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Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia Review

by Matt Hensch

Virgin Steele's stint of glory from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" up until "Visions of Eden" is a landmark in epic metal. For twelve years, David Defeis led his symphony of steel beyond the halls of Valhalla and through Olympus' clouds with his soaring fleet of iron might, and I show no shame in including Virgin Steele next to Iron Maiden or Judas Priest as one of metal's finest warriors; their material really is that exquisite. Now I was a little surprised by the immediate decline in content throughout "The Black Light Bacchanalia" following "Visions of Eden." Sure, it's another tale of grandiosity which wiggles next to most of the band's works, but the mask, once removed, reveals something tired and faceless. Virgin Steele did not abandon the charging anthems and high-flying characteristics of their prime; however, the meat and potatoes of the group's fire was stretched way too thin, leading "The Black Light Bacchanalia" down a path where sagas fade to one-dimensional fables and valor molests its own honor.

The focus of the album seems to be how many useless and overblown additives Defeis and crew can pile into their music, if I may be frank. Extravagant tunes with multiple layers including orchestral work and keyboards alongside the elongated duration of Virgin Steele's compositions have appeared beforehand in previous offerings of this group, but here they transfer from relevant to banal without really changing anything remarkably drastic. Beyond the gigantic film of extra crap (and there's plenty of it), there isn't anything noteworthy or captivating within this carnival of mediocrity. Occasionally a cool riff or pattern pops up, but these moments are usually drilled into oblivion once all the unneeded sections and useless fireworks show up and totally throw off whatever the band was originally conveying. They constantly jerk around from here to Asgard for the sole purpose of jerking around from here to Asgard, just a directionless show of Virgin Steele on sleep debt; the idea of recreating an epic anthem or something dramatic completely ruins most of the album, as it was clearly the point to bring one of Defeis' cinematic imaginations (which border on laughable at times) to life. Probably not the outcome he was hoping for.

Speaking of Defeis, what the hell happened to this guy's voice? Remember the rough, gritty tone and sky-high wailing of this banshee that immortalized his voice in the eternal halls of metal? Well, here he greatly restrains his ability as a vocalist, settling for vapid chimes and falsettos so falsely theatrical and roaring that they almost seem like a joke. Still, he hits notes that impress, yet his standard brilliance this is not. The only survivors are "By the Hammer of Zeus," the pounding "The Bread of Wickedness," and I have a little heart for "Eternal Regret," yet like most of the album, it could use a temporal shaving of about four or five minutes. Sure there are a few good tracks, but it's like these guys were trying to win a formula-1 race on tricycles, thinking the flames painted on their bikes would achieve hyperspeed and break the sound barrier. I could totally picture David Defeis doing that, by the way.

In its attempt to become a heroic tale of divinity and beauty, "The Black Light Bacchanalia" boasts the armor of Virgin Steele without having understood the knowledge of why or how Defeis and his precious child are heavy metal legends. Excessive orchestration and a multitude of tracks running beyond seven minutes equates to precisely nothing if the core fundamentals of passion and drama and power decide to skip out on the festival, and sadly, that's what happens here. In contradiction to the consistency of Virgin Steele, "The Black Light Bacchanalia" fails miserably at its desired objective, and I hereby state this is the band's worst full-length release since "Life Among the Ruins," easily. Boring, bland, and balderdash is this bacchanalia.

Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia


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