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Virgin Steele - Life Among The Ruins Review

by Matt Hensch

If you've read my review for "Age of Consent," you'll notice that I implied Virgin Steele was on fire after the aforementioned release. I only say that because I refuse to acknowledge "Life Among The Ruins" as a legitimate Virgin Steele album. It has David Defeis' vocals and shares a handful of trademark traits of the group, but it is so abysmally awful that it's no wonder it largely stays in its little attic upstairs, kept away from the rest of the musical family for good reason and hopefully forced to eat its fish heads in complete isolation, like an good abomination should. "Life Among The Ruins" is the skeleton in Virgin Steele's closet; the mistake Virgin Steele thinks about and regrets when lying in bed, alone with its thoughts; the uninvited party guest that ruins everything. This is seriously atrocious stuff.

What is often considered the classic era of Virgin Steele runs from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Part I" to "The House of Atreus: Act II" with some of us tagging "Visions of Eden" on the tail end of the group's undisputed prime just to be difficult. The band had released five full-length albums as a heavy metal/hard rock faction before igniting into their heavy/power metal stage on the first "Marriage" record, creating such efforts as "Guardian of the Flame" or "Age of Consent" which, although listenable and with their pinnacles, lack the girth of the band's golden years. However, "Life Among The Ruins" is everything that was wrong and inconsistent about Virgin Steele's budding phase, almost like it was spawned in some exterior corner of Defeis' mind from all the exposure to hard rock and finally clawed its way into Virgin Steele's forefront. This is Virgin Steele trying to capitalize on the then-dominant influence of hard rock ΰ la Whitesnake with the occasional touch of glam bulls***. Virgin Steele is about epic metal. Virgin Steele and hard/glam rock do not mix in any universe. Ever.

And if you were striving for evidence in support of my purposed hypothesis, look no further than album opener "Sex Religion Machine." Everything about it is just trash, from the apathetic crawling riffs which would fit excellently on an unreleased Whitesnake track to Defeis' sensual crooning over the garbage like its an ancient totem to Zeus. Defeis sounds fairly nice throughout the whole album—not really a surprise considering his ability, and there's a substantial amount of accessibility between him and the record's direction, actually. He's certainly a versatile vocalist, even here. Still, jumping into dull duds like "Love is Pain" and half-assed ballads like "Wildfire Woman" will make you welcome the unholy wrath of a thousand angry buttholes; there's no legitimate substance anywhere.

Unlike some of the band's other releases, acceptable tunes do not exist here. "Age of Consent" had "The Burning of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)" and others, but "Life Among The Ruins" yields no cluster of decency, nor does it ever relent in its constant upheaval of musical junk. Truth be told, the whole record is just the upbeat stench of "Sex Religion Machine," the faux-emotion of "Love is Pain," and one of the stupid ballads rehashed fourteen times over, no fresh air or flavor. Speaking of the overall package, was it really necessary to sandwich fourteen – Jesus, talk about an overabundance – tracks together, lasting for over fifty minutes? Goddamn. Also, the ending note, "Last Rose of Summer," is one of the worst Virgin Steele songs ever. Defeis sings in a laughable tenor so high it sounds like his testicles are wrapped in barbed wire, and the piano ballad postulate made me vomit.

Yes, I actually puked; a vile mix of clam chowder and popcorn currently covers my CD collection. As if that weren't bad enough, the eternal drought of filling content rolls forever here, and I'll gladly jump on a cactus if "Life Among The Ruins" isn't labeled unspeakably horrid by most. There are a few solid reasons why Virgin Steele's legacy seldom points toward the remains of this savagely boring and unforgivably tedious offering penned by one of metal's finest factions. Virgin Steele is epic, smoldering, divine, and proudly tests the very essence of the gods with bravery and might; however, they were fragile and confused during this brief period in the group's crusade, thankfully just a bump before greatness, but a big one at that. Can't really recommend this to anyone, unless you're a masochist/Def Leppard fan.

Virgin Steele - Life Among The Ruins


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