Virgin Black's debut, Sombre Romantic would eventually prove to be a one of a kind album. While labeled doom metal, it is more operatic with just a few hints of metal in some of the tracks. Later on Virgin Black would go-on to develop their doom metal sound further while also enhancing their opera style. What Sombre Romantic holds is a very quiet, mid-paced sound that is meant to ease the listener into the future of drenching depression.
The album opens as all of Virgin Black's albums do, with a slow instrumental that focuses on the use of choir like vocals to set-the-stage with a reverential ambiance. Then the doom metal kicks in on the second track, with the mournful guitars amongst the operatic singing and orchestral highs. There are a few quiet moments where the orchestra can be heard clearly before being smothered again by the droning guitars. Moments like these would be further enhanced on future albums.
The third track, "Walk Without Limbs," is one of the most unique tracks on Sombre Romantic due to the techno/industrial beat that backs the piano, guitar, and whispers. Listeners are also introduced to the more doom metal aspect of harsher vocals, which sound very strained on the album. Again, this is something that would improve greatly with future albums. The industrial aspects would disappear altogether.
"Of Your Beauty" is another almost sole operatic track. Just vocals and piano for the most part until the drums pound in every once in a while, matching the rising crescendos of the music. It doesn't break the rhythm of the softness and beauty, however, which is rare.
"Drink the Midnight Hymn" is one of the faster tracks featuring pummeling guitar and a bit more of the techno beat drumming in the background. This was also the first track to include one of the choir lines that would be a constant repeat throughout all of Virgin Black's album; the same line is used over and over throughout their work, and at times it gets annoying.
"Museum of Iscariot" is the longest and most varied track on the album, combining opera, choir, and doom metal altogether in a seamless symphony. It isn't heavy but instead mellow and dragging in a depressing way; the mournful guitar at the end is just beautiful.
"Lamenting Kiss" tones things down with a few piano clinks and then the industrial sound heard on "Walk Without Limbs." The murmured vocals are creepy and fit the industrial atmosphere wonderfully. It is a shame this only lasts for a minute or so before the guitar comes in and the loud, metal drums crash the party. The cult like feeling returns, but the metal drums are still present and the moment is forever lost.
"Weep For Me" is a straight up doom metal piece that is very brief before leading into "I Sleep With the Emperor" which holds more heavy bass and industrial beats before showcasing some truly terrifying snarls and chugging guitars. This is the most metal track on the album and ironically, probably the most disliked one. The closing track, "Poets Tears of Porecelain" is the track that would define Sombre Romantic. It is low, mournful, and beautiful. The ultimate tragedy song.
Altogether, Virgin Black's debut is a stellar album that is only a shadow of what is to come. The only unfortunate thing that can be said about Virgin Black's future is that most of their music would start sounding more and more the same without the varied genre influence present on Sombre Romantic. The operatic elements would overtake the doom metal elements (though this has changed on their latest album) and the industrial elements would disappear, therefore making this particular album a gem for all to behold.