A long dormant cult fan base has been resurrected as Adelaide doom metal band Virgin Black breaks its near decade silence on social media through a series of cryptic posts. Starting on the 8th of August with a graven image that alluded to the official end of the band, the posts since have shown photos of various pieces of Virgin Black memorabilia, captioned with the corresponding date each picture was taken.

This has culminated in the 2018 post, which is a picture of founding members Samantha Escarbe and Rowan London, presumably taken this year. Prior to this, the photos have been counting up towards the band’s eventual disappearance in 2008—but while the most logical conclusion to draw is that they’re calling it quits, there is an alternate theory that’s sending Virgin Black’s fan base into a frenzy.

Samantha and Rowan formed Virgin Black in the early ’90s, releasing their self-titled first demo recording in 1995. The band soon began to gain international traction with its 1998 EP Trance. This traction grew into the 2000s as they put out more music and nabbed huge tour support slots alongside heavyweights like Agalloch and Opeth.

From the beginning Virgin Black were determined to blaze their own trail. They built a reputation for mystery in the Adelaide scene; the intensity of their solo shows remaining unbroken by supporting bands or banter with the audience. It was during the peak of their popularity in 2007 that Virgin Black released Requiem – Mezzo Forte, the second album in a three-part requiem recorded with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Each album features a distinctive sound that grows heavier as it progresses; with the first album Pianissimo being entirely orchestral, and the finale Fortissimo leaning back into the band’s doom metal origins.

The decision to release the second album of the requiem first was recommended by the band’s label, as Mezzo Forte was the best representation of the trilogy’s overall sound. The decision seemingly paid off, since Mezzo Forte is often regarded by fans and critics as their magnum opus. Building on this momentum, the band released the third part, Fortissimo, the following year to great fanfare.

Then there was silence. The band completed a tour of the United States and vanished completely, leaving fans to wonder what happened to Virgin Black. And even more perplexingly, where was the requiem’s first part, Pianissimo?

It has been 11 years since the release of Mezzo Forte, and the fan speculation surrounding its missing prelude is still alive and well. Some fans say a band member was struck with a serious illness that led to the hiatus, while others suggest the label refused to release it—an accusation that has led to some spurned fans sending hate mail to label staff.

As one fan and fellow musician Michael Burns put it, “it was like a promise that was so close we could taste it, but it never came. There has never been much information at all about their hiatus, only a tiny trickle.”

To fans of Virgin Black, Pianissimo is more than an unreleased record; it is a promise left unfulfilled—the final piece of a puzzle that feels like it may never come together. We know it was recorded, and the label withheld its release, but since the hiatus the album has become a phantom.

So, while some see Virgin Black’s recent wave of social media activity as the last flicker of a dying flame, for many devoted fans it has reignited hope for closure to the requiem trilogy. Whether that closure comes to pass or if the requiem trilogy will forever remain an unfinished puzzle is yet to be seen. Whatever the case, Virgin Black’s countdown posts are certainly an omen of fateful times ahead.

Image captioned ‘2018’ on Virgin Black’s social media

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Photo: sourced via Virgin Black Facebook