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The review of a best of collection for a band such as Virgin Steele by a long term fan is always a dicey proposition. This is not the type of band that releases singles so every track on this CD represents the personal judgement of the selector. In this case probably the lead singer and main song writer Dave Defeis. There will inevitably be a personal favourite of the reviewer left off the CD thus making the CD a bit less good in his judgement than it actually is.
I confess that some of my favourites such as "The Wine of Violence", "And Hecate Smiled" and "Flames Of The Black Star" have been left off the CD. Suffice to say that the strength of Virgin Steele's catalogue could of easily turned this into a 2CD collection. That said I'll judge this CD solely on its song content.
Most of the songs here have either been remastered or are alternate mixes. On the most recent songs of the catalogue the remaster does not add anything new. The remaster however gives the the old songs an extra kick. Included for the long-term fans are two new songs. The best being the mellow "Mist Of Avalon". Its Dave Defeis's on vocals being accompanied by a classical sounding guitar. The other new song called "Saturday Night" should of never seen the light of day. It sounds like a BAD metal party anthem from the eighties. Why anyone thought of putting this on a CD was a good idea is beyond me.
Virgin Steele could pretty much be described as a powermetal band. In fact it's probably one of the original power metal bands. That means fast and furious drums expertly pounded by Frank Gilchriest on the newer tracks and by Joe Ayvazian on the older ones. As proof witness the awe-inspiring performance by Frank Gilchriest on `Kingdom Of the Fearless" and "Invictus". The man is a non-stop drumming machine. He plays the drum crisply, with power and speed.
Powermetal also means the guitar licks as played by Edward Pursino are lightning quick and razor sharp. In particular check out the relentless churning riffs on "Invictus"and the solid riff he lays down on "The Burning of Rome".
David Defeis range is amazing going from a low treble to a high falsetto. His vocals are powerful and dynamic with a nasty streak. Check out his performance on "Invictus" and the start of "A Symphony of Steele" as proof of the latter.
Virgin Steele are experts at playing fast and intense gems. The best being the masterpiece "Invictus" that is permeated with power and boasts a defiant attitude. "Noble Savage" one of the earlier songs included here sounds as fresh and powerful as it did in the eighties. Among the best best is the catchy "The Burning of Rome" with its wonderful vocal line and the brutal "Flames of Thy Power" which makes it's third appearance on Virgin Steele CDs.
Virgin Steele is not all galloping songs however they are very capable of slowing things down and in playing wonderfully atmospheric songs. The terrific "The Spirit of Steel" epitomises this with Dave's rough but emotional vocals and some great orchestration. The piano and violin are used to terrific effect.
Overall this CD is a good overview of Virgin Steele's career and a terrific place to start for the newcomer.
If you are a newcomer than this is the best introduction to Virgin Steele, a best-of which favours the later and better albums. It was my first taste of the band and made me track down anything the band has released. If you take the best of Manowar and mix it with the best of Avantasia you will get Virgin Steele. I am not sure if this collection has enough new stuff to make it worthwhile for a VS veteran. OK, there are two previously unreleased tracks (Saturday Night and Mists of Avalon); some alternate versions of songs, the majority tracks are just re-mastered. Track selection is near perfect apart from a previously unreleased Saturday Night, which sounds like typical glam and does not fit in at all folks. Other than that every song is a highlight and my favourite changes day to day. Everything just screams fucking classic 80’s metal with 00’s production.
The lyrical themes deal with epic battles and Greek/Roman history. Very interesting time period, and a big plus for the band to do it properly in concept albums and not in a half-assed random way. Taking random tracks from concept albums may not be a good idea, but in this the material is strong enough and developed enough for each song to stand on its own. Honestly, I usually couldn’t care less about concept albums but this collection made me a believer even from the samples provided. I can actually see where they are going with this!
The music contains galloping riffs, piano passages, opera-style backing vocals, string instruments, straight up speed metal and one hell of a vocalist who is similar to Manowar’s Eric Adams. What separates the band from Manowar is that songs are more complex and just make more sense, when the fast sections eventually slow down they do so for a reason. Good songwriting is one that can be easily accepted by the listener. Did I also mention that epic songs must be catchy or they are worthless otherwise? We have a winner in this collection as it illustrates how musical complexity can be interesting and involving.
In conclusion, the material featured can appeal to anyone, and I also mean someone who has never heard true metal in their life. Suffice to say that no one can touch VS as far as epic metal goes, and these songs shove you straight onto a battlefield.