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What has three album covers and was once known as Virgin Steele II? Why it’s Guardians Of The Flame, the sophomore effort from our favourite “barbaric-romantic” heavy metal act! Their eponymous debut was undoubtedly rough around the edges; a first impression from a young band. However, here on Guardians Of The Flame, Virgin Steele give us a clearer glimpse into the majestic future they would carve out for themselves.
There is still a wealth of early eighties metal sensibility on Guardians…, and Jack Starr was still blazing the six string. In fact, I’d say this album basically plays out like a stronger, better constructed version of Virgin Steele. David DeFeis sounds way more powerful, yet retains and refines his signature banshee howl. Jack’s playing is ace as per, and I’d rank this album amongst his finest performances. The youthful energy displayed on the debut is also retained here, and brought to a boil with a greater level of song writing.
Just like the debut, the album’s longest tracks are situated bang in the middle, and here on Guardians…, we have the massive “The Redeemer”, which was one of the finest tracks the bands had done at the time. Following up and bridged by a short intro is the album’s title track, which shows future promise and plays out like a Rainbow-style epic. Both numbers really show what Virgin Steele was capable of, and they would continue the evolution of this style right up until this very day.
That isn’t to say there isn’t a boat load of ridiculous eighties metal to sink your teeth into. The album kicks off with an AOR-style chord-ringing, keyboard-accented type of section before launching into a storming gallop, and is probably my favorite song on the album (get me drunk and I’ll sing it for you). Another cool thing about Guardians… is that it’s all killer heavy metal right up until the closing ballad which is surprisingly rather enjoyable (they just so happened to re-record a superb version of this on The Book of Burning as well).
This was the first of many leaps in quality that Virgin Steele would take, and when compared with their debut Guardians Of The Flame, it looks doubly mighty. I can imagine I would have gone nuts over this had I been around when it was released, and whilst it might sound a little dated today, this one still gets my recommendation. If you like Virgin Steele, then you should pick this up for a better representation of where they came from. If you like early eighties metal, then you should just pick this up because it’s one of the cooler releases from 1983. However, things would only get better for Virgin Steele from here on…
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com