I hereby declare Virgin Black to be the best band ever

Have you ever liked a thing? Then found out there was some aspect of that thing that made you like it more? Was that a vague enough intro for you?

Well Virgin Black does that for me. I liked music before. I mean, really, really liked it. But now the courtship is over. I’ve found my soul mate. We are getting married next Tuesday.

I first heard Virgin Black several years ago on an Australian metal compilation album. I wasn’t ready for my true love at that point. I only liked stuff where the vocalist sounded like they were gargling with razor blades. Stuff like Vengeance Rising, Mortification, and Living Sacrifice. So it wasn’t love at first site. A couple of years ago I started buying music from Flaming Fish. They specialize in dark, electric, ambient, goth, and electronic stuff made by Christians. (Though the ‘Christian’ label gets handed out as easily as Roman citizenship did in 100 A.D.) So I was surprised when I saw a band from my olden days on sale there a couple of months ago. I bought Sombre Romantic and Elegant… And Dying. I listened to them once, thought they were great, and lent them to my brother. I got Elegant… And Dying back first. I listened to it non stop for about a week. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I’m not the kind of person who listens to the same thing over and over. But this was amazing. Then I went another week. I got Sombre Romantic back and saw that Elegant was not a fluke. I ordered their EP, Trance. And was blown away again. These guys (and girl) are incredibly gifted musicians. Virgin Black is not constrained by the rock template of verse, chorus, verse. They are not constrained by one particular vocal style. They are not constrained by one kind of mood. They swing from bitter depression to euphoric hope flawlessly. Suffering, loneliness, chaos, agony… but always returning to hope. Rowan London sings with so much emotion and range it’s incredible. He has an operatic quality, (I read that he has studied with some opera master.) but not the bombastic, monotonous classical style. Somehow he can do a whimpering whisper in a beautiful way. He can shout, scream, and growl. But mostly he majestically projects profound emotion.

Then there is Samantha Escarbe. She writes most of the lyrics and music. She also plays some amazing guitar and cello. Her timing and ability to steer the music is flawless.

While I loved the music, and thought the lyrics matched perfectly, the words are poetic and meaning is a bit elusive. And while I am starting to see the point of art for arts sake, I still need to know what is being said before I can really get into the music. So I emailed them. I assumed I would be disappointed by yet another band with wishy-washy pseudo Christian theme. I was surprised by the honesty and spirit of kindness and legitimate Christian foundation that Samantha expressed to me. I showed her some pictures of some of my sculptures and she really liked one of them. This one to be specific. I knew why instantly. It appears to be despair, but can be seen as hope. I sculpted it so that the viewer could interpret it as a guy melting away, or as one struggling up and out, for freedom. This is exactly like Virgin Blacks’ music. There is a line on Our Wings Are Burning that goes, “On the crest of fire, our wings are burning. How glorious the pain.” She explained that the wings symbolize the things we put our faith in for salvation. As those things are revealed to be insufficient, they burn away. This causes pain, but points to the need for real salvation. I was awestruck at how this beautiful poetic line encapsulated all that I have been going through in my life. My ‘wings’ were my family. I was apathetic towards God until my wings burned away. And now I truly do say, “How glorious the pain!” I have a lot to learn about poetry.

After contemplating the body of Virgin Blacks' work I became inspired to do a sculpture based on some of their songs. I interpreted one of their songs, Beloved, as an analogy for the church, the body of Christ. I wrote Samantha asking her for input on this song, and told her my idea. She seemed pleased with the idea. Her intent for the lyrics was a bit different, but she said she was intrigued by my concept. So I have been working on it on-and-off for about a month now. It’s going to be bigger than any sculpture I’ve done so far. Here is a sketch I did of one little element that is going to be part of it.

Anyway. The point is that you should go order 5 copies of each of their albums. They are pure genius.


Anonymous said…
Nobody cares what you declare...so long as it is in the air :)

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