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For some Virgin Steele fans and critics alike, this is the point in their career where things went awry. If DeFeis didn’t already hold the reigns of the band tightly enough to bring out the white in his knuckles, here he’s grasping it with maniacal fervor, eschewing the more prominent heavy metal elements of the band in favor of pompous, story-driven, operatic fare.
Visions Of Eden is an impossibly deep album, from the intense self-contained narrative, to the strange production, and everything in between. The advent of the Atreus albums set Virgin Steele on a path of the grandiose, which seemingly spirals into the unknown. No bounds are yet known as to how far David DeFeis and co are willing to go in their mission of manipulating both the Virgin Steele sound and its genre. Visions Of Eden begins the band’s metamorphosis into a flabbergasted leviathan of melodrama, adorned with a tense, orchestral vacuum, enveloping electric guitars, drums, bass, and of course DeFeis’ well broken-in piano work.
For a metal album to be largely piano driven is, I’m sure for many, a worrying thought, although I feel this approach has stood the test of time thus far as one of the album’s most endearing qualities. Whilst you easily can shrug off the thin guitars and synthetic drum sound, to deny the sheer scope and emotional quality of the piano and general orchestration would be short-sighted. If anything, Visions Of Eden is a highly passionate release, and one which David DeFeis has poured his every ounce into – of course the argument could be made, and valid, in saying this would work better as a DeFeis solo album. Speaking of him pouring everything he can into the album, his vocals are incredible. Much like the Atreus albums, he takes on multiple characteristics: with his performance switching between the lion’s roar, castrati wailing, sullen whispering, and gracious mid-range he’s famed for.
As I hinted earlier, the narrative is deep and thought provoking. Drawing influence from biblical themes and ancient Sumerian myth, Visions Of Eden tells the story of Adam’s first wife Lilith, and offers a unique glimpse in to how we might have arrived at where we are now. Depending on your belief system, I imagine the story can be taken in various ways, which is interesting. Of course, some might find it a little too over the top or not to their taste. It is admittedly domineering, and thick to swallow down at times, yet thoroughly stirring at others.
Now that we’ve talked about the more prominent aspects of the album, I think it’s time to address the actual metal elements, which I can assure you are indeed present. Never are they more evident than in the proud opening track “The Birth Of Adam”. This one is most in check with their prior output, and despite the album’s thin production, is very much in the “Wings Of Vengeance” mold. I will say the song is the only of its ilk here, although there are certainly distinct metal conventions displayed in the likes of the glorious title track, the punchy “Bonedust”, and the awe-inspiring “Adorned With The Rising Cobra”.
I do feel the ballad-like elements of the album weigh in heavier throughout, and as such will castrate any appeal for those looking for an answer to The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell Part I, or anyone looking for a propulsive heavy metal album for that matter. Visions Of Eden is very much concerned with itself, and should be listened to as a whole. It’s not the one I’d recommend to those new to the band, but if you’re interested in deep, meaningful music which will reward repeated listens, then I’d seriously recommend this one. There aren’t a lot of albums within the realms of heavy metal that can move me like this, or bands that can move me like Virgin Steele. Despite an increase in ego and pomposity I just can’t deny this one, there’s nothing like it out there.
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com
From 1994 to 2000, Virgin Steele graced us with five of the greatest epic USPM albums ever to be conceived, all within a year or two of each other. So what were fans to think when the band (let's face it; by this point it was pretty much just DeFeis with some hired hands) took six years to release the next album? Either this was the best goddamn album of all time, or DeFeis was taking a new direction. Or maybe he was just running out of ideas. The album suggests both of the latter two assumptions would be, for the most part, correct. The fact that the album cover features an aging DeFeis trying to look epic next to a horse certainly isn't a good sign, since the last five album covers were all pretty damn good. The album does go in a different direction from the last few albums; but it's a direction that seemed pretty inevitable. DeFeis started getting more pompous on the Atreus I album, with interludes left and right and a huge background concept. Thankfully, at this point the pompousness was warranted, as it was pretty clear DeFeis was a badass, although Ed Pursino also had much to do with the album's excellence. Atreus II took that direction even further, stretching the album out over two discs and adding so many interludes they seemed to outweigh the actual songs at times, plus there weren't as many winners on the album ("By the Gods" and "When the Legends Die are pretty lame"). It seemed DeFeis's ego was beginning to take over the band, although there were enough solid songs that it was forgivable, especially if the band continued to put out great albums.
That brings us to 2006. The album opens with a keyboard-heavy song with muted guitars, and unfortunately that continues throughout the rest of the album. If you've heard anything about this album, it's most likely the shitty production, and it's a very valid complaint. Virgin Steele are primarily a metal band (discounting "Life Among the Ruins"), and not some shitty europower band either; these guys are legitimate USPM with a focus on riffs - while DeFeis is definitely the focus in some places, the riffs are equally, if not more, important. DeFeis obviously doesn't seem to think so here, and it shows. Not to say the riffs are terrible - I was mainly commenting on their muted presence, although they're definitely not as good as most of the riffs on the previous five albums. Keyboards and vocals take the front seat here, making it not so much a power metal album as a pompous neoclassical rock album (I'm semi-joking). Luckily, despite his extreme egocentrism, DeFeis still seems to somewhat know what he's doing here. The music doesn't suck for the most part, although most of the songs are overlong and could be shortened ("Angel of Death", "God Above God", and the title track come to mind especially).
The best thing about the album is probably the epic multi-tracked vocal lines. That was always something DeFeis was good at, and it shows here. "Immortal I Stand", "The Ineffable Name", and "Bonedust" all have excellent vocal lines that could be compared to those of "A Token of My Hatred" or "Veni, Vidi, Vici". However, the more compact, aggressive songs are where the album really shines. "Immortal I Stand", "Black Light On Black", and "Bonedust" are probably the best tracks, and they're also some of the shortest. "Black Light on Black" also has the coolest line on the album:
Fuck you Adam, Fuck you Eve
Fuck your god and his infernal needs!
Really though, aside from the production, the album just tends to be overly long and grandiose; the album is 75 minutes long, with only 11 songs, which means each song clocks in for an average of seven minutes. There are also too many ballads; while the entire album has a large keyboard presence, "Angel of Death", "God Above God", and "When Dusk Fell" are all pretty much pure ballads. Three ballads on a metal album is pretty much always too much; Marriage I is something of a fluke in that respect. Also, "God Above God" completely blows. It's the worst VS song I've ever heard, and I've listened to "Noble Savage" and "The Black Light Bacchanalia" in their entirety. David is fine, but everything else blows chunks. The main melody is vomit-inducing. The lyrics suck. There aren't really any redeeming factors for this song. DeFeis also sounds a bit weak when trying to perform high shrieks at some points in the album; especially on "The Ineffable Name", he sounds awful when he tries to go too high. However, his vocals are usually pretty good, if not as aggressive as they were on the previous albums.
Really, the problem here isn't that this is a terrible album so much that it's a testament to DeFeis's declining mental status and the track the band would take from here on. Just listen to The Black Light Bacchanalia. Even longer tracks, absurdly pompous song titles, whispered vocals, a lack of good riffs; this album represents the direction DeFeis was going, and while it itself is pretty solid even with all the problems it has, I just have to sigh and shake my head every time I listen to it. Virgin Steele will likely never achieve the level of their classic albums again, or even approach it. I've written off DeFeis as a self-absorbed idiot who can't write music, so unless someone else steps up to be the driving force behind the band, it's pretty much done for.
After a long pause Virgin Steele return with a new record, something I had to download like the day it leaked out from Soulseek of a guy who knew a guy who saw DeFeis once, to find the album to be quite different to what we've remembered.
What I got was, different, yet again. Virgin Steele changed style for the sixth time, and this time it wasn't as amazingly jizztacular as the previous releases. The first thing that caught my ear was the production value sky-dropping a billion miles into a dark mush of sounds, on which I thought: „Allrighty, it's a dark something something of the mind, depicting the christian god as a immature child playing with ancient belief and knowledge like most humans do... in a very cretinous way“.
Then something struck me again... the speed metal riffs were almost gone. Now, I know change is good, but please do not forget you're metal, and we all want metal to be rifftastic and to fracture our bones while we laugh at the gods' faces riding into oblivion.
At the second run of the album, I realized the sound is still there, just buried under a lot of darkness and ugliness, and I realized it's still amazingly catchy, brutal and inspired. It's a step forwards, but not as strong as it used to be. I believe not all people will like this album, it's storyline is amazing, but musically it's far more progressive than the previous releases and Pursino seems to be a bit forgotten here overall.
What Virgin Steele offers to us this time is more of a story oriented release, concentrating on the suffering of Lilith, and the sheer stupidity of Adam and Eve. God is depicted as an envious entity who jerks off at controlling other creatures, and when Lilith – a symbol of the ancient religions refuses to join this cretin, he starts to torture her and in the end throws her into hell to be raped by Satan.
A cautionary tale, mostly about mankind being animalistic retards who can't tolerate anything other their own egos in this universe; You know, all of our history nicely described in 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Regardless of it's flaws, this album is epic as epic can get, the songs are long and interesting from the start to the end, and keyboards are the main leading instrument this time around.
It's also a valid mention this album has probably the best choruses Virgin Steele has to offer, and also the best ballad Angel of Death, and while it isn't the best Virgin Steele has to offer, it surely beats everything before Marriage;
Then again it beats most of the crap we call music nowadays, and honestly if DeFeis decided to sing jingles for coco puffs, I'd still say it's amazing, since they can deliver it with sheer emotion and yet it doesn't feel cheesy at all; That's more than most can say they've accomplished.
This is not one of your easy-listening pop metal albums.
This is not an album that you will like on the first spin.
Now, if you can't handle an album like that, then I suggest you click the Back button on your browser and go read a review for Dream Evil or Iced Earth, because this album is not for you.
With that said, this is Virgin Steele, and while I am not familiar with all of their albums, the ones I do have are epic, bombastic, muscular, innovative and intelligent, all slabs of brilliance wrapped up in their classy, stylish metal coatings. Visions of Eden is the newest record the band has done to date, and it is nothing like anything they have ever done before and may ever do again. While they previously played an epic, riffy style of Traditional/Power Metal with choirs, galloping leads and other such things, this album is an entirely different - but equally as brilliant - beast. This is a delicate, moving album that utilizes lush, romantic pianos as its main mode of discourse. It is a slow album, ranging from a sweeping, dreamlike balladesque style to a menacing stomp on a few songs. The guitars are there, but the riffs are not so much the focus of the album as they may have been on previous albums. Visions of Eden's main strength are its intense, driving melodies and the soft, menacing vocals of frontman David deFeis, which often build up into a coarse, steely scream that will send shivers down your spine.
Speaking of deFeis, he has written all of the lyrics as well as the music here. It's a concept album about Lilith, the first wife of Adam at the dawn of humanity, and the lyrics here are amazingly well written and dramatic. Take this bit from "Black Light on Black":
"From out of the North Black Evil Breaks Forth"
I should have killed you where you stood
Brother when I had the chance
Underneath these signs of Love
I pronounce you both Accursed!
Grief is...Knowing there was Time...
Hell is hoping to Believe and a Crime
Under Sullen Skies of Fire
I will leave you with this Black Poem...
Fuck you Adam,
Fuck you Eve
Fuck your God and his Infernal needs
Fuck your Children Poison seed
Like a cancer you'll conceive
And from "God Above God":
Why should I become the Dark Queen
And how shall I become this Black thing
My Holy Blood turned to bitterness
Before the first Oceans... or the Mountains were born
I stood beside Your with Wisdom Adorned
Our Sacred Vows made Earth's Kingdom rise...
I am the trees woven in through the sky
I am the Law of the Love that can't die
Caressed by the Clouds I walk with Wind & Stars
I ordered the paths of the Black Sun & the Moon
But Now I am vanquished oh... raped, ravaged & ruined
Wild and Untamed I roamed the Earth free
Your Virgin Mary is only a Shadow of me
Is this your Will... oh... my Violation?
Nature betrayed Love's Immolation
Rest assured, all of the lyrics here are good. Just trust me on that one.
As I stated, this isn't an album you'll enjoy right away, with multiple layers that need un-peeling and multiple dimensions. It is a very long album, even longer than their opus The House of Atreus - Act I, filled with long, detailed songs that go through several time changes and moods, always remaining intriguing and mystical and dazzling. The piano melodies stack on top of one another and on top of the guitar riffs for a highly memorable effect - these melodies are catchy as Hell! Just one listen to "Adorned with the Rising Cobra," and you won't be able to pry it out of your head all week.
For standout tracks...well, the whole album is a standout. From the triumphant opener "Immortal I Stand (The Birth of Adam)," the music never fails to captivate, and then you get more gems like the epochal "Adorned with the Rising Cobra," which uncoils in a truly glorious manner, the intelligent, pounding "The Ineffable Name," the furious "Black Light on Black," the poignant "God Above God," and the propulsive, moving title track. There are a few songs that aren't as memorable, but they all offer something worth listening to. Even then, I'm still not sure I fully understand this album, so if you ask me again in a few months, I might tell you something completely different.
This music is both complex and memorable, making Visions of Eden a masterclass in every way. The drum sound is a bit weak, and the album goes on a tad long toward the end, but don't let that deter you; just go listen to this now if you want to hear some truly great Progressive Metal.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
I have to admit that Virgin Steele are one of my favorite power / epic metal bands. What has always made this band so special is the way in which David deFeis’ vocals and keyboards combine with the guitars of Jack Starr (earlier) or Edward Pursino (later). It has always seemed as the keyboards have represented melody, whereas the guitars have represented power and aggressiveness, and these two factors are in a constant battle against each other, in order to determine which one will eventually dominate. This “battle” is the main reason why Virgin Steele have achieved a distinct, unique sound.
I first got acquainted with Virgin Steele’s new album, “Visions Of Eden”, when I listened to an interview of David deFeis on the radio. During this particular interview, the front man of Virgin Steele analyzed and explained the concept behind the lyrics of “Visions Of Eden”. It turned out that the new record of Virgin Steele would be a narration of the story of Lilith, who was supposed to be Adam’s first wife, before he got married to Eve. “This sounds interesting”, I thought, “let’s give this album a chance”. Unfortunately, after having listened to “Visions Of Eden” a couple of times, I can sincerely say that it didn’t actually live up to my expectations. In addition, an honest fan of Virgin Steele shouldn’t just praise the group’s good moments, but also be strict when the band doesn’t fulfil its true potential. “Visions Of Eden” doesn’t meet the high standards that Virgin Steele have set with their previous work.
To begin with, “Visions Of Eden” seems to be more of a solo album by David deFeis than an album of Virgin Steele. David deFeis is the only composer involved in the making of “Visions Of Eden”: he has single-handed written all the music and lyrics of each and every track of the album. In addition, in most songs, he doesn’t just do the vocals and play the keyboards, but is also responsible for the bass, as well as for a large part of the guitar work. Finally, the mastermind of Virgin Steele has worked on the production of the record and assisted in its engineering and mastering. Even the cover artwork of “Visions Of Eden” is just a photo of David deFeis, with a black stallion accompanying him. All these factors account for the album’s not sounding as multidimensional as previous Virgin Steele work. More specifically, it seems that, in his effort to emphasize his own contributions to the album, David deFeis has enlarged and intensified the keyboard parts, and this has led to a consecutive neglect of the guitars and the respective aggressiveness that they represent. As a result, the final product sounds melodic beyond belief, to the point that it seems to drown in its own melody.
A typical Virgin Steele record would sound majestic, epic, heroic and noble. Unfortunately, “Visions Of Eden” is clearly devoid of all these elements. It is not just the guitars that give an impression of distance and weakness: in most parts, the drums also sound dull and totally fake. When it comes to the keyboards, they fail to generate the intended epic feeling, as they sound annoyingly simple and repetitive. Even the vocals of David deFeis, which have always been a very important asset in the music of Virgin Steele, end up sounding childish and ridiculous, due to the flaws in the production.
However, the biggest disappointment with “Visions Of Eden” is that it doesn’t include great songs, so as to compensate for the weak production. Most tracks are uninspired, repetitive and lack originality. What is more, they may start off in a powerful and heavy manner, but, as soon as they approach the middle of their duration, they suddenly slow down and follow a certain melodic pattern, dominated by passionate vocals and keyboards. Of course, there is no general prohibition against these melodic parts: in fact, as stated above, it is the very interaction between melody and aggressiveness that makes Virgin Steele’s music sound so special. Nevertheless, in “Visions Of Eden”, the melodic parts seem to be pointlessly elongated and end up sounding simply boring and pointless. As a further result, nearly all songs of Virgin Steele’s new album are needlessly long in duration, containing parts that have nothing to offer and could have been avoided. Finally, I get the impression that David deFeis has written much better and more mature lyrics in the past. Although the lyrics of “Visions Of Eden” aren’t bad, they surely seem incomplete if compared to the lyrics of albums like “Invictus” or both parts of “Marriage Of Heaven And Hell”.
Overall, if you are not familiar with the music of Virgin Steele, it would be better if you first listened to previous albums of the band. “Visions Of Eden” is representative of neither the sound nor the quality that Virgin Steele can deliver. As for us faithful fans of the particular group, we can only hope that David deFeis and his companions will soon realize that their latest album doesn’t live up to our expectations, and that they have to perform much better in their next effort.
Visions of Eden is somewhat a weird album. Many people complained about it not being heavy, the electronic drums, and the weak guitar work. Yes, you may think that on a first listening, but Virgin Steele is a band that from Marriage of Heaven and Hell to House of Atreus pt. II achieved a state of art Metal, and art is not a thing for first impressions.
The main thing people should realize about this album is that it's a piano based work. Defeis seems to have written all songs by his piano and then called Edward Pursino to make it Metal. This is not a bad thing, but surely a different one. All riffs here are doubled by the guitar from its piano source, which is heavier in the mixing, causing this estrangement.
In my opinion it's genius, no other 'epic' band show this real classical influence as Virgin Steele, no other band deserves better the name of Metal Opera, or Barbaric Romantic Opera as they call themselves.
The only real letdown in this album is the drums. They are simply dull and only fits the music as rhythmic accompaniment. Either if it's trigged or programmed, it could have some more personality. Bass Guitar is audible for the first time on a VS album, but once again, the album focus is on Piano.
As for the songs, Immortal i Stand is 100% quality Virgin Steele, one of the best in the band's career. Adorned With The Rising Cobra, tough very long, gives us the best piano riff (!!) from the album. Another highlights must be given to Bonedust and The Hidden God. Also to When Dusk Fell and God Above God which are two of the best ballads Defeis ever made.
Running at 80 minutes, with very long songs and different mixing, this album might get a while to understand, but believe me. It's awesome.
We are near the end of 2006 and it seems the latest Virgin Steele release is going to sneak away in the dark without getting noticed. This is a sad thing, for 1. Virgin Steele deserves more attention and 2. Visions Of Eden truly is one of the best epic powermetal albums that has been released last year.
Sure, the production could be a lot heavier than this but being the major VS fan I am, I haven't got any real problems with this; just as long as the songs are fine. And man, they are. Angel Of Death must be the most melancholic song David ever wrote, while Childslayer is close to being the most furious. Immortal I Stand and Bonedust are good, relatively short headbangers, while Adorned With The Rising Cobra and Black Light On Black are long epics which never tend to get boring. The most wonderfull thing is there aren't any of these (to some people pretentious) keyboard instrumentals, nope: just 79 minutes of pure metal.
The concept about the rise and fall of Lilith (according to some myths Adam's first wife) is absolutely brilliant. David has written some of his best lyrics (although 'Fuck you Adam, Fuck you Eve, Fuck your God and his infernal breed' may fit better on a black metal album) and is still growing as a composer. A minor downpoint may be the fact that Edward Pursino is less present with wild all-destroying solo's. He and David switch between them, and although David does a good job he is no Edward. This is the main reason I would like to hear the new songs live, because I'm pretty damn sure Edward will crush the solo's David plays.
Another minor downpoint to some people seems to be the fact Frank Gilchriest play on an electronic drumkit. This is why the drums sound a little dull compaired to the former albums, but still it is undeniable Frank does a wonderfull job. Another reason to check VS out live!
However, the minor flaws just aren't able to kill the album. The performance is great, the atmosphere intense, melancholic and majestic and songs like Angel Of Death and Visions Of Eden are some of the best tracks the band ever wrote. If you think Rhapsody Of Fire is gay and you find Manowar somewhat too brainless, Virgin Steele might be the ultimate band for you for they combine the bombasm and brutality without sounding gay or brainless. Buy it.
Real Highlights: Black Light On Black, Angel Of Death, Childslayer, Visions Of Eden.