Review Summary: How the mighty have fallen…
Have you ever heard that story about the one time legendary warrior who slowly rose to prominence and finally became the king? He battled hard against all odds, with valor; alongside trusted companions, using his wit and inner strength. He was crowned the king – albeit in a small-sized country – and his followers loved him; they still do. But somewhere in between, he distanced himself from reality, lost his hunger and his trust towards the people that surround him. His symbols (sword, ferocious screams, etc.) no longer cause fear and admiration but laughter and disdain.
David DeFeis is a highly talented individual and the mastermind behind Virgin Steele. He’s the reason why The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
and The House of Atreus
– consisting of two parts each – are some of the most beautiful voyages in mythology. At the same time, he’s the main culprit for the drop in quality after The House of Atreus: Act II
. Visions of Eden
suffered from a lack of substantial guitar playing and drumming as both were “buried” deep in the mix. And while on The Black Light Bacchanalia
the guitars were more audible, both albums revealed that DeFeis’ voice has deteriorated significantly.
Unfortunately on Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation
, this is once again where the problem begins; DeFeis has sadly become his band’s Achilles’ heel. From weird girly screams that make their appearance from the very first track, to weird meowing sounds that only four-legged creatures can process and an unconvincing grit, DeFeis’ delivery can easily prevent a listener from taking this album seriously. It’s already known that Virgin Steele’s music is quite theatrical but over the years it has become this symphonic power metal/chamber music hybrid that is slowly moving away from its metal roots. In addition, the story behind the album doesn’t do much to make it less cheesy. According to the band’s leader, it’s not a concept album per se but there’s an overall motif that deals with entities’ relationships with gods, goddesses, animals and plants (!) among others. What is more, the ambitious nature of the project is also a weakness as its long duration makes an average experience feel even worse. “Demolition Queen” for example, with its bluesy/hair metal riff, sounds like something that Virgin Steele could have released during the pre-The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
era. It’s by no means a bad track but feels like it doesn’t fit the mood of the album. Moreover, “The Plague and the Fire” which is not even one of the longest tracks on here, is typical of the unnecessary extended nature of the songs; an uninteresting guitar riff that plays over and over featuring a saucy/hilarious delivery from DeFeis on the word “fire”.
Nevertheless, fear not because there are bright spots on Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation
. First of all, you can easily call it metal and its production is much better than the two albums that came before it as the vocals are not so much on the forefront as before while the guitars are audible. In addition, “Persephone” is an excellent song that could have found its place on the band’s classic period while the first two tracks and “Black Sun – Black Mass” form an encouraging yet deceiving introduction to the album.
To make a long story short, Virgin Steele’s 13th release lacks the energy, the solid songwriting and the performance we have come to expect from the epic metal masters. Additionally, lifetime value is a serious concern for almost all the material on here with the exception of “Persephone” even though there are moments where the listener can feel the barbaric nature of the music. Maybe the time for DeFeis to face the reality has finally arrived; he needs to return to the roots of what made Virgin Steele so special and face any lack of inspiration with a shorter album in the future. Until then – and excluding a serious surprise – the king is dead…