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Uneven brilliance - 76%

Andromeda_Unchained, July 31st, 2013

Straight off the bat I’m going to say this is one of, if not the hardest Virgin Steele album to review. There are a number of reasons that makes this so, from the various pressings of the album doing the rounds, to the material included – some of which I might add is the finest the band has cut to tape – this is a hard job, but I’ll do my best to clear everything up both for fans and newcomers.

Admittedly, this was one of the last releases I checked out in the Virgin Steele back catalogue. I’d heard “The Burning Of Rome” on The Book Of Burning which was enough for me at the time. It wasn’t until the latest reissue of the album that I jumped on board, and unless you’re an ardent purist, I strongly recommend picking up said version.

In its original form, Age Of Consent plays out like a slightly weaker version of Noble Savage. You can actually make a godly playlist from those two releases’ original tracks, but I’m not here to talk about that today. So, before I touch on why I feel the reissue is the best way to hear Age Of Consent, I’d like to quickly comment on what I liked, and of course, what I didn’t, about the album’s original tracks.

Like I said, it plays out a lot like last album, except Noble Savage didn’t have “The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)”, which still ranks amongst the finest tracks the band has ever done; it doesn’t get much better than this. The rest of the album is kind of confused. Whilst tracks such as “On The Wings Of The Night” and “Lion In Winter” are killer, there’s stuff like “Seventeen” which could have been pilfered from Poison (what was the fascination with seventeen year olds? Winger I’m looking at you too), as well as a cover of Uriah Heap’s “Stay On Top” which isn’t bad, but feels out of place here (especially on the reissue). Performance-wise, everything is ace, with DeFeis sounding equal parts wild and smooth, and Edward Pursino dishing out the goods in the riff department.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. With the reissue, a ten track album becomes a sixteen track album (plus a second disc with some nifty covers and rarities). The track listing has been completely changed up, opening up with the oh-so-magnificent “The Burning Of Rome” (okay, I’ll shut up about this song now). However, it is in the added tracks where I’ve found a considerable amount of joy. I’d say the first nine songs on the reissue play out like Virgin Steele through the 90’s (their epic power metal finest), which is thanks to the likes of superb interuludes, and two mammoth additions to the album (although they did appear on the ’97 reissue, but let’s not confuse things anymore). “Perfect Mansions (Mountains Of The Sun)” has quickly become one of my favourite Virgin Steele songs, and shows everything I love about this band. “Serpent’s Kiss” is a darker, riff orientated track which should please fans of the Atreus albums.

All these factors make the reissue of Age Of Consent an absolute joy, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick up said version, unless you’re an ardent purist, collector etc. Despite having some of my favourite Virgin Steele songs, I still think the album is a little confused, as well as having some filler tracks (I could happily cut three or four) In saying that though, this is undoubtedly a worthy addition to Virgin Steele canon, and a mandatory stop for all fans of the band. Newcomers should check this out as well, although I’d certainly recommend stopping here a little later in your travels with this brilliant band.

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