Virgin Steele – The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I and II Reissue (SPV/Steamhammer)Sunday, 13th July 2014
We can throw in Savatage, but Long Island’s Virgin Steele are perhaps the real precursors to the opera metal boon that took shape in the ’00s. Fronted and guided by David DeFeis, the band established themselves as a force in Europe, barely getting a whiff from America in the process. A regular happening for American bands in the 90s with a decided European and non-Pantera sound for sure, yet the power, drama, and scores provided shouldn’t go unnoticed. The band is still kicking around today, seeing fit (along with SPV) to reissue pieces of their catalog starting with the two-albums-in-one The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I and II.
With both albums packaged together, it would be a hair on the futile side to go through every track, so let us skim for generalization’s sake. DeFeis’ vocals – partially gruff, always emotive, and perpetually distinguishable – are the main driver behind Virgin Steele. His bravado and thrust on the lead “I Will Come For You,” balladry of “Forever I Will Roam” and hard-lined “Blood and Gasoline” are the songs on Part I that have the most grip, not counting the angular, vintage wanderings of “Last Supper” and the excellent “Life Among the Ruins.”
Part II largely follows suit, perhaps the more poignant of the two, although the all-out speed found on opener “Symphony of Steele” would suggest otherwise. But throughout the album, the worlds of Euro power metal and taut, blue-collar American metal meet up with operatic, sometimes Broadway-like happenings. It’s evident on “Twilight of the Gods,” “Prometheus of the Fallen One,” and in particular, “Emalaith,” a song of such significance that DeFeis would tell this scribe children have been given its moniker. Serious stuff.
Massively un-hip, probably a bit too on the dramatic side for relative newbies to the power/melodic metal fold, Virgin Steele offered up their two defining moments via The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I and II. The albums – and band – still endure, making these reissues some of the best finds of the year.