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The Book of Burning AND Hymns To Victory
Released: 2002, Sanctuary / Noise Records
Virgin Steele is celebrating their 20th anniversary. It was way back in 1981 that Trust guitarist Jack Starr, vocalist David DeFeis, bassist Joe O’Reilly, and drummer Joey Ayvazianc formed the first incarnation of Virgin Steele. To correspond with this blessed event the band has two “new” albums out. The first, THE BOOK OF BURNING represents the unearthing of older Virgin Steele material that has been either re-recorded or previously unreleased material that now gets to see the light of day. Both are of course new recordings played to today’s standards and sounds like modern Virgin Steele. The album also contains some new songs as well. I would have preferred the older re-recorded songs were on one disc and the newly written tracks were on the other disc. Speaking of the other disc, that disc is entitled HYMNS TO VICTORY and contains some previously unreleased/remasterd/re-recorded etc material from the more recent Virgin Steel days along with 8 new songs written in the summer of 2001.
It’s hard to try and synopsize two albums or 29 songs, so I’ll pick out what my highlights are from these two discs. From THE BOOK OF BURNING the opening track, a previously unreleased song, “Conjuration of the Watcher” stands out way above the other songs on here. The song is upbeat with a somewhat thrashy riff. This song was put together just prior to the recording of THE HOUSE OF ATREUS ACT 1. Unfortunately the album is not full of songs like this one that is not repetitive, slow or un-Virgin Steele sounding. For example “Hellfire Woman” drags on and on. Surprisingly it’s a new song despite this! “I Am The One”….hmmmm what the hell is up with that singing at the beginning? URGHHH….and people call Stratovarius un-metal?? (hehe….sorry couldn’t resist that….). After this embarrassing intro the song kinks into full gear and is great. “Hot And Wild” is a “rocking” song and is nothing like what Virgin Steele are known for – complete with a sing along Twisted Sister styled chorus!! They must have had fun writing and playing something so retro as this! “Guardians of the Flame” is a very nice classic metal song with one of the best solo’s on this album. It’s not shredding but it’s one of those that drip with emotion and is well executed!
Onto the second disc – HYMNS TO VICTORY. This is in essence a best of with a couple of unreleased songs and re-mastered/re-mixed songs from the band’s more recent albums. The main things I like on this disc are songs that I already had and the re-mastering/mixing doesn’t offer big enough of a change for me to recommend this to someone who has all the Virgin Steele albums. One song stood out on here because it sounded very UN-Virgin Steele. That song is “Saturday Night.” All I can say is “Huh?” This sounds JUST LIKE some unreleased KISS song…weird!!!
These two discs are for the die-hard Virgin Steele fans. For the devoted, this is indeed a treat. For the casual listener of Virgin Steele this does not offer anything that makes me say you have absolutely got to have it. If you’re looking to buy your first Virgin Steele album I would get THE HOUSE OF ATREUS: ACT 1. Then if you love it buy ACT 2 and so on. In any case, here’s to another 20 years of Virgin Steele!!!
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