Released: 2011, Steamhammer / SPV
Virgin Steele is now an institution. Their brand of power metal has been embraced by legions of fans worldwide, particularly in Europe. Back in 1987, Virgin Steele was flying high, getting their first real taste of success. They had just completed two tours of Europe which saw them supporting Manowar and Black Sabbath. The bands previous album, the hurried NOBLE SAVAGE was recorded in just a few weeks, but for the new album AGE OF CONSENT, the band would spend eight months. During the sessions, both David DeFeis and guitarist Edward Pursino would split duties on bass guitar for then ill bassist Joe O’Reilly.
AGE OF CONSENT was released on tiny label Maze in 1988, and received scant promotion, prompting DeFeis to call the album “the one that got away”, at least in terms of a wider audience. Upon hearing some of the commercial leanings of the album, it is as clear now as it was then, that AGE OF CONSENT was ambitious in its goals and clearly aimed for the conquest of a much larger fan base. One need look no further than “Cry Forever”, a power ballad that is embarrassingly, only slightly better than anything from Air Supply, and clearly aimed for mass consumption. AGE OF CONSENT would prove to be a definitive and transitional album for the band though. After this album, the band would abandon the NWOBHM style as well as some occasional sappy lyrics for a more epic and muscular sound, drawing lyrical inspiration from classical mythology and literature. While AGE OF CONSENT failed to win over many new fans, those already on board praised the album, upholding it today as one of the band’s finest. Indeed, it contains four of the bands greatest tracks “The Burning of Rome”, “Lion In Winter”, “On The Wings of The Night”, and “Perfect Mansions”, with PM being my favorite Virgin Steel track of all time, one that I always envisioned would make a great background track to a slow motion extended battle scene in a movie like Gladiator or Braveheart for instance.
Now, on the 30th anniversary of the band’s incarnation, SPV has painstakingly re-issued this near classic, completely re-mastering and changing the original track sequence while adding a total of 13 bonus tracks in addition to the original ten of the 1988 release, and a sizable booklet with informative liner notes. The bonus CD is what the core fan-base will be most interested in as this contains 5 previously unreleased bonus tracks, consisting of new tracks as well as older re-written tracks that did not make any of the studio albums. The two strongest tracks of the five are “Under The Graveyard Moon” and “Down By The River”, each featuring keyboard propelled vocals and patented crashing choruses, a Virgin Steele trademark. Only “A Changeling Dawn” stumbles, being a coma-inducing 11 minute piano and vocal only snooze fest, as bad as anything the band has ever done. Still as evident as it was in 1988 is the somewhat unfocused lack of unifying styles on the album, something corrected in their later concept albums.
As expected and in keeping with current production trends, the album is “louder” and perhaps punchier in some frequencies but not necessarily better than the original production. No question, when considering the overall quality and quantity of the reissue it is well worth the money. For Virgin Steele fans that did not pick up the 1997 reissue, this is mandatory and even the new unreleased tracks are worth it. New fans might not want to start with this one, as Virgin Steele has evolved considerably since then, but they should definitely acquire the four amazing tracks mentioned above being classics of the band’s catalog.