Released: n/a, Sanctuary Recordings
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Finally, twenty years since its original release, the debut album from the best power metal band ever has been released on CD form. Originally formed in 1981 in New York by Guitarist Jack Starr and drummer Joey Ayvazian, the fledgling band recruited the incredibly powerful vocal talents of a young David Defeis, and the band’s debut was released the following year. The band started out playing classic American power metal, but several aspects of Virgin Steele set the band apart from all others at the time. First, the guitar work by virtuoso Jack Starr stands out as galloping, powerful, and technical. Second, David Defeis and Jack Starr are two of the best songwriters the metal world has ever seen; they can create songs from straight-up rockers to supreme epics, all certain to capture the listener. In addition, the keyboards, played and arranged by David Defeis, add an extra dimension to the band, launching the band to majestic proportions.
“A Minuet In G Minor” opens the album, an instrumental composed by J.S. Bach, before kicking into “Danger Zone,” a galloping rocker of a song, some great neoclassical-styled soloing, and the ubiquitous screams of David “The Lion” Defeis. His vocal delivery on this album is raw and powerful, which would become more refined on subsequent works. “Dead End Kids,” is somewhat Priest-ish in style, capturing the raw edge of Defeis’ vocals and blending with the passionate melody of Jack Starr’s lead. “Still In Love With You” is a semi-ballad, and the first thing I thought after hearing it was that it would sound perfectly at home on the band’s 1995 masterpiece, THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL I. Defeis’ voice is perfect on this one. “Living In Sin” is one of my favourite tracks on the album, the prominent bass lines of Joe O’Reilly adding some aggression to the sound. “Pulverizer” is an instrumental track, showcasing the excellent soloing of Jack Starr. The masterpiece of the album, however, is “Children Of The Storm,” one of the band’s first recordings. This track is brilliantly epic, a hint of what is to come in Virgin Steele’s amazing catalog. The last song on the original album, “Virgin Steele” is another great tune, a very raw and heavy track. Strangely, the production on this track is very thin, resulting in somewhat of a tinny sound. Anomaly aside, this is a fine way to close out the album.
In addition to the 11 original tracks, all of which have been re-mastered and some re-mixed, Virgin Steele have also included some bonuses; including three demo tracks. The first of these is “The Lesson,” an amazing song with some experimental guitar solos and excellent use of keyboards. The chorus is catchy as hell, and I am left wondering why this one was never released. Also included are the demo versions of “Life Of Crime,” and “Burn The Sun,” which were rerecorded for their later EP, GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME. Finishing up this 70+ minute excursion into the roots of the finest American power metal band ever are the original mixes for “Dead End Kids,” “American Girl,” and “Living In Sin.”
Now that I have this absolute classic in my hands, I lament the bitter disputes and musical (and egotistical) differences that drove a wedge between Jack Starr and David Defeis. As amazing as Virgin Steele has become in recent years, I can’t help but wonder how the band might have evolved if Jack and David still collaborated.
Virgin Steele – VIRGIN STEELE has waited twenty years and suffered many legal battles between Jack Starr and David Defeis before its long-overdue release in CD format. I am proud to make this groundbreaking album a part of my collection, and I am sure you will be as well.