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Come on, how were they able to pull this thing off? Yes, I guess Mr. Defeis had been reading about the Trojan war while stoned out of his mind, so a concept album Greek mythology would come out naturally. However, how did they manage to tell the story in an original way, while having the perfect music to back it up? How were Virgin Steele capable to create a concept album that required heavy knowledge of Greek literature to be totally understood, yet were smart enough to keep the tale away from those who didn't want to get into it? How the fuck do you put 12 interludes and instrumentals in your album that all sound interesting? I don't know, but this (Along with The Spectre Within) is the best power metal album I have ever heard, and I encourage you to listen to it at least one hundred times before you die.
Probably before even listening to the album itself, you’ll notice the huge track listing. There are 22 songs in here, and as I already said, 12 of them are interludes. Virgin Steele have already proved to be the masters at this, since other bands like Blind Guardian have filled entire albums with pointless interludes before, only to be forgotten 0.01 seconds after they end. Go ahead, tell me "In Triumph or Tragedy" isn't amazing on its own. Think of them as really good mini-songs instead of 'interludes'. They tie up longer songs together or end in a climax for the next one. "Agony and Shame" wouldn't be the same without "Garden of Lamentation" being a really quiet ballad behind, waiting for everything to explode into that immensely epic keyboard melody. What I'm trying to say is that The House of Atreus I is to be listened in its entirety, not having a single song to skip over.
'Steele had already proved to be the most epic power metal band out there, with albums such as Invictus and the Marriage... ones. However, this one blows them all away tenfold, maybe because it has a wider range of killer tracks merely than a bunch of 'really fucking good' ones. "Child of Desolations" is their greatest ballad, certainly one of the best power ballads of all times; having these kinds of songs is a great advantage. As I said, you shouldn't listen to any track on its own, they're all connected lyrically as well as musically. Hell, some themes from Marriage and Invictus appear here, for example, an expanded version of themes found in "Emalaith" that made up "Descent into Death's Twilight Kingdom"; you can play around and find all the references. There's no "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" theme though, which is a shame, but there are so many more; in riffs, in keyboard solos, in vocal melodies, etc.
Not to say this sounds like a bunch of recycled ideas from other albums, they're just ways of going on with the story; since somehow Marriage's story is connected to Atreus. I don't understand everything from the tales themselves, but it doesn't matter because the story is there only if you want to get into it. Besides, look at the crew! There's no need to 'get' a concept album when you have David Defeis' perfect taste for powerful keyboard lines, emotional melodies, excellent lyrics, and being an all around amazing singer. To that, add Edward Pursino's impeccable guitar work. He's one of the best guitar players in power metal, both riff wise (highlighting "Flames of the Black Star"s main riff), and solo wise, which highlights any of his solos in Virgin Steele, ever; but in here you can single "Kingdom of the Fearless". The drumming is very well done, no bass-drum wankery at all times for the sake of having them in the front. Without being overused, they inject even more power into specially climatic moments. And there's also the bass.
The House of Atreus is a metal opera like no other (at least like no one but Virgin Steele could pull off), epic power metal from start to finish. Sometimes it'll make you headbang and air guitar around your house ("Flames of the Black Star", "Kingdom of the Fearless"), sometimes it'll bring you to the brink of tears ("Gate of Kings", "Child of Desolations"), and other times it will be a huge combination of every single one of those emotions, to the power of 'epically awesome', plus one. This last one comes in the form of "Agony and Shame", undoubtedly the absolute highlight of this work of art, which is complemented perfectly by "Garden of Lamentation" and segues into "Gate of Kings" which segues into "Via Sacra". At the end someone should yell "COMBO BREAKER!" for having such a strong, continuous suite. That's how good this album is.
Yep, this the most epic album ever. One of the best power metal opuses (well it's better than pretty much every single one of them out there), with the added value that it fucking teaches you Greek history. I passed a philosophy test based on Greek mythology thanks to The House of Atreus I. Maybe because I was lucky that it was based on what happened after...ehem, 'the destruction of Troy'. What more is there to say? Oh wait.
Virgin Steele rules.