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Okay, I think this is going to be the one where a lot of you guys disagree with me. Life Among The Ruins is much maligned by a majority of Virgin Steele fans. Of course, I can kind of see why, as this isn’t a full-steam-ahead heavy metal release, there’s nothing like “Noble Savage” or “The Burning Of Rome” here, although on the other hand, is the style displayed here on Life Among The Ruins really that shocking? It’s not like the last few albums didn’t have songs like “Seventeen” or “Rock Me”. In fact, I’d say that the best way to look at this album is to see it as the culmination of the band’s more commercial, rockier tendencies that tried to break free in the last few albums.
What makes Life Among The Ruins great is that the album is 100% focused, I don’t care how fantastic some of the songs were on the last two releases; both albums had songs that didn’t fit the bill. There’s none of that here, the album takes a bluesy Whitesnake/Deep Purple approach and they keep the style burning throughout. What’s I like is that the sound really works here, the band’s metal roots keep this energetic and raunchy, and there are signature Virgin Steele moments littered across the album which keeps Life Among The Ruins in check with both the preceding and following records.
David DeFeis and Edward Pursino are of course the stars of the show here, with David sounding his very best. I feel this is where he really started to perfect his style and the performance here paves the way well for the utter mastery on the next release. As for Pursino, man, can that guy play! Rip roaring lead guitars and really strong, memorable riffs adorn just about every track here, although “Sex Religion Machine” and “Crown Of Thorns” really serve up the goods. I guess I should mention the rhythm section too, which I feel is masterfully propulsive, with some particularly catchy bass lines. The late eighties style production really highlights every aspect of the sound too. Honestly, I’d say this release sounds just about perfect (although I have the reissue so can’t comment too much on the original).
As I stated earlier, this is an album which gets a shockingly bad rap, and it’s one that is completely undeserved. Regardless of genre, this is a fantastic release, with a strong collection of songs. The balance across the album is excellent as well, always driving yet chill enough to kick back too. This is also where I think David perfected writing ballads; whilst they’re still a little (read: a lot) cheesy, I think the arrangement, vocal lines, and general melody are second to none, making songs like “Never Believed In Good-Bye” and “The Last Rose Of Summer” classics among the Virgin Steele ballad repertoire.
To close, I will say that this is an album best visited later in one’s exploration of Virgin Steele’s discography. However, I also maintain that this is essential for any real fan of the band, as it is the bridge between the first two eras of Steele. Some of the darker, (can I really call anything here dark? I’m doing it anyways…) more blues oriented songs here really laid the foundation for what they would do on the next album, and of course the more commercial, accessible style throws back to some of the stuff they were doing in the eighties. Seriously, don’t listen to the naysayers, give Life Among The Ruins a chance, you might well be surprised.
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com/
I deeply love and care for Virgin Steele and I've examined their body of work more thoroughly than would a casual fan who views them merely as another decent band in the heavy metal picture. But even I can't justify or truly forgive the wrongdoing that was the "Life Among The Ruins" album.I could say they needed to get it out of their system before embarking on the finest period of their career which would start with "The Marriage Of Heaven and Hell" and end with "Visions Of Eden" but that would be a desperate rationalization. As a prelude to the best of Steele, this is really weak and severely lacking in any of the traits that had and would make this band stand out from your average heavy metal/hard rock crowd.
The songs are devoid of any genuine musical adventuring, the likes of which we'd experienced on the bulk of "Guardians Of The Flame" and songs such as "The Angel Of Light" and "The Burning Of Rome". Instead, they are sorely basic and rather one dimensional in scope. David DeFeis sounds like he is auditioning for KISS on trash rockers like "Wild Fire Woman" but he sings his heart out on others like " I Dress In Black" which dimly echoes distant attractions such as "The Raven Song" but is ultimately killed for its sheer derivative origins; guitars attributed to Whitesnake, vocals credited to the influence of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.
"Crown Of Thorns" is much better with its well crafted lyrics that tell of a bitterest end to a love affair given in DeFeis' usual emphatic delivery. It is one of the album's few bright spots and could easily slide in between "I Wake up Screaming" and "Metal City" as one of the band's better hard rock moments. "Never Believed In Good-bye" and "Cry Forever" are solid ballads but they get you wondering; "Who stole Dave's fire?" He mewls and laments and pleads on the bigger part of the album as if absolutely unaware he is a barbaric champion of some sort.
When not sharing his blues with us the disinterested, he is sleazy and silly in a most disgraceful fashion as exhibited on the utterly reprehensible opener "Sex Religion Machine" and the instantly forgettable "Too Hot To Handle". Other calamities are claimed and dressed in titles like "Love Is Pain", "Jet Black" and "Love's Gone". Keyboards are generally minimized to apparently give the guitar some weight-if only DeFeis and Ed Pursino had remembered to craft a few good riffs.
I purchased the 2012 SPV/Steamhammer reissue to check oout the new goodies and I was pleased with the new mixes for "Crown Of Thorns" and "Never Believed In Goodbye" and the Gothic laced new song "My Mourning Clothes" which at least proves DeFeis' continued willingness to push the envelope when it seemingly can't go any further. Their cover of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" is right on the money and a most worthy celebration. The one for the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" on the other hand, is incredibly diabolical.
"Last Rose Of Summer" still sounds as good as the first time I heard it. A brazen;y poignant romantic piece that sounds most genuine when set against the pseudo hard rocking fare of the entire album. It is hardly DeFeis' best ballad but it could very well be his most expressive. So much so that some truly barbaric male listeners might find it grossly discomforting to sit through. It does close the album on a better note than it opened, so there's that.
And thus ends this unthinkable glitch in the Virgin Steele time continuum. DeFeis still defends this album with a vigor I can only view as brazen. I'm sure the rest of the band aren't nearly as enthusiastic. This Is the Virgin Steele album to ignore of you're only after the best, if you are sworn to the band as I am, you might as well dig in. "Crown Of Thorns" is a fun guilty pleasure but most of the material is just plain guilty of offering no pleasure.
If you've read my review for "Age of Consent," you'll notice that I implied Virgin Steele was on fire after the aforementioned release. I only say that because I refuse to acknowledge "Life Among The Ruins" as a legitimate Virgin Steele album. It has David Defeis' vocals and shares a handful of trademark traits of the group, but it is so abysmally awful that it's no wonder it largely stays in its little attic upstairs, kept away from the rest of the musical family for good reason and hopefully forced to eat its fish heads in complete isolation, like any good abomination should. "Life Among The Ruins" is the skeleton in Virgin Steele's closet; the mistake Virgin Steele thinks about and regrets when lying in bed, alone with its thoughts; the uninvited party guest that ruins everything. This is seriously atrocious stuff.
What is often considered the classic era of Virgin Steele runs from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Part I" to "The House of Atreus: Act II" with some of us tagging "Visions of Eden" on the tail end of the group's undisputed prime just to be difficult. The band had released five full-length albums as a heavy metal/hard rock faction before igniting into their heavy/power metal stage on the first "Marriage" record, creating such efforts as "Guardian of the Flame" or "Age of Consent" which, although listenable and with their pinnacles, lack the girth of the band's golden years. However, "Life Among The Ruins" is everything that was wrong and inconsistent about Virgin Steele's budding phase, almost like it was spawned in some exterior corner of Defeis' mind from all the exposure to hard rock and finally clawed its way into Virgin Steele's forefront. This is Virgin Steele trying to capitalize on the then-dominant influence of hard rock à la Whitesnake with the occasional touch of glam bullshit. Virgin Steele is about epic metal. Virgin Steele and hard/glam rock do not mix in any universe. Ever.
And if you were striving for evidence in support of my purposed hypothesis, look no further than album opener "Sex Religion Machine." Everything about it is just trash, from the apathetic crawling riffs which would fit excellently on an unreleased Whitesnake track to Defeis’ sensual crooning over the garbage like its an ancient totem to Zeus. Defeis sounds fairly nice throughout the whole album—not really a surprise considering his ability, and there's a substantial amount of accessibility between him and the record's direction, actually. He's certainly a versatile vocalist, even here. Still, jumping into dull duds like "Love is Pain" and half-assed ballads like "Wildfire Woman" will make you welcome the unholy wrath of a thousand angry buttholes; there's no legitimate substance anywhere.
Unlike some of the band's other releases, acceptable tunes do not exist here. "Age of Consent" had "The Burning of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)” and others, but "Life Among The Ruins" yields no cluster of decency, nor does it ever relent in its constant upheaval of musical junk. Truth be told, the whole record is just the upbeat stench of "Sex Religion Machine," the faux-emotion of "Love is Pain," and one of the stupid ballads rehashed fourteen times over, no fresh air or flavor. Speaking of the overall package, was it really necessary to sandwich fourteen – Jesus, talk about an overabundance – tracks together, lasting for over fifty minutes? Goddamn. Also, the ending note, "Last Rose of Summer," is one of the worst Virgin Steele songs ever. Defeis sings in a laughable tenor so high it sounds like his testicles are wrapped in barbed wire, and the piano ballad postulate made me vomit.
Yes, I actually puked; a vile mix of clam chowder and popcorn currently covers my CD collection. As if that weren't bad enough, the eternal drought of filling content rolls forever here, and I'll gladly jump on a cactus if "Life Among The Ruins" isn’t labeled unspeakably horrid by most. There are a few solid reasons why Virgin Steele's legacy seldom points toward the remains of this savagely boring and unforgivably tedious offering penned by one of metal's finest factions. Virgin Steele is epic, smoldering, divine, and proudly tests the very essence of the gods with bravery and might; however, they were fragile and confused during this brief period in the group's crusade, thankfully just a bump before greatness, but a big one at that. Can't really recommend this to anyone, unless you're a masochist/Def Leppard fan.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
While not being as good as great epic releases like the Marriage of Heaven and hell and House of Atreus albums, Life among the Ruins sure has it's good points. First of all it is consistent: I mean, Age of Consent also had some great eightees hardrock songs, they just didn't seem to fit on the album. This time they dediced to release an entire album of bluesy hardrock in the vein of Whitesnake, this did ad to the consistency.
The normal hard rock songs like Sex Religion Machine and Crown of Thorns still show the more openminded listener that Dave and co. have been capable as always in delivering strong songs with great vocal lines and guitar solo's. Having mentioned this I also need to urge this album has one of the best productions VS ever had. (I mean, the drumsound on the marriage albums isn't that bad, but far from perfect) This time Rob DeMartino's bass guitar is audible at last and Edward's guitar sounds pretty heavy.
As for the ballads: yes, they are somewhat soft and will scare most true metal fans away. Fuck it, Never believed in Good-Bye and Cry Forever are great ballads and I like them.
Ok, Last Rose of Summer is really weak (the vocals are just overdone) and not all the songs are really that great, but still this album is charming in it's own way. If you are a VS you should buy it for the vocals and the guitarwork, if you like hardrock you should also buy it. If you only like epic heavy metal... buy all the other albums.
Virgin Steele is best known as a power metal act with a flair for theatrics and grandiose orchestration. The first few Virgin Steele albums, released in 1982 and 1983 respectively, laid the groundwork for epic and orchestral power metal. The first two albums display Jack Starr's fiery guitar work and David DeFeis's exceptional vocal talents. Many bands have tried to emulate Virgin Steele, but very few have ever reached the combined levels of majesty and power of DeFeis and company's output. “Noble Savage” (1985) saw the departure of Jack Starr and the arrival of Edward Pursino. While Pursino did not display the same prodigy-like levels of fury and speed that Starr displayed, his laid back approach naturally complemented DeFeis ever-improving vocal abilities.
“Age of Consent” (1988) saw Virgin Steel further distancing themselves from standard 80's power metal and instead delving into a more mature, orchestral power metal sound. With standout tracks like, “The Burning of Rome” and “Chains of Fire”, Virgin Steele seemed to be poised on a groundbreaking power metal career. DeFeis began incorporating themes of ancient Greece and mythology and adding more orchestrations and interludes to accent the music. Rather than building on the momentum gathered from previous releases, Virgin Steele decided to go back to their roots for their fifth full-length, entitled “Life Among the Ruins”, released in 1993.
“Life Among the Ruins” shows Virgin Steele playing a bluesy, hard rock style. Put in perspective, many bands at the time were dabbling in groove metal and grunge or moving to a more commercially acceptable sound. “Life Among the Ruins” is definitely a Virgin Steele album, there is no question about that, but it's lacking the charm and power of the classics. DeFeis's vocals are still top notch at times, including the falsettos and growls that he is known for, but he also meanders into standard AOR and hard rock waters. Some vocal lines sound like glam era, high heel wearing vocalists of the eighties, and this album suffers for those sections. When DeFeis hits the nail on the head, watch out. His mid range vocals are some of the best in the business, but his performance here is lacking, despite a few standout moments.
The music itself is not just watered down or geared towards the audience of the day, though, as the guitars still retain a distinctive crunch at times. Like the vocals, there are moments of bliss here, but, frankly, the band fails to hit the mark. The guitar lines tend to drag on, as the riffs are simple and somewhat lacking energy. The drums are painfully standard hard rock material. The biggest difference with this album, when compared to other Virgin Steele albums, is the significant lack of orchestration and the more simplistic song structures. “Life Among the Ruins” is basically Virgin Steele adding more blues and rock elements into their sound, while taking away the power of DeFeis's rampant keyboard work and the edginess of the band as a whole.
The production is excellent and everything is crystal clear on the recording. There are a few catchy, fun tracks, but there is also a lot of filler. The ballads on the album are marginally weaker than what modern day Virgin Steele is known for. DeFeis captures some of the emotion he's going for, but falls short by sticking to the hard rock delivery. This is an average release, and is a far cry from Virgin Steele's best work. If you are new to the band, start with either “Atreus” or one of the “Marriage” albums. I would only recommend this to die hard fans of the band; a few glimpses of Virgin Steele's magick are present, but overall a release you could do without.
Well this is quite an odd case - after "Noble Savage" and especially "The Age of Consent" went more in a epic direction, it not only took Defeis 5 years to come up with a follow-up - but he absolutely threw most of his trademarks overboard and came up with an album which has bears more resemblance to normal hardrock / bluesrock / glamrock than his previous work.
While this record definitely has a hand-full of good songs, and sports the best production so far, some excellent guitar work, and very good vocals by Defeis it still is rather confusing and seems out of place in Vs's backcatagogue. Highlights however are opening song "Sex Religion Machine", "Jet Black", "I Dress In Black" and "Crown Of Thorns".
So be warned, it's not a total disaster, but a complete change from previous/future albums - If you like bands that operate in the more blues / rock / glam scene than it's definitely worth checking out (and adding 10 - 15 points to the above score), but as a Virgin Steele fan you can't help but feel a bit dissapointed.