Virgin Steele_Nocturnes1There are bands you understand, bands you’ll never understand and bands you used to understand. New York’s very own Virgin Steele definitely falls into the latter category. Growing up in the 80s, we knew them as a Manowar-esque classic metal band with gritty edge and occasional epical leanings. Over time they incorporated more symphonics and strived for a bigger, more grandiose sound, which worked well on albums like House of Atreus. However, with Visions of Eden, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist Dave DeFeis started taking the band in strange, quasi-operatic, chamber music directions at the expense of the metal. Follow up The Black Light Bacchanalia was an overwrought glob of easy listening rock, tepid metal, quasi-classical doodlings and dinner party music and it went over about as well as a Gwar concert at a seminary college formal. I doubted they could ever top it for sheer spectacle, but I was wrong. Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation is a hopelessly ass-tastic tangle of good and bad ideas, amazingly self-indulgent writing and a complete refusal to self-edit. After many spins, I truly have no idea what DeFeis was trying to accomplish here or what his grand vision was, and I’m starting to think he didn’t either.

And things seem to start off so well, with opener “Luzifer’s Hammer” sounding like a partial throwback to the House of Atreus days of classic metal. Dave sounds good and the music is rousing and chest-thumping in that old timey Manowar way. Then around the 1:35 point, Dave starts doing these piercing little girl screams – the kind an eight year old might make when given a pony. They kill an otherwise good song quicker than an impromptu poetry slam kills a keg party and I just can’t understand why he included them.

Things recover for “Queen of the Dead,” which is a decent enough example of their older sound and they drop a great surprise on “Black Sun – Black Mass” which is a re-recording of a song by mega obscure 80s act Exorcist, who released an early example of what would become death metal. The band was long rumored to be a novelty project from DeFeis and fellow Virgin alum. This confirms what was suspected and it’s a nice nod to those aware of the band and their history, and it works surprisingly well as a Virgin Steele tune. The stand out is “Persephone” which is a righteous blend of Manowar, Queensryche, prog-metal and Pink Floyd. It’s a great tune and shows what DeFeis is capable of, but also serves as a stark reminder that the rest of the album is nowhere near it quality-wise.

Virgin Steele_2015a

There are other worthwhile moments like the moody grind of “Devilhead” and the strange merger of greasy hard rock, grunge and metal on “We Disappear,” but the back-end of the album shits the bed more than any bed has ever been shat. The shittery begins with “Glamour” which is easily one of the worst songs of 2015. It takes bluesy riffs and combines them with pseudo-epic arrangements as DeFeis gives one of the most over-the-top, egomaniacal vocal performances in history, seemingly oblivious to the song his vocals were meant for. He overenunciates words to the nth degree, turning “fascination” into fascinat-schone,” he coos seductively, uses Eric Adams-like rough barks and attempts strange baritones. It’s a total shit show without scheme, design or direction.

Elsewhere, “Delirium” is essentially soft, ballad rock dressed up with metal curtains and throw pillows and those girlish shrieks make an unwelcome return, along with another diva performance from Dave “The Rose” Midler. “Hymns to Damnation” is a scrotum-free, interest defying ballad suitable for VH1 and the mispronouncing returns as “damnation” becomes “damna-schone,” and surprise, surprise, album closer “Fallen Angels” is yet another dose of soft mush rock. Talk about ending with a whimper….

As talented as Dave DeFeis is, his ego and ambitions have become the death of this band. He has an amazing voice, but his rock god compulsions get the better of him every time lately. He delivers some of the most ludicrous performances in metal history here and it seems there was no one around to restrain his megalomaniacal impulses. Not only is he incapable of vocal restraint, he can’t seem to limit his songs to workable lengths. Even the better tunes run two or three minutes over and it’s clear the man has become a musical narcissist of legendary proportions. On the plus side, the guitar work of Edward Pursino is often tasteful and unstated, while his solos are quite captivating.

I really want to support these hometown heroes, but this is album three of increasingly unappetizing cheese. The worst part is, the good songs make you wish they’d get their heads from their arses and release a consistent METAL album. This Virgin is officially defiled.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Websites: virgin-steele.com | facebook.com/VIRGINSTEELEOFFICIAL
Release Dates: EU: 2015.06.17 | NA: 06.19.2015

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  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    The vocals at the beginning of the posted song sound like when Dennis joined Mac and Frank’s terrible band in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the 1:35 screeches were pretty painful as well. The poetry slam dig summed it up perfectly: an impromptu or even scheduled one anywhere at any time kills any semblance of fun, good taste, and joy.

    All that said, it’s good that the world got this review out of it, which was an awesome and hilarious silver lining to what sounds like a rotting cheese-cloud.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Man, I had hope. But it obviously was wasted hope. Makes me sad. They need to fix something and fix it fast.

    • Unless someone else does all the writing, I think these guys are done for.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        You’re absolutely right. And it sucks.

        • Nancy Gilchriest

          Unfortunately that will never happen. It’s the reason their drummer left the band and is not on the recording.

  • The best thing about this is that I’m too young to feel any sort of nostalgia towards these bands. It took me exactly 9 seconds from that clip to dislike it :(

  • Grymm

    That scream he does during “Lucifer’s Hammer” (you know which one) reminds me of me when I was first trying to do black metal vocals, oh, half my age ago. Only worse. Much, much worse.

  • dblbass23

    “This Virgin is officially defiled.” Hey…..I know her!!!

  • Óðhinn

    2.0/5.0

    You’re very kind Mr. Druhm. That was a mercy score for a truly terrible album.

  • Wilhelm

    What the hell happened to this band? I discovered them during The Marriage of Heaven and Hell albums and they were pretty awesome back then. These vocals are hilarious, I can’t believe he could listen to this in playback and actually give the green light. The music is pretty tepid too.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Ok this is bad. And to top it all up, the cover looks like Dobby got pinched in the ass!

    • Óðhinn

      Good point.

  • BaboonKing

    Three strikes… out. I’m afraid the Virgin Steele we loved from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and the House of Atreus albums are gone and won’t come back. The talent’s still there, and it still shines through on the odd song, but the atrocious mixing and total lack of editing or self restraint are burning this band to the ground. Such a shame, to see one of your favorite bands devour itself like this.

  • sicknick

    VS’s decline is really saddening. Yet, incredible as it may seem, David’s crappy vocals could be a “stylistic” choice to some extent. Just listen to the bonus CD to the latest Invictus reissue: some of his performances are way better than the crap on BLB or Lucifer’s Hammer, others are dismal as it is now usual. What the hell is wrong with this guy?
    I can’t even imagine why anyone would want to make such a fool of himself.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    You hit the nail on the head with this review; even when the songs manage to intrigue, David finds a way to ruin them with his vocal oddities. There’s clearly no one involved with VS whose opinion carries enough weight to act as a filter for David’s overblown ego.

  • Kalsten

    Well, it makes sense. Virgen Steele was born as a “copy-to-death-but-worse” version of ManOwaR. Now that ManOwaR has lost its “magic touch” (well, they lost it after Louder than Hell) and now they are only making a fool of themselves, Virgin Steele decided to copy them in that too.

    • blindg

      Well, they used to be much better than Manowar. Now they are catching up. At least their attitude is not so retarded. But sad, very sad :(

      • Kalsten

        There is no better band than ManOwaR. ManOwaR is the pinnacle of heavy metal. It is as good as the genre can be.

        • blindg

          Have you listened to their last album? I don’t think anyone in the right mind can appreciate that nonsense.

          • Kalsten

            Well, I consider that ManOwaR did not release anything after Louder than Hell. My mind try to forget about when came later.

          • blindg

            Well, God of War was a good attempt at doing something epic. It had at least 4 listenable songs. Then they kind of promised to expand that concept in the supposed “Hammer of the gods”. Then he said “Fuck it, let’s just do the easy shit. That’s what we have been doing, haven’t we?”

          • Kalsten

            Yep, I totally agree with you in there. God of War has 4 quite good songs, and it is true and I got excited with the thing they wanted to do with Hammer of the Gods. But then, DeMaio decided to crap all over that and release that insult called “The Lord of Steel” and well, the re-release of classical albums, live albums and crap like that…

            If only they stayed with the sound they achieved in Triumph of Steel…

          • blindg

            Well, that contradicts your earlier statement that “There is no better band than ManOwaR. ManOwaR is the pinnacle of heavy metal”. Or was it someone else using your account?

          • Kalsten

            Nah, it is my old 16 yr old self trying to talk about better-easier times.

      • I have to stop you right there. These guys never came close to classic era Manowar. Those first 4 albums were awesome. Virgin Steele was always a wannabe though they did have some good albums scattered over the years.

        • blindg

          1995-2000 was the golden era of VS. It had 4 consecutive 100% perfect albums. No one could top that.

          • I wouldn’t say VS ever had a perfect album, and certainly none that could ever top Into Glory Ride, Hail to England or Battle Hymns.

          • blindg

            Each to their own. I can’t stand those 3 albums. FTW, KOM and TOS, and half of SOTG were tolerable.

  • this album is a good idea to save money.

    • Ιορδάνης Χότζογλου

      bitter words bitter life.are u lonely? haha

  • sickbroski

    I might still buy this, but please don’t squeal again.

  • madhare

    Ouch! The bad singing is only topped by the bad writing. Got to love the random-rhyming-words-in-a-string approach: “Amen … Demonize … Green words … Tranquilize … Gravity … Or perfumed skies”

    Also, lightnings can’t be anywhere else than in the sky, so by definition and by physics they are “above ground”. But hey, if reiterating that is a mind-blowing deepity for VS, who am I to argue.

    (Yeah ok, writing in the Manowaresque genre has never been very deep, but that video type sure emphasises the shittiness here.)

  • Jeremy Freeman

    If I played music to several cats having sex at once, it would sound better than this. Or even this “music only”. which isn’t to shabby. Drown the vocalist!!! lol

  • sicknick

    Somebody please tell Defeis to shut the hell up every now and then. He’s literally everywhere with his odd vocals and it’s painfully annoying to listen to.

  • Michael Morris

    Fantastic review. It’s so disappointing to see someone with such intelligence and talent completely lose their focus and humility – there’s just clearly absolutely no peer review happening within the band currently. I’d say Manowar are probably in a pretty similar situation in fairness.
    When I heard the opener and how loudly the vocals were mixed and Defeis’ constant barks and yelps I just knew the whole album was doomed. You’re right though, there are some moments where you think “yes – this is VS!” which is even more frustrating.

  • MetalVic

    Just a footnote: “Queen of the Dead” is also a re-recording of an old Exorcist song. The best thing I can say about this VS album is it got me to pull out my copy of the Exorcist record and give it a spin. Not great, but certainly better than anything VS has done in years. Maybe they should jump on the Flotsam/Manowar bandwagon and re-record the whole Nightmare Theatre album.

    • I’m shocked I missed that since I grew up with the Exorcist album. Poser check for me.

  • robpal

    I read the comments and see that most people’s issue is the DeFeis’ vocals, which I actually really like. After the first listen I can say that I enjoyed the slower songs without remembering any choruses at all. It’s a long one, requires a few spins, but I’m sure I will eventually like it.

    • SKARDEUS

      I think they prefer The Jessica’s or Britney’s ones … Defeis is one of the rare singers who are able to put in one album different ranges … and it’s not given to any singer to deliver those high-pitched ranges !

      • sicknick

        Yeah, this website is packed with fans of Britney.

  • SKARDEUS

    First of All, i don’t like the way u reviewed this album, u’r supposed to remain neutral and objective in your point of view, many of you guys out there open a blog and begin to destroy artists who spend a lot of time making albums … for GOD’s Sake ?! every fucking new progressive album made it’s often “euuuuhhh…it’s a DT wannabe-album” and it’s the same attitude with Power albums, every fucking new power metal album produced “euuuuhhh…it’s a Manowar wannabe-album”… it’s too obvious that such opinions reveal a kind of people who don’t take the time to taste the thing @ ease and analyse it in every aspect of it ! Manowar make Power Heavy Metal … Virgin Steele make Power Progressive Metal ! and to all the nostalgic of the eighties-nighties VS era, it’s simple, nobody stop you from enjoying those albums and moreover nobody force you to buy the new VS Album. but please stop comparing artists between them ! it’s about intelligent music, Defeis is amongst the best singers on this planet and if u are really into the Metal Mood, u gotta know that METAL is about one of a hell important basis…it’s called EVOLUTION and i humbly, i think that VS evolve in the right way ! complex songs, different high-pitched ranges, in your face guitar playing with a true headbanging drumming ! this album differs from the entire discography of VS and it’s a masterpiece

    • I think you can tell from my tone of both this and my review of the last VS review that I root for this band. I grew up near them and they’re sort of hometown heroes on Long Island. I enjoyed their early albums and some of their later material, but regardless, this is just a bad album full of frightfully poor musical decisions.
      As far as evolution goes, they’ve been heading in the same direction for years and it just gets worse and worse every time. I doubt most hardcore VS fans will find this to be what they hoped for, but if you like it, good for you. I stand by everything I said.

      • SKARDEUS

        David Defeis to Ronnie Dio
        “Hi, Ronnie, it’s so very nice to meet you, I am a huge fan of your work, my name is David, etc. etc…”
        and he looked me straight in the eye and said “I know who you are, my son”
        That’s enough said about the ART of Defeis…at least as a friend above said, let the listener judge by himself … you’re ruining the hardworking of musicians who pleased us for decades.

        • I’m not ruining anything. I’m voicing my opinion on an album, which is what a reviewer does. If you disagree, you disagree. And Dio would hate this album.

          • SeventhOne S

            Seeing the comments here, you guys are sounding so ridiculous, disrespectful, childish, acting like sheeps. I wouldn’t like to write reviews for that kind of reader. Look at that : “the cover looks like Dobby got pinched in the ass!”. Sorry how old are you?

            Steel Druhm you say “I doubt most hardcore VS fans will find this to be what they hoped for”. But most reviews give it between a 8 and 10/10, most fans seem to be satisfied, so it seems you don’t know your subject. Who are you to tell us what album Dio would like or hate? Truth is he was not close-minded as so many metal fans are.

            David DeFeis sees his voice as an instrument and he studied female singing, that’s nothing new and this is part of the appeal, he can do everything. If you do “hate” the singing on these songs because of girly sounds or what, that just may be the fear of being gay. Nothing new either.

            I’m voicing my opinion too. This is a great album, in every aspect of it.

          • Seriously? I don’t like his “female” singing so I’m afraid of being gay? That’s the dumbest comment I’ve seen in maybe ever. Terrible album.

          • SeventhOne S

            I was not speaking of you personally here, and that was not a dumb comment, many metal listeners have fear of being or appearing gay, you just have to listen to them : oh no power metal is gay, Manowar is gay, VS is gay, King Diamond is gay and so on. Great album.

          • Grymm

            Dude, again, as a gay man, this isn’t what Mr. Druhm is conveying at all in his review.

            At. All.

            This is just absolutely atrocious music.

          • Grymm

            Dude, I AM gay, and his higher register vocals are absolute shit.

            Deal with it.

          • SKARDEUS

            Finally … A Real Metal DUDE ! Hats Off To You Mister.

          • Ιορδάνης Χότζογλου

            how can you say that you idiot.you act like a little girl

    • Ιορδάνης Χότζογλου

      right on brother

  • Hafid

    I do not agree with your review, the album is Great and the harmonies and vocals of Defeis are superb i think you do not understand this great artist all the songs are in your face forma with top riffs and solos your review destruct this superb album and influence the point of view of the listeners, with your bad review you generate a “lamb effect” all will believe that the album is bad.

    VS is not Manowar, VS is Great : long Life VS.

    Do another job the review must respect the artist and let the listener
    free to judge by himself

    • I understand the band. They just aren’t very good anymore and DeFeis is doing his best to destroy every song.

    • Ιορδάνης Χότζογλου

      Totally agree with you

  • blindg

    Ok, I filtered it to 7 listenable songs. A 40 minute album… Oh well, could have been worse!

  • Ιορδάνης Χότζογλου

    you hateful motherfuckers.fuck you all

  • KingKuranes

    I LOL’ed through most of this review. “But the back-end of the album shits the bed more than any bed has ever been shat.”

  • Arthur machen

    I disagree with the review – I actually love the music and the vocals on this album. The songs are complex and dense, and contain plenty of amazing harmonized vocals and some really great guitar riffs and solos. But my own personal complaint are the satanic lyrics – it just turns me off and has an unsettling effect that obviously is not pleasant. Unfortunately it’s going to limit the amount of times I listen to this which is a shame because otherwise this would be one of my favorite albums of the year.

  • Ralph Plug

    Virgin Steele’s biggest problem these days is quantity over quality. The band’s old albums have been re-released with a lot of newly written material. Some of those songs are brilliant, some are not. Defeis does not know when to stop, and when a song should be held back for B-sides. He releases everything he writes, and the quality, logically, is all over the place. That do-it-yourself mentality is really starting to hurt the band.

    That being said, I’m quite enjoying this one. I loved Visions of Eden, thought Black Light was a bit hit and miss, and this one harks back to the old, more bluesy sound of Life Among the Ruins. It’s no masterpiece per se, but I don’t think it’s a bad album.

    • Listen to “Glamour” again.

      • Ralph Plug

        I did. Many times actually. I’m a minority, obviously, but I really enjoy that mellow, proggy and slightly weird side of Virgin Steele. Then again, I think A Matter Of Life And Death is the absolute best thing Iron Maiden has ever released, so don’t take my word on anything.

  • dressiertugboat

    So disappointing. At one point in time, Virgin Steele was one of the classiest and most enjoyable power metal bands around, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part 2 would contend for my absolute favourite album ever, that’s for sure. Even worse is that Ed Pursino’s return is marred by an album that sucks ass. He deserves better than this.

  • Kyle McDaniel

    DeFeis needs to take his head out his ass and Pursino should quit and form his own band, he’s clearly the only one with even the slightest bit of talent left.

  • Tommy Bødker Jensen

    Like all VS albums it takes time to grow on you…And it’s getting better and better in my opinion. This is an extremely dark album with an amazing haunting mood to it.