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Brace yourselves, 'cause this is going to be a long one.
Virgin Steele should need no introduction around these parts, and I'm sure that the majority of us are no stranger to this album by now with plenty of healthy discussion taking place on the boards. I've had the promo for this for quite some time, and when the release date came around I nabbed a copy straight away. Since then I've spun this just about every day, some days permitting multiple spins, and I'm in no rush to stop spinning The Black Light Bacchanalia any time soon.
I'm going to get the negatives out of the way first. The production struck me as quite bizarre on first impression, the vocals felt really high in the mix and the drum kit felt quite electronic. Also DeFeis, while owning the first 30 seconds of the opening track utilizes a whispered style of delivery in the verses, which was alarming at first. However I don't feel that the vocal style is used to compensate for the shortcomings brought on by father time, if that were the case his high register and falsettos would be the first to go. He proves throughout The Black Light Bacchanalia that he can still do them in spades. I also wish they used Edward Pursino a little more, sure Joshua Block is awesome, and his leads are quality but I prefer Edward's style which was one of the best parts about their classic five.
So getting into the actual meat of The Black Light Bacchanalia the album opens up with one of my personal favorite tracks of both the album and 2010. "By The Hammer Of Zeus (And The Wrecking Ball Of Thor)" is Virgin Steele doing what they do best, having no need for build up or introduction. This kicks straight in with DeFeis owning the place left right and centre, delivering what I'm taking as an homage to the late Ronnie James Dio in that "Look Out!". From here onwards Virgin Steele tear through metallic brilliance, moody piano passages, and progressive arrangement, both hungry and emotional, burning with intensity throughout.
Just about every track stand out to me as great, although picking favorites I'd have to go with the aforementioned opener. "In A Dream Of Fire" which matches the description of "barbaric-romantic" metal they use so often. The twin punch of "The Orpheus Taboo" and "To Crown Them With Halos Parts 1 & 2" again both standout as fantastic, with the latter having some truly amazing passages throughout its 11+ minute runtime. Closing up on the favorites "Eternal Regret" quickly rose as a favorite of mine in the last few days, about the lamentation of god and the damage he has done throughout the events in tracks on here and the last album Visions of Eden, that in the end comes out as a very emotional track with some of the album's finest piano work. Fortunately there aren't any particularly bad tracks here, although if I had to pick a least favorite it would probably be "Nepenthe (I Live Tomorrow)" however I still think it's a good song.
For the performances, as I mentioned before, I feel DeFeis is definitely on form. His vocals are excellent and his range majestic however I will admit that it had to grow on me. As is the norm with Virgin Steele the keyboards and orchestration are flawless though maybe a little overbearing for some. Pursino and Black both deliver great guitar performances particularly in the leads, melodies and harmonies, and Frank Gilchriest puts forth another brilliant drum performance.
It is in repeated listens that the beauty of The Black Light Bacchanalia opens up, I'd say at around two or three full listens I was pretty much sold. Since then I've went on to listen to this album countless times, and I just can't help going back to it. At over 76 minutes this is a big investment of time, and as is usually the case with albums of this length you expect a fair share of filler. Well it seems Virgin Steele truly are pros at doing lengthy albums and as with their last six studio releases there is no room for filler (okay, maybe Atreus: Act II was pushing it a bit at an hour and a half).
Overall Virgin Steele have done it again. Some people will whine and twist that this isn't Invictus or House of Atreus, that the riffs aren't as prominent as they once were, but I believe its unfair to the band to expect that from them. Virgin Steele will continue to push on with their sound and who knows what could come next, which is why Virgin Steele are one of the most exciting bands around. The Black Light Bacchanalia ranks among the finest this year has to offer, and while admittedly not as great as the classic five I feel this isn't too far behind in terms of quality. Highly recommended
The age of the hero is mine...
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com