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Fall on your sword, fall on your knees! - 91%

UltraBoris, December 17th, 2002

More amazing fucking power metal from the undisputed masters of the genre... this is an indispensable album, and is well worth picking up first for the uninitiated, as it is a bit more song-oriented than the superior House of Atreus Act I, and thus takes less getting into.

First song is a bit of an intro... totally setting the atmosphere, before we go into the amazing Invictus. Possibly the best song on here, with some great melodies offset with awesome riff and lead work by Edward Pursino. Ladies and gentlemen, your local guitar god. There is some perfect interplay here between the vocals and the guitars, pretty much on every song on this album but especially well on this track.

Next, a more thrashy number, 'Mind Body Spirit', which leads into the interlude 'In the Arms of the Death God'. Now these are not your usual stupid interludes that you can skip at will, these are absolute masterpieces. The type of stuff Yngwie wishes he could create when he titles his latest wankjob 'Opus Number 43789217490'.

'Through Blood and Fire' is a very melodic number that leads into 'The Sword of the Gods', which is another contender for greatest song on here... the main melody at the end must be one of David Defeis's favourites, since it appears again on House of Atreus Act I, most notably during the bridge of 'Agony and Shame'. Good continuity, it works here and it works there...

then, two interludes go into another main song, Defiance... more power metal to be found here, with especially cool verses. There really isn't a single weak moment on this album, it all is ownage from beginning to end. However, it is more possible to listen to this on a song by song basis than, say, Atreus I. 'Dust from the Burning' and 'A Whisper of Death' is more great stuff, all building up in emotional intensity to 'Dominion Day', 'Shadow of Fear', and finally the epic closer track, 'Veni Vidi Vici'. Eleven minutes of awesomeness... total self-glorification, and songs like this are why V.S. get compared to Manowar. "I crown us... KINGS!!!" (We are the kings of metal, anyone?) Then again, Manowar never quite succeeded at this level of making epic stuff that didn't sound overly pretentious. This just fucking WORKS.

No losers to be found here... an absolute masterpiece by Defeis, Pursino, and company. The best intro to Virgin Steele, get this one first.