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Noble Savage was such a big deal when it came out. All of a sudden everyone wanted to know about Virgin Steele-the Long Island swordsmen. They had played a fair amount of shows before then and the press had reviewed and profiled them. The general consensus was that they were “on the verge of greatness”.
“Guardians Of The Flame” was a great album and yet everyone felt they ought to surpass that. The pressure was on and the boys were feeling it. Jack Starr had left the camp and quickly been replaced by David DeFeis’ longtime colleague, Edward Pursino to fill out some Canadian dates. Several songs had been written but the more lofty ones were let go to make space for a few easy-on-the-ear accessible radio friendly tunes.
Always striving to stay true to his craft, DeFeis factored in simple but effective mechanisms to make even the most basic of statements sound grand and worthwhile. He succeeded-but only to a point. Some of the more poppier moments of the record just couldn’t be saved from themselves. And so the album exists unto this day a largely inconsistent work. It tried to appeal to a larger audience that loved their arena rock and AOR tunes yet still ring true to the dirty roots heavy metal public. A perfect balance was not struck, but a balance of some sort was maintained.
On the one hand you had poppy, upbeat hard rock slabs like “Come On And Love Me”, “Rock Me”, “The Evil In Her Eyes” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes” that could easily rival any band churning out a similar brand of rock/pseudo-metal fare at that time. On the other hand, you had ambitious, orchestral, sprawling epics like “The Angel Of Light", "Noble Savage" and "Thy Kingdom Come". It might seem like a sharp contrast, but it actually wasn't. All those songs were crossed by the same line; they were all ultra-melodic with prominence given to choruses as if the band was striving for catchiness above all else.Therefore, DeFeis' brief sell out didn't entirely leave his more honest material unscathed. it all came shining with the same sheen.
The better songs on the album are those that don't try too hard-opener "We Rule The Night", "Fight Tooth And Nail", "Love And Death"-the ones whose job is essentially to just rock hard and mighty and go away. Loftiness did pay off though in the end. "The Angel Of Light" which had been conceived before any of the other material saved the album. It was such a beacon of the band's brainier side and a signal for them to pursue their epic ambitions as they would do in great pomp and flamboyance on "The Marriage Of Heaven and Hell, Part 2" and the two Acts of "The House Of Atreus". The song was a brooding masterpiece that greatly affected emotions with its complex layers and mood shifts; from dark and mystical to light and triumphant. Although the other epic on the album, "Noble Savage" suffered from David DeFeis' over singing, here he was a master, hitting the right note at the right time and exhibiting his best keyboard performance thus far. Edward Pursino's contributions to this album were fairly minimal. He was yet to get comfortable and in sharp contrast to Jack Starr, he sounded more controlled. "Come On And Love Me" contained his finer moments and seemed to echo the band's speed metal adventures as Venom incarnates in the band Exorcist. Ultimately, it was ruined by the overly insistent chorus that for some reason sounds disco-ey to me.
"Noble Savage" rests its head on the cushions of fondness. It is tolerated and forgiven even by the harshest of critics because after all, by all purposes and intents, it does rock! Personally, I think of it as just the half of a good idea.
Like others have mentioned, Virgin Steele seemed to be at a bit of a crossroads when they released this album. It was like they were trying to decide whether or not they wanted to play epic heavy metal, or lean more towards a party rock sound. So it's no surprise that the album is about half and half in that regard. Some of the songs on here will really have you scratching your head if you've only heard more recent Virgin Steele material, some of these songs are straight up glam metal, cock rock, with vocals that make Vince Neil seem tame in comparison. Sometimes those songs work, sometimes they don't. The same goes for the more epic traditional tracks, some of them are very good, others are bland.
"We Rule the Night" gets the album off to a good start, it seems like it's considered a Virgin Steele classic, and for good reason. A good steady gallop, loud bass that gives the song a dark feel. A great chorus with somewhat restrained vocals. So far so good, but here's where it gets weird. "I'm On Fire" is straight up fucking cock rock, with sleazy vocals that almost sound like they are rapped(yep...) I'll admit, I enjoy the song quite a bit, you just have to be ready for it. "Thy Kingdom Come" is a lot like the first track, and it's a really nice heavy rocker. Then comes the albums first epic, "Noble Savage," And it's a very good song, clocking in at 7 and a half minutes, it flows along nicely, and shows the band doing what they do best. Probably the highlight of the entire album. Then when we get to "The Evil in Her Eyes" the album shifts back into cock rock once again, this one is just as cheesy as "I'm on Fire" and the lyrics are absolutely atrocious. But for some reason, I find myself liking the song quite a bit.
Then comes the most hilarious moment on the entire album, the beginning of the song "Rock Me" which is probably the fucking gayest song I've ever heard in my life. I went and got myself tested for AIDS after listening to this fucking pop rock shit. But I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite, because as much as I despise "Rock Me" I actually enjoy the hilariously cheesy ballad "Don't Close Your Eyes" I have no idea why, it's just as likely to induce AIDS as the previous track but this one just clicks, so sue me. I skipped over a few tracks, mostly because they are boring, like the 7 minute closer "The Angel of Light" which sounds like an early Maiden song, just not nearly as good.
In closing, the album is definitely a mixed bag. It's just weird to hear such different styles in one place, on the same album. But if you are willing to wade through some shit, you'll find that there are some really fucking great songs on here.
Noble Savage is not the landmark album it is called in the album booklet, but it's absolutely not as mediocre like some people like to call it. I do need to stress you all to skip Rock Me en Don't Close Your Eyes. Rock Me is a gay rocker, Don't Close Your Eyes is a gay ballad. This being said, let's move on to the rest of the album.
Songs like I'm on Fire, Fight Tooth and Nail, The Evil in her Eyes and Love and Death are just plane, nice rockers with some good vocalwork and great guitarsolo's, the only problem is the lyrics are quite cheezy and definitly not as great like the later work will be (especially The Evil in her Eyes is more glamrock than the rest).
Fear not, for headbangers like We Rule the Night and Come on and love me, are absolutely great: raw, pounding and heavy. Ballads like The spirit of Steele and Where are you running to are also not bad at all, although Where are you running perhaps will be a little to soft for most metal heads. Image of a Faun at Twilight and The Pyre of Kings are typical VS instrumentals, which means there's nothing wrong with them.
The real great stuff is to find in the epics. Thy Kingdom come starts like a normal rocker, but when David starts to sing 'And dream for Tomorrow, take my hand, we'll b free. Ancient kingdoms in the sunset in the darkness of our years, never fade!' the song makes a big change into the epic songs they are playing nowadays. Noble Savage is a classic metal tune. People who command you to skip it after 5 minutes just have no taste at all, for David's screams are awesome. The Angel of Light is also great and actually quite progressive. Great lyrics and keyboardwork on this one.
My personal favorite, Obsession (it burns for you) is a song I think they should play more live. It has emotion, power and some haunting lyrics about love turning into obsession. The chorus 'Ride the wind tonight, see the angels fall!' is awesome and will make you scream along and wanna wreck your head.
The production is typical eightees: not bad, but maybe a little too old for some people. I myself don't care much for it, since the songs themselves are the most important thing. Noble Savage is not THE landmark album in VS history, but it sure helped them a lot to make it to the metal top. Skip the two songs I just mentioned, sing along to the rest of it.
Regarded by certain people (amongst them Virgin Steele frontman David Defeis) as a classic, although personally I wouldn't want to go and label it as one myself - due to being far too inconsistent.
The main problem (apart from the weak production) is the fact that Defeis doesn't seem to have made up his mind yet as to what exactly he wants to play - switching off excellent epic tracks ("Thy Kingdom Come", "Noble Savage") with songs that can be described as glamrock ("I'm On Fire", "Rock Me") and straight, solid rockers ("Fight Tooth And Nail"). Musically though you can already hear out what an excellent band they would turn out to be - although everything is a little bit less worked out and developped as of yet.
Definitely not as strong as the later (mid-90's up to now..) Virgin Steele releases, although still above average - containing at least a a handfull of classics, most notably "Noble Savage", "Angel Of Light" and "We Rule The Night" - but not enough to label the entire album as such.
Note as well the the tracklisting and review is for the re-mastered version, which differs quite a lot from the "original" - with the inclusion of various decent bonus-tracks and a very nice booklet.
This is Virgin Steele from before they were making the House of Atreus and other cool theme albums... while this CD has elements of such later efforts, there is also a lot of... cough cough sputter... glam. The CD ranges in quality from great to Godawful. David Defeis sounds a lot less developed as a vocalist sometimes.
"We Rule the Night" starts us off, after a random intro... total power metal, and while it's cheesy in that Motley Crue way, it's really a great song. Nice lead guitars, and the chorus is catchy as fuck. Winner. "I'm on Fire" is a bit sillier, and the album goes in this way for a bit, until we get to the title track... this is one of the first really great epics that Virgin Steele wrote, and this one works really great....
for a while. Then, you think the song is over, but no, it is not. They staple on this bit at the end that is really the Prom Song from Hell. A lot of "oohs" and "aahs" and shrieking, and MY GOD WHERE IS THE SKIP BUTTON!!! This is really hideous.
Then, we get some stuff that really sounds like Manowar in 'Fight Tooth and Nail', and some more silly stuff, and we get to the first ballad, 'Don't Close Your Eyes'. So I guess at this point V.S. were not good at writing ballads yet, and that is all that I have to say about that.
More epic stuff in "The Angel of Light", and then "Love and Death". Then, more ballads. The good and the absolutely horrible are alternated, and when it's horrible, it really is REALLY horrible. I'm talking "Ooh baby" stuff. Stuff that would make Bon Jovi cringe. Skip button necessitated. It's really weird what is going on here, since even the first two albums didn't have silly 80s cock rock in this great amounts. It's very schizophrenic.
The last highlight... "Come on and Love Me". It starts off as a silly 80s song, then for no apparent reason it speeds up by literally 80% and, what is this, thrash metal? Not quite, but you will bang your head. It has the "Eat Me Alive" syndrome - really bad lyrics but surprisingly good music.
So, what do we have here? A lot of skip button jockeying is needed, but otherwise this album definitely has its highlights. Not bad, just not great. "Yeah, baby."