotistical awesome stranger on the internet who calls himself Gildan says it is. No really, that's totally a science fact, you can look it up.
Want to be notified whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article? Well now you can join the Guide to Good Music notification service group, and receive a notification whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article! Huzzah.