Virgin Steele – Seven Devils Moonshine
Released: SPV, 2018
Reviewed by: JP
Late in 2018 Virgin Steele fans were treated to a nice end-of-year present with a massive (and somewhat unexpected) box-set called SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE.
This set is presented in standard box, not one of these clamshell boxes. Housed inside are five, wallet/slip-cases, a 24-page booklet and a sticker. Apparently there was supposed to be a poster, but mine did not have one. The box itself is too big and the discs slip and slide and rattle around in there. More attention could have paid to that detail. This is a beast…88 tracks! The box in an incredible value; I only paid $25.00.
There are three ‘new’ albums GHOST HARVEST VINTAGE 1-BLACK WINE FOR MOURNING, GHOST HARVEST-VINTAGE 2-RED WINE FOR WARNING AND GOTHIC VOODOO ANTHEMS. The first pair are mostly new material and the third consists of lots of orchestral versions of old songs.
For those of you who don’t follow industry news much, back in 2010, Virgin Steele signed to SPV/Steamhammer. This is a pretty good fit for the band. Since that time, the band and label have been slowly but methodically reissuing almost all the bands back catalogue, much of it with bonus tracks.
In a sense this completes the reissue campaign because the two ‘bonus’ discs in this five disc box-set are two albums that were previously issued, HYMNS TO VICTORY from 2001 and BOOK OF BURNING from 2002. Both of those were albums that were compilations, collections, rarities and re-recordings. This important because what essentially this box is a five-disc set of rarities. So now the label has reissued everything from 1985 to 2002 and Virgin Steele has pretty much purged the entire vault.
Now, here is the minor issue. The pre-release information suggested that these were all new songs. Well, yes and no. TECHNICALLY many of them are ‘new’ if you believe that alternate versions of existing songs or cover tunes are ‘new’. Are these all new, Virgin Steele songs composed recently? No. In my mind, this really is a five disc box-set of rarities, covers with a whole pile of unreleased tracks, but in my mind, this doesn’t really meet the conventional definition of ‘new’ album. To confuse matters it actually says in brackets (new album) for the first three discs.
This is a review where I’m going to cop out and not really talk too much about the music. Virgin Steel is already one of those fringe bands that you love or hate, based on the unique vocals of David DeFeis. With 88 tracks, I could write an entire book analyzing each song and how it is different than previous versions, but his review is already pretty long. Suffice to say, overall, this is a quite mellow collection. That is why many of these songs do not make the full, studio albums which are considerable faster and heavier. This is a chance for DeFeis to release all that stuff he does when he experiments studio, blues stuff, piano ballads, medleys, cover tunes by bands like Alice In Chains and Jimi Hendrix and old blues dudes like John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon. There are a significant amount of blues jams and covers, at least two dozen cover tunes, especially on the second and third albums. What I like is how he integrates little bits of things, his own original compositions, classical, hard rock, blues into these weird, late night, drank too much, stream-of consciousness, medleys with things ranging from Whitesnake and UFO to Sting and Chris Issak.
These are songs that many fans (myself included) would probably not appreciate in the context of a new, full-on Metal studio album. These are, well… the leftovers. There is nothing wrong with leftovers! Many of us eat them quite often! On Sunday night you might make a nice, big, roast beef dinner and Monday morning you take a cold-roast beef sandwich to work. There is nothing wrong with leftovers, except it is not the main course. This is an amazing collection of all those leftovers from the jumbo, Virgin Steele, late night, voodoo cauldron kitchen. We get to hear early rough mixes of old classics like ‘Noble Savage’ and cool piano ballad versions of songs like ‘The Evil In Her Eyes’. There are so many unique and interesting things going on in this collection. It is an incredible treasure chest for fans who want to dig deep.
SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE has been taking quite a bit of heat in the Metal media, I’ve read a number of reviews that really criticize the album, some of the reviews I’ve read are downright mean and insulting! I’ve read some critics who think it is supposed to be the new Virgin Steele studio album and it’s not. In all fairness the band didn’t help by labeling each album ‘new album’ on the back cover, it is a bit misleading perhaps. However if the critics had done their research and maybe actually listened to the album, or even read the liner notes, they would have figured this out quite quickly.
I’m more of loyalist and an open-minded Virgin Steele fan who wants to hear the band explore and push the boundaries. For a budget presentation there is really nothing to complain about and this will give true Virgin Steele fans a lot of pleasure as the go through over six hours of material.