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Wow, just wow. There aren’t many albums that can consistently floor me like Virgin Steele’s Marriage albums. Up for inspection today is the first one, which hit the unsuspecting power metal world in 1994 with a stunning, articulate release boasting some of the finest music the genre had, and likely will ever see.
What makes The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part I so incredible is the sum of its individual parts. For starters, the song writing is as good as it gets. David DeFeis and Edward Pursino channeled a well of genius that would see them through the next four or five albums (depending on how you feel about Visions Of Eden). Each song feels meticulously crafted, with triumphant guitar hooks, majestic vocal lines, and superb subject matter. Further still, the lyrics are incredible, poignant, romantic; really striking and transferred wonderfully into each respective song to be memorable and thematic.
It’s really hard to peg down exactly what happened to Virgin Steele between the song writing sessions from Life Among The Ruins and The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell. I do feel some elements are carried over from Life Among The Ruins. Particularly in the instrumental interludes and even songs like “Crown Of Thorns”, they aren’t too far away from what they were doing here. Of course this sound has been hinted at throughout the band’s entire career, although at the time I can’t imagine anyone would have seen this coming. The fusion of traditional heavy metal values with classic, romantic, and operatic themes conveyed via the vocals, keyboards, pianos, and even the guitars is incredible, and really made The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell a defining release for the band.
Regardless of how they got there, this is a release I can’t praise enough. From the excellent production values to the painstaking attention to detail in writing each and every song, this is fantastic. It really goes to show what a band can do when they channel a vein of creativity and write for themselves. As a result, Virgin Steele sounds proud across the release, displaying a burning intensity through rip-roaring stompers like “I Wake Up Screaming” or gorgeous musical segments like “The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell”. If you recall my review for Life Among The Ruins, you’ll remember me mentioning how well the ballads had come along, and if they had nearly perfected them there, then here on The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part I they had mastered the art of the ballad.
If you’ve yet to hear this album, then I urge you to pick it up at the next available opportunity. It might not click from the get-go, but I can assure you that the more time you invest will garner greater reward. I rarely throw around phrases like “one of the best metal albums ever”, but then again I rarely hear albums that can match the intimidating amount of quality displayed on The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part I. I won’t lie; on more than one occasion this album has brought a tear to my eye. I can’t recommend this enough, buy it now.
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com
I have to wonder what someone would have expected of a Virgin Steele release in 1994. Grunge was on the rise, and many metal bands were trying to change their sound to gain popularity. This is evident in VS's previous release, Life Among the Ruins, in which they changed sound completely from glam metal/epic power metal to hard rock. Even given the album's title, the average VS fan would most likely have had low expectations. "I bet it'll be another shitty hard rock album," a fan of the epic power metallers we glimpsed on Noble Savage and Age of Consent. However, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I is far from shitty hard rock; rather, it took the power metal we saw in only a few songs on the aforementioned album and made a concept out of it. For 1994, that was a pretty ballsy move, and it certainly paid off. Marriage I is one of my favorite power metal albums of all time.
Everything is in top form here, with a crisper, clearer production than we had with '80s VS, and David DeFeis sounding more refined and in control of his voice than he was in the past. Essentially, VS have taken everything that was working for them in the '80s and dialed it up a notch.
The album starts off with the dark, cavernous, malicious "I Will Come For You", in which DeFeis sounds like some maniac hunting a child through some dark, remote tunnel. It quickly becomes obvious that, while the album is primarily power metal, it has significant classic metal influences in the riffing; it is less bombastic and more gritty than most power metal, while still retaining a slight epic flair. At any rate, "I Will Come For You" is a solid song, with savage riffs and malicious vocals, keeping the listener interested throughout.
"Weeping of the Spirits" starts with a moody acoustic intro, but soon becomes full on raging epic power metal. The riffs here are even better than those in "I Will Come For You". It's catchy, aggressive, and epic in mood; like someone ready for battle. Despite DeFeis' excellent performance, the riffs are so catchy that they threaten to take the spotlight throughout much of the song, but regardless of which one you're focused on, you're in for a treat here.
"Blood & Gasoline" is at once glorious and gritty in its execution; it seems to effortlessly combine both the best aspects of classic heavy metal and epic power metal. The incredibly catchy chorus is the highlight here, but the entire song is excellent, with never a dull moment and consistently good riffs throughout.
"Self Crucifixion" is a half-ballad of sorts, building up with an ominous keyboard-laden intro into an equally ominous chorus. The riffs here are very simple but effective, melodic and catchy. This is definitely a solid track worth hearing. "Last Supper" is a slow, dark, crushing song with a simple, barbaric main riff that is good but a bit overused, and the song quickly becomes dull and repetitive, not really worth hearing.
"Warrior's Lament" is one of, thankfully, only two interludes on the album, as it's not very good and doesn't contribute much of anything musically. It leads into "Trail of Tears" which, like "Last Supper" is dark, desperate, and angry. Unfortunately, it has the same problem of using a riff which, while good, doesn't hold up under constant use. Luckily, the song stops using it partway through, although the ideas that come in at that point are mixed in quality. Overall, the song is decent, but it's a bit too long and kind of meanders around for awhile.
Thankfully, the album starts to pick back up with "The Raven Song" which is speedy, aggressive, and cavernous, a bit like "I Will Come For You"; it gets going from the start and never lets up. The riffs here are great, and there are finally enough to go around.
I'm not sure what it is about DeFeis' vocals here but it really sounds like he's singing from the depths of some murky underground cavern, and it only helps to fit the atmosphere.
"Forever I Will Roam" is a ballad that starts off with a promising emotive, wistful acoustic intro, but quickly loses my interest when the electric guitars come in; something about them just kills the atmosphere. The intro is good as an intro, but the melody is repeated as a verse throughout the song, and just doesn't stand up too well. Ultimately the song is pretty mediocre.
"I Wake Up Screaming" is a straightforward rocker, and this one's excellent. The riffs are great, and DeFeis displays some of his best vocals on the album, especially when the guitars back off and he coos, "I am trapped here in this prison..." There are some background keys here, too, and they add to the atmosphere nicely. The lyrics here are pretty cool too; while I haven't read them for the song as a whole, the ones I notice stand out to me; lines like "I am drowning in your bullshit!" and "So you think you want to fuck with me?" convey DeFeis' angry tone pretty nicely.
"House of Dust" is another ballad, and thankfully this one is good. It is sorrowful, nostalgic, and forlorn; more than any other song on the album, the mood really paints a picture for me, of someone trapped somewhere in a completely hopeless situation with no way out, searching for someone to help him yet no one will. His performance almost brings me to tears at moments, especially when he shrieks plaintively, "Heaven will not receive me, nobody will believe me!!!" This is no doubt one of the best songs here.
"Blood of the Saints" is another slab of epic power metal, with a fantastic main riff and some very interesting lyrics that seem to cover different literary works; the LoTR reference is pretty obvious with the line "One ring to rule, and one ring to find them all!". I haven't picked out any other references, which may or may not be there, but I liked the nod to Tolkien mixed in with everything else.
"Life Among the Ruins" is one of the better songs here, bombastic and powerful with a feel a bit more in tune with Marriage II than anything else on the album. The chorus is spectacular, the highlight of the song and perhaps the best chorus on the album. This is definitely a song you don't want to miss.
Finally, we have the interlude "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", which has the integral melody we heard on "I Will Come For You", and it's very nice as interludes go; possibly enough to even stand on its own, and certainly enough to complete the album.
Overall, Marriage I isn't incredibly consistent, but it's got some great songs and some more solid ones, and for 1994 it may as well have singlehandedly resurrected that classic, gritty, simple heavy metal from the '80s we all know and love. It doesn't have as much atmosphere as some of the later albums, but DeFeis makes up for it with pure charm and charisma, and most of the riffs are infectiously catchy. If you're a fan of VS, power metal, or classic heavy metal, give this album a spin; it won't disappoint you.
I was recently reminded by a friend I should really start writing reviews for Metal Archives, due to my sheer awesomeness and large amount of free time. Now, I'm a realistic person, so of course this idea of his was absolutely not something I'd generally do, so fuck it I said, let's do it!
Where else to start but at the favorites. Virgin Steele was, still is, and will be the band of all the bands for me. It's been 6 years of it constantly caressing my eardrums, and I'm quite certain it will be doing that for another thousand. Putting my lameness on pause, I'd consider myself to be one of those rabid fanboys of this band, generally drooling all over the place whenever I hear David's voice loving me softly, or Edward's guitar raping my orifices with guitar solo upon guitar solo.
Gayness aside, I, like many more of my fellow humans find this album to be a beginning of an era for Virgin Steele. An era of originality, metal and mythology which started in the year 1995. and gently continues til today's date. Sure not everyone loved their latest album Visions of Eden, but what people fail to see is the sheer factor of diversity Virgin Steele have to offer; And unlike the general bland flavor of most bands copying most other bands who copied the bands before them, Virgin Steele takes upon the classic heavy/power metal recipe and tweaks it up a bit. A whole awesome bit.
Here we come to the Marriage of Diversity „Heaven and Hell“ which offer to us all mostly one simple thought, that be something I'd call „metal“. Not just metal mind you, metal with a story behind it, a deeper meaning and almost a transcendent value through the ages. In simple words Heaven and Hell fucken' rules; It's a simple combination of heavy metal, subtle keyboards, David Defeis and chemical X.
Now as I always love to point it out, I Will Come for You, other than harboring funny puns over it's name, can be a damn story for itself. We're not talking wankery beyond any kind of common sense Dream Theater has to offer, nor the deep poetic implications of bands like Sabbat (mind you I love Sabbat, but there's a point to this, trust me), no, this song has certain simplicity to offer, a story of an endless love and the sheer willpower for reunion of two lost souls over a world of hatred and pain.
It may sound a bit cheesy, but it's all about delivery and David delivers with his charming and flowing vocals; He seamlessly fuses power and emotion in one, creating what we fanboys would call „The Virgin Steele Sound“.
And therefore you're slammed with the purest of the pure heavy metal riffs in the medulla oblongata forcing you to wave your head and limbs, kicking and pushing, raping and pillaging all over the place just to remove the feeling. Halfway you realize you are not suffering from an utterly amazing brain tumor but instead have been suckered into the Steele music and congratulations, you've just gained a experience you'll never want to forget. Nor will you.
As far as the songs go themselves the album itself isn't too perfect, there's a few songs that are a bit under the Steele average, but if you asked me today to remove a song I don't really like much in the album, I'd have no idea which one to remove. They simply lodge themselves into your brain and stay there all seamlessly acting as they belonged there.
So in conclusion, this album is but a start of a mighty career, but it roars, kicks and breaks everything around itself, and even if there are some inherited flaws, or small bits of boredom, it's still an amazing story that shouldn't be dissected nor criticised. It's truly one of those albums that should be listened for what they are and that's of course a story full of emotion and opposites, without too much wankery and guitar fellatio.
A worthy mention would be "Life Among the Ruins" which is a redemptive song of sorts succesfully slaughtering the previous album with the same name which in all due respect to VS, was 100% cheese filled.
With Virgin Steele being one of my favorite five bands of all times, I wasn’t quite confident on whether I should dare to write a review over any of their albums since I feared that I might get carried away because of my love for them. However, writing my opinion for a band of their magnitude was a big temptation, so I was finally convinced to do it.
After the release of a bad album, Life Among the Ruins, the gods of melodic power metal returned with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and put everything in place. Though it did not reach the glorious Noble Savage, it was almost equal in quality and none of the fans were displeased. This time the band records as a trio, since Edward Pursino plays the electric and bass guitar as well.
The Marriage of… contains of twelve songs and two instrumentals. It begins with the outstanding I Will Come for You. It is a classic, epic Virgin Steele piece with smart breaks and DeFeis’ harsh, still melodic vocals. It‘s one of the most demanded songs at their gigs. Truly magnificent! Then we have another masterpiece, Weeping of the Spirits. Power metal to the core, with a beautiful acoustic intro followed by an impressive riff by Pursino.
The heavy storm continues with force as Steele throw more metal thunders like Blood of the Saints with the pounding drums, or the six minutes epic, Life Among the Ruins. The guitar riffs are heavy as hell and the powerful drumming punches you in the stomach without mercy. Blood and Gasoline and I Wake up Screaming are nice ones, hard and melodic at the same time. DeFeis adjusts his vocals to each song changing them from aggressive to calm and serene without difficulties. After all, he is one of metal’s top singers.
Last Supper differs a bit from the rest in terms that it slower, though quite heavy and imposing as well. Its lyrics speak of Christ and how he knew about Judas’ betrayal. There are also two wonderful ballads, Forever Will I Roam and House of Dust, both in the familiar style of Virgin Steele. Especially the second one is absolutely, totally fucking excellent.
Of course there are some mediocre or even poor moments like Trail of Tears, however they are extremely bad and they cannot ruin the greatness the whole impression of the album. What’s more important is that in a time when some people claimed that metal was going through a crisis, Virgin Steele released an album based on and dedicated to the tradition they created. Definitely it is a top moment for DeFeis and his mates and a jewel in everyone’s collection.
Sweet Satan, this rules! Fuck all pretenses. I don't care how much of a raving fanatic I sound in this review, as long as it gets the point across. Virgin Steele's 90s run was one of the most impressive I've ever seen, and this album, along with the four that came after it, are undeniable metal classics, all of them. And they're all good for different reasons, too! Virgin Steele are one of the most flexible bands I've ever come across, at least in this genre, boasting new, great strengths with each leap and bound.
On The Marriage of Heaven and Hell part 1, their main strength is just being really, really epic. Now, there's a term that's seen quite a lot of over-use and stagnation lately, but here it is very applicable. The band cranks out huge, stomping riffs that can also gallop, soar and charge, and then you have David DeFeis and his unmistakable lion's roar of a voice, and Edward Pursino's solos are always juicy, melodic and rich, the keys are blended in perfectly, the guitar tone is crunchy and warm and heavy as Hell, and everything is pretty much perfect. Face it. This is the best Power Metal album of the 1990s, and it's probably better than anything produced in the '00s as of right now, too. It might not eclipse such transcendental albums as Ample Destruction or Burning Star or Transcendence, but rest assured, it's on that very same level!
We kick off with the atmospheric, haunting "I Will Come For You," and it's heavy and ominous. It's a good song, but not the best here...however, we then kick into "Weeping of the Spirits," and for anyone who doesn't like awesome, you'd better stop listening to this album right now. Virgin Steele have produced some fine epics in their time, but none are more boldly aggressive and stunningly crafted than this song. It's got a crackling verse, a headstrong riff and a lushly melodic chorus, all topped off with absolutely wonderful lyrics. "Blood and Gasoline" smokes, as does the wistful "Self Crucifixion," the big and epic "Last Supper," the kinetic "Raven Song" and the pristine balladry of "Forever Will I Roam" and "House of Dust."
The album finishes with a bang with the smoking "Blood of the Saints" and the seminal "Life Among the Ruins," which just shines with a catchy, bouncy, crunchy riff and a chorus that will make you want to pump your metal-spiked, leather-clad fist in the air like a fucking mongoloid. "You were a rose, you were a blade! Down on my knees in the fiery rain! Life among the ruins..." Fucking killer. And then of course the Marriage theme is quite poignant and regal, as always. Shove this album under the nose of all who worship false metal, and do it with vehemence.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
'Once we had beauty our sun blazed in passion we lived alive...'
If the mainly deceased disco castrato collective, the Bee Gees asked their listeners 'How deep is your love?’ – which I always thought was a cleverly hid innuendo asking the depth of a lover's pudendum muleris – then, for a brief moment I ask you how deep is your metal? Virgin Steele, to me at least, is a band of incredible depth. Musically and lyrically, where other bands may fall by the wayside Defeis and Pursino persist in delivering metal that is emotional and intelligent. Though it acknowledges its listener's own intellect by not forcing it down their throat, as so many "thinking man's metal" bands would have. Furthermore, they are not without rational, as none of Virgin Steele's concepts come across as aloof. Though the idea of Barbarian Romantic metal may come across as pompous, it somehow manages to avoid the potential pitfalls of conceptual and literary heavy metal and maintains an earthy melodic sensibility and the values of the forefathers of the genre.
To me, Virgin Steele are to power metal what Jethro Tull were to progressive rock. Whereas Tull had their humour and deft folkish touches, Virgin Steele have an understanding of the way in which classical and metal can be married which far surpasses, say, Rhapsody's complete lack of tact. I can tell Defeis actually listened to his Rainbow records rather than just staring at the covers and going, "Ronnie James Dio! You can't deny the RAWK!” Often Fates Warning are often singled out as the power metal band for people who aren't actually into power metal will enjoy, to me Virgin Steele are of similar ilk, albeit a better band. When I first saw the words 'Marriage of Heaven & Hell: Part One' emblazoned across the album's brilliant artwork (despite the naked chick's strangely droopy left bosom or strangely nipple-like elbow), I thought to myself; "Ah, William Blake! A marriage hearse, the ghost of a flea... Little Lamb who made thee!” But no, 'Marriage...' may share the same title as Blake's poem, but Defeis wasn't actually thinking of old Billy Blake in his writing of this album. Rather, he was simply reflecting his love of opposites, you know - the Noble Savage, the contrasting namesake of the band and its initials that in a boxing ring would symbolise the idea of conflict. But this is no Rocky styled brawl as with the 'Marriage...' albums VS perfected having the dichotomy of combining metallic savagery with softer passages with ease. But still, 'Marriage...' has numerous literary references, though non of them are glaringly obvious, again thankfully not going "I'm clever, you’re thick... Look at me. Teacher, I'm here!”
Ever since the 'Noble Savage' album Virgin Steele, for me at least, has been all about David Defeis and guitar side man Edward Pursino. After one gets away from the more mainstream metal singers, you generally get repetitions of the big three. This bloke sounds like Halford, this one sounds like Dio and this fellow even nicked Dickinson's bowl cut. Defeis however, is none of these. He acknowledges their greatness, but does not wish to simply perform a cabaret version of them. Which is a very different approach to every clown who sung in the perpetually-overrated-goon-magnet that is Jon Schaffer's Talent Vacuum (I don't think that's their official name, mind you). Defeis may be responsible for much of the vision and drive of Virgin Steele, but his powers are considerably weaker without his long-time side-man, Edward Pursino. Pursino is a gifted guitarist whose solos are racy, melodic and never out of place. His tone is a lot warmer than on future albums that suit the songs perfectly. More importantly, however, is the trouser tightening lick at 2:32 in 'Self Crucifixion' and it's all over this album! What a fantastic piece of legato, Edward's solos light up many of these songs like a brilliant sunshine on a cloudy day, not that these songs really needed further illumination.
One of the many successes of 'The Marriage of Heaven & Hell: Part One' is that its seventy minutes of, at times, complex, usually bombastic and always teetering the very thin plank in which the quail invested seas of Overblown reside below (well, sharks simply wouldn't have been apt!). 'I Will Come for You' is a welcome introduction to the bombastic and skilfully melodious approach of the Pursino era of Virgin Steele. In this song we are first introduced to the theme of the 'Marriage...' series, this subtle classical reference, composers (fucking 'posers!) would use the same themes in different compositions. Again, this reflects the deftness of Defeis's compositional approach, unlike the metal bands who would actually force themselves into the orchestra pit and scream;
"I'm playing with an orchestra, look at it work!” Honestly, this approach is refreshing. So many times metal with classical influences reminds me of the remedial child forcing together two pieces of jigsaw that simply don't fit. Bless him. 'Weeping of the Spirits' is an example of emotionally heavy music that need not be trite or sappy. It's a powerful piece and a showcase for the perennial arse-kicker, David Defeis (except for those early albums in which he sounded like a bleating and lost goat about to be eaten by a bridge dwelling troll).
'Blood & Gasoline' is something of an amalgamation of the style seen on the formidable 'Age of Consent' album, the more commercially minded brief and melodic nature of say 'On the Wings of the Night' with a desperate, epic pathos as seen in 'The Burning of Rome...’ It's a clear highlight on a superior album. Lyrically, it eschews the ancient feel of Virgin Steele and focuses on the separation and distance modern life can cause with all its busy noises and lonely, vacant rooms. Spectacular stuff, really. Musically, Defeis's tinkling keyboard in the chorus could've so easily been all sugar and spice, but no, it adds to the atmosphere. The keyboard, in heavy metal, despite its stigma, is just another instrument. It can be used well or poorly; it all depends in whose hands it’s in. Should we state the guitar has no place in metal simply because Machine Head use them poorly? No, we should not. So let us all give keys a chance.
After the appropriately mid-paced mid section of the album, we bring things to a close with the speed metal of 'Blood of the Saints' and 'Life Among the Ruins'. The former being a ominous riff based number with all the hallmarks of classic Virgin Steele; the subtle piano underneath Edward's rip-roaring solos and of course, Davey wailing on about grandiose themes. 'Life Among the Ruins' is the penultimate number and a true classic. 'You were a rose, you were a blade', reflects the idea of opposing things in harmony. The riff could of been awkward with its slightly jaunty meter, but somehow it's not. It seems the Gods and Goddess's are smiling on Virgin Steele, as every potentially fatal flaw is briskly skipped past, just as a six-year-old girl narrowly avoids that dirty old hermit on the park bench.
So, if you wanted forward thinking and decidedly none-shite metal, you got it. 'Marriage...' screams from the mountains to the sea and in the deepest forest glades, startling all the elves, imps and lost scouts.
Virgin Steele is one of those completely and criminally underrated bands, and of course are one of the best on the scene. Awesome epic power/heavy metal with great melodies, perfect songwriting and story, godly vocals and majestic solos are the essence of this band, and the world they bring on you is not describable.
The perfection starts with the first note on the first riff of the first song "I Will Come for You". One of my favorite songs by them, also one hell of a vocal performance by Defeis, the true mastermind behind all of this, and then there's Pursino, who cannot be ignored - great riffing even better solos. This album and the next one have a biblical theme, and leave me impressed, from the Garden of Eden to Rome and after it leads us on a great journey through heaven and hell.
Weeping Of The Spirits is another highlight with that catchy chorus riff and yet again a great solo. Well... honestly all the solos are great on every Virgin Steele album, it's just that some are more magnificent than others. This is one of those, I suppose.
Blood & Gasoline would be the most melodic and pretty different song on the album, fits perfectly though especially the chorus.
Self Crucifixion starts the Jesus well known story of self sacrifice, and is definetly my favorite part on the album, Last Supper continues the story with the best chorus on the album, starts slowly, but builds up to an orgasm at the "but remember this forever I reign, forever I reign" part. Awesome song!
Trail Of Tears starts off slowly, but then at 2 minutes or so comes out of nowhere the best Virgin Steele riff ever! The ballad continues some time which leads to the amazing solo and the catchy last few sentences. Overall, a great song.
The Raven Song is the power metal song on the album, well executed, pretty different from the others, very cool though.
The best song on the album is definetly Forever I Will Roam. It does start a bit strange, but hooks you up pretty fast, and when the guitar kicks in, you simply know it's Virgin Steele we're talking about. "Shattered dreams a moments betrayal, forever will I roam, forever will I roam " - The best VS ballad EVER.
Blood Of The Saints and I Wake up Screaming are great rocking numbers on the album and can do no wrong, simple and effective.
Another ballad would include House of Dust, a worthy number, probably the worst on the album. Still good though.
Life Among the Ruins of course is a glorious epic number every heavy metal band should worship. Pure awesomeness!
This is about it... not the greatest review ever, but noone's perfect. To sum it up a bit, Virgin Steele is one of the best heavy metal acts ever and can proudly stand high with giants like WASP or Judas Priest or Metal Church.
Oh... and you're a fool if you think this band has anything to do with Manowar. Yes the vocals are simmilar at times, but that's about it, and besides Defeis has a stronger vocal performance than Adams, not to mention a great scream and falsetto.
This is probably my favorite Virgin Steele, but the best ones have yet to come.
This album was my introduction to Virgin Steele, after having heard several people who's musical taste is not too far from mine highly recommending the band. I downloaded it, listened to it and thought, "Hey, this is pretty good indeed". Not all that amazing I thought at first, but very enjoyable.
Fast forward three weeks or so. I'm listening to this album in the evening. I listen to it the next morning as well. And the next evening. For the first time in ages, I listen to an album several times on the same day, and can't get enough. It really needed a little while to sink in, but it has gotten better and better with every listen. In fact, it's getting better yet right now. And while I've extended my Virgin Steele collection a fair bit (all the 4 albums that came after this one), I still consider this one their best, for various reasons and at times for reasons I don't know myself. It's not a concept album like the 3 latest releases, and does not strictly demand all-at-once listening to carry you through the storyline and continuous music - yet I always listen to it in one run, simply because it is so goddamn awesome throughout. Everything here has its place, from the pure metal onslaughts over little ballad passages in the first two tracks, over the piano/orchestra track Warrior's Lament, the purely beautiful ballads Forever Will I Roam and House of Dust to the final song of the album, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. And all over it is what I see as the best vocal performance ever delivered on any metal album, coming from Metal's top vocalist David Defeis. He does it all, from lower-pitched notes all the way to soprano tones that would make Halford envious, from soft ballad singing to amazing power vocals in the heavier tracks, and manages to sound like several different people in a way that other than him, I've only heard Geoff Tate do it. And thankfully, unlike on the later albums, he is never trying to sound like Eric Adams, but is himself all the time, absolutely unique and not sounding like any other singer out there.
Basically, every song on this album is good at least, and in most cases totally fucking awesome. The best - all the first four tracks are totally mindblowing, same with the last six tracks. In the middle, the quality drops to "just" good. Most notable is the godly opener "I Will Come for you", which starts this album totally straightforward with metal - something I missed in the next three albums, which all had rather long intros before they really got going. As all songs, it's complex in structure - the chorus is repeated very few times, there are various alternating verses, a soft ballad passage and the first appearance of the Marriage theme in the middle, at the end the chorus leads into a final new powerful passage.
"Weeping of the Spirits" has the ballad parts at the beginning and the end, while the middle is totally all-out mid-paced metal, a good bit heavier than the opener. "Blood And Gasoline" is a very different track from almost everything else Virgin Steele has ever done, and most likely features the best riffing on this album, as well as absolutely great pianos throguhout. "Self Crucifiction"'s chorus is mind-blowing and only "Life Among the Ruins" rivals it in this respect.
Now, the weaker middle part. With the next three tracks, the pace drops down a bit, especially on "Last Supper", probably the weakest song on the album (and mind you, it's still good). "Warrior's Lament" may not be your taste - a piano solo with some mild orchestration along (mostly trumpets I'd believe). I happen to love this song, but it's a clear case of classical influence alert. "Trail of Tears" is a solid epic, but fails to bring up the pace enough after the slowdown of the previous two tracks - the heavy riffing at the beginning is nice, but something faster would've been better here. It does not pick up any pace until after two minutes with a brief half minute of instrumental Speed Metal - then the pace drops to medium, until ending in a last minute of acoustic balladry with Defeis chanting some soft high-pitched notes. The next track would have been better situated before rather than after Trail of Tears - "The Raven's Song" is one of the fastest on this album, borderline speed metal. Again good, but something seems to be missing here that I cannot identify. Somehow, it seems like there's not quite enough power in the chorus.
From this point on, it all explodes to fucking orgasmic pwnage again. Two perfectly done all-out ballads and two genius heavier, faster tracks with excellent riff-onslaughts are intertwined, the second-last song is a brillaint semi-epic with,as noted before, a godly chorus, and finally, the instrumental closer, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell theme. The greatest, deserving special mention, are "Life Among the Ruins" ( probably the absolute culmination of all the awesomeness on this album), and the ballad "Forever Will I Roam".
So overall summarizing this album as a whole, we have some incredbile Epic Power Metal, mostly mid-paced with the occasional Speed Metal moment; riffing that is very good overall, mostly solid while at times incredible; wise use of keyboards that perfectly blends with the rest of the music (unlike a lot of keyboards-for-the-sake-of-keyboards bands do it these days...), in the form of piano in most cases and at times mild orchestration; ballad-passages in various songs as well as all-out complete ballads that are plain beautiful; solos that, while short of outstanding and mostly not showing impressive talent, manage to fit into the music very well - overall song structure is surely put over technicality here; impressive drumming that is responsible for various speed metal moments and very far from monotonous, and thankfully low in the field of double-bass (another thing often overdone in Power Metal these days); complex song structures that never heard the word "repetitive"; not a single bad song out of fourteen tracks that come together to an overlong album of over 70 minutes; and, most of all, most likely the best singer in metal and in fact one of the greatest in all of music delivering a performance beyond perfect.
Forever will this be my personal favorite out of Virgin Steele's discography. It's not as epic as the follow-ups, nor a concept album with an ongoing story like the last three works, nor as strongly orchestrated - but song-wise, it's a masterpiece beyond all the others, all the tracks add up near-perfectly to the album as a whole - and, most of all, the vocals are 100% perfect and the best Defeis would ever deliver. Here, he's not trying to be someone he's not, he's just being himself, and boy this is the key to perfection for him.
If you've not heard this album yet then, first of all, be fucking ashamed of yourself, and secondly, get it. Now.
This is where Virgin Steele suddenly got their shit together in a really massive way. I mean, after the ludicrously bad Life Among the Ruins, it seemed this band was dead, and next thing you know, they release this masterpiece. The first of five - count 'em, FIVE!! - works of epic power metal.
This one is probably the most song-oriented of all their latest albums, as in there are songs on here that really don't go directly with "the story" and are meant to stand on their own, both musically and lyrically. Some are a bit more vague, for example "I Will come for You" which opens the album, or perhaps "Weeping of the Spirits".
"Blood and Gasoline" is possibly the highlight of the album. It's short and sweet and works amazingly well, and is a bit different from a lot of other Virgin Steele songs, so it may just work so well as the counterpoint. In any case, great stuff.
"I Wake Up Screaming" is also quite good, even though I should point out that they stole a Butthole Surfers riff!! The main under-the-verses riff is also the after-chorus riff of the "Who the Hell's been in my room???" song.
Other highlights include the great ballad "Forever will I roam", the classic concert staple "Life among the Ruins" (not to be confused with that horrible album), or perhaps "Blood of the Saints" or maybe even the closing track, which is a little instrumental that highlights the great songwriting capabilities that Defeis and Pursino have. Also,"Weeping of the Spirits" has an awesome solo, as well as the great line "kill me, or die where you stand!!" Epic as fuck, kids. Don't forget Trail of Tears, which turns into a monster about two minutes in.
Overall, this one is definitely worth having - any of the last five are. It's not quite as good as the sequel, but still very incredibly solid.