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I am giddy to have Virgin Steele’s sophomore effort, GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, finally released onto CD, sitting in my hands. For years, I had scoured various shops and sources to acquire Virgin Steele’s long out of print early recordings on vinyl, and my patience has finally paid off to find their first two albums released for the first time on CD.
GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, released just half a year after their s/t debut, shows the band playing galloping classic American power metal, much like on the s/t, but with a more epic flair, more mature songwriting, and better production. The lineup on this album remains the same as the debut: David DeFeis (vocals, keys), Jack Starr (guitars), Joey Ayvazian (drums) and Joe O’Rielly (bass).
The maturation of the band since the s/t is evident from the opening track, “Don’t Say Goodbye (Tonight),” a galloping anthemic track with some great symphonic elements. David Defeis’ vocals are more refined on this album, pushing the epic style synonymous with Virgin Steele today. Next up is “Burn The Sun,” a hard-hitting and fairly straightforward rocker of a track featuring some great riffs courtesy of Mr. Starr. “Life Of Crime” is another typical Jack Starr track like the previous. “The Redeemer” is one of the most epic songs on the disc, clocking in at just over 7 minutes in length, and is one of my favourites. It starts out somewhat slow, and rather heavy. As the song builds, it gets faster and more symphonic until it breaks into a ripping lead to close out the track. Utterly amazing, and an absolute Virgin Steele classic. The title track of the album is another great one. Here, one can hear the groundwork for the future epic, symphonic sound of Virgin Steele, though now the sound is still in its raw, unrefined form. The final highlight for the album for me is the closer to the original LP, “A Cry In The Night.” This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and one of David DeFeis’ finest songwriting moments. Very much in the style of the Marriage albums, the song is the perfect closer to the album. I absolutely love the classical-styled solo towards the end of the track.
In addition to the ten tracks from the original LP, this reissue features five bonus tracks. Three of them, “I Am the One,” “Go Down Fighting,” and “Wait For The Night” are fast furious tunes that I would love to have on the original album. Obviously, time constraints rather than quality forced the elimination of these songs from the original LP. In addition, we have an interview from 1982 conducted by Mark Snider (Brother of Dee) with the band. Closing the album is a live track from 1990 titled “Blues Deluxe Oreganata (I Might Drown). The tune itself is pretty cool, but the audience recording is absolutely appalling.
In addition to the improved songwriting and musicianship displayed on GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME, the production is also beefed up to the levels demanded by Virgin Steele’s music. Though some of the tracks may sound dated to the modern ear, remember that this album was, and still remains, a groundbreaking slab of true metal from 20 years ago. Do yourselves a favour and check out this amazing album from the best power metal band ever. While you’re at it, go ahead and check out the rest of their catalog.