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All trains gotta stop sometime. - 63%

Empyreal, November 11th, 2010

Well, this was bound to happen sometime or other. I love Virgin Steele, and at their best they really are one of the classiest and best metal acts out there, but even the gods aren’t infallible. Apparently after almost 10 years gone from the scene they seem to have lost their marbles, or at the very least have bitten off more than they could chew. Visions of Eden was a detour, and one that could be excused – they’d still come back to their regular sound later, right? Experimentation is fine, but there are ways to take it too far…which this album does rather garishly. The train has run itself off the tracks, people.

This is called The Black Light Bacchanalia, and we have the first flaw of this album right there. Virgin Steele has simply gotten too wrapped up in DeFeis’ own mythos and pretentiousness. The 90s stuff was always elaborate, sure, but it was always rooted to Earth with catchy riffs, choruses and an adherence to some semblance of the heavy metal style. This stuff…is just too much. I mean it’s not like they’ve lost the ability to write songs, but it’s more like they’re more concerned now with trying to write some kind of faux-opera story with multiple characters and parts and storylines, except they never really go all the way with that either, not like they did on the Atreus albums. Instead they just keep trudging through overly long and overly progressive songs in a manner that suggests they think they are being clever – or rather, DeFeis does, as he is the only one who really wrote any songs on this.

It’s frustrating because there are some really good parts to this album that remind me of the kind of music this band is capable of at their best “By the Hammer of Zeus” rocks, and it’s followed with slices of majestic metal like “Pagan Heart” and the melodic, gloomy “In a Dream of Fire,” but sadly these opening songs are the only good ones on here. After that the album just kind of loses itself up DeFeis’ polished ass and meanders around for a good 55 minutes, producing only moments of actual tension and grandiosity amongst many, many more of pointless and directionless stumbling. Listen to the storming, riff-crammed openings of “The Orpheus Taboo” or the title track and you will be incredibly disappointed as they sink into asininely restrained prog jerking that just doesn’t end up interesting at all.

Every song is like that really; lots of masturbatory pianos and ornate guitar work with very little substance or direction. “To Crown Them With Halos” is trying, and it’s definitely really elaborate and structured, but I can’t help but think it just doesn’t reach its point fast enough, if it even has one. “Necropolis” is long and overly mellow and like a less good version of “Emalaith” from the second Marriage album. Except, you know, on THAT album they didn’t have like 5 other songs trying to be “Emalaith,” too, so it was better, more surprising and more poignant. This is just overkill. By the time the slothful “Eternal Regret” rolls around this album is just completely tiresome, with very little to keep the listener hooked.

DeFeis’ vocals on here are overly adorned with pointless crooning and ridiculous castrati wailing contrasting his gurgling-broken-glass ‘harsh’ voice in a way that seems to be dodging the implication that maybe, just maybe, his regular voice isn’t cutting it anymore. The whole album is like a plastic Christmas tree. It’s flashy and it looks nice on paper but why bother with it when you could get the real, organic thing? That is, go listen to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Invictus or The House of Atreus instead. The Black Light Bacchanalia is simply too much music with too little real, actual meaning behind it – and no, I’m not counting the arbitrary, pompous lyrical storyline behind this whole thing…

I really don’t mean to be so venomous towards this, but really, Virgin Steele are one of my favorite bands and this album is incredibly annoying, especially when you get a section or two that really makes you think ‘Ooh, maybe I was wrong! Maybe this IS getting better!’ Newsflash: It’s not.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com