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Visions of pomposity - 80%

Andromeda_Unchained, December 16th, 2013

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.

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