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Disappointing - 50%

Moonglum_Of_Elwher, September 3rd, 2007

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.