Return After A Decade Of Silence To Complete Their Requiem Trilogy
..... and then there was silence.
Virgin Black stamped itself as one of metal's true aberrations by having the audacity to record—with a full orchestra—its incredibly ambitious, sprawling three-part requiem mass; releasing two of those parts, then disappearing at the peak of its powers for a full decade.
Though, in truth, Virgin Black was a work unto itself from its 1995 inception through to that unexplained departure in 2008. Whether it was playing one-band word-of-mouth-promoted shows in hidden Adelaide city basements in the 90s, or mystifyingly managing to successfully mesh orchestral, industrial, opera and black metal with the band's doom base—on the defining 2001 debut album Sombre Romantic—Virgin Black forever unapologetically treads its own path.
A key figure in the marked era of legendary label The End Records, it was Virgin Black, alongside equally unique and self-assured acts such as Antimatter and Agalloch that were emblematic of the label's strong vanguard ethos.
Pioneers in a time when musical categories were far more rigidly adhered to.
REQUIEM - PIANISSIMO
As the years ticked by, even the most ardent fans had their hopes for the missing album's release evaporate. The online world is littered with comments and editorials signifying a final sigh of dismay as people let go of the belief that Pianissimo would ever actually come to bear.
In August 2018 the Virgin Black Facebook page suddenly had all of its content deleted, with a single ambiguous image left instead. That, and the series of chronologically dated images that followed, left fans divided on whether or not they were witnessing a return to life after ten years, or a final memorial.
Fans feverishly debated, but when the date jumped to 2018 with a new image of Sesca Scaarba (formerly Samantha Escarbe) and Rowan London, followed by a shock posting of the first 13 minutes of the fabled album, it was essentially unanimous that Requiem - Pianissimo was real, and imminent.
In describing Virgin Black's Requiem, there is a tendency to want to match its grand scale with equally grandiose language. However, the project is outlandish and intriguing on such a level that an unadorned, and plainly factual description is paradoxically apt.
It is a requiem mass composed as one unfolding piece, progressing from the all-orchestral first stage, through to a balanced, collaborative orchestra/band middle section, concluding with the band coming to the fore in the final and heaviest section. Total duration at 2 hours 33 minutes.
Befitting "a mass for the dead", the sounds, whether represented by orchestral or metal instrumentation, are ever-presently dirgeful and heartrending. On display is both an adherence to and an outright betrayal of the long-established tradition of requiem masses in classical music. Typifying that betrayal is the semi-atonal vocal barrage referred to as the "death choir" - a chorus of extreme voices employing a resonant undertone technique found most commonly in death metal. Musical elements such as a full string ensemble (with specifically requested low C-tuned basses), woodwinds, horns, brass, timpani, heavy A#-tuned guitars, drums, tenor/baritone and soprano solo voices, death solo voice, and full choir are at times dexterously interwoven and at other times deliberately thrust together for chaotic effect. Many passages for the words were reproduced from traditional religious mass texts and lend a ceremonial component offset by the far more personal and emotional words penned specifically for the project which interject throughout.
Six individual audio engineers were engaged to realise production, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra enlisted to perform the scores, and the Adelaide Stamford Academy Choir for performance of choral arrangements.
With an unerring artistic commitment, bordering on folly, composers Sesca Scaarba and Rowan London financially backed the project entirely themselves and notably - these many years later - still remain tens of thousands of dollars in debt to "incredibly generous and understanding people" as London put it. Yet despite the difficult and protracted birth, Requiem - Pianissimo and the series it completes will be marked down in history as a unique and shining achievement.
The first two tracks have just been released, listen to Requiem Aeternum & Dies Irae below
Requiem -Pianissimo track list:
1. Requiem Aeternum (8:10)
2. Dies Irae (5:03)
3. Until Death (4:27)
4. Kyrie Eleison (6:51)
5. Libera Eis Domine (9:01)
6. Lacrimosa (I tread alone) (10:50)
7. Pie Jesu (8:38)
8. Remembrance (3:36)
Pre-orders for a limited one-time pressing are available now at