Virgin Steele
The House of Atreus Act II

Virgin Steele is a band that has been around for many years. With now eight albums under their belt, they are apparently loved worldwide by power metal fans. Well, after suffering through the painfully longwinded double CD release The House of Atreus Act II, all I can say is I’m amazed at the fact that they even have a record deal at all! I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard an album so unmercifully boring.

Ok, first the good points: the album is a concept piece, and the story is very detailed. Kudos to singer/keysman/writer David “The Lion” DeFeis for he obviously labored long hours over the story line, which is based on Greek mythology. Some of the musical parts here sound as if they were written for the stage, and are performed as such complete with a choral sound to some of the vocals. However, it’s delivered with all the passion of a middle school drama club. He and fellow band members Edward “Van Dorian” Pursino (all guitars and bass) and Frank “The Krakan'”Gilchriest (drums) are all technically skilled musicians based on the playing I hear. Lots of double kick drum work, speedy guitar and keyboard licks. However, the flat production sucks any and all life out of their work. It sounds as if everything was recorded at a very low volume. There is no energy or punch to any of it.

Also, the tones the band captured are somewhat amateurish, especially in the keyboard department. One key solo sounds like the “horns” preset on a $200 keyboard you’d pick up at Sears. Vocally, “The Lion” is simply annoying. He sings in key, and knows how to stack his harmonies, but it’s his tone that turns me off. He sounds fine on some of the albums softer moments, but once they try to get heavy he sounds downright bad. His smooth voice is very thin, making him sound weak most of the time. Then his “heavy” voice mainly consists of a gruff, almost spoken delivery. To make it even worse, he sprinkles overused exclamations, complete with cheesy delay (“YOW! YOw! Yow! yow!,” ya know?), at the end of many lines. And even though he’s playing the album’s many characters himself, he uses only these two vocal styles making it impossible to follow the story without reading the lyric sheet.

I can’t point to any song in particular as being a highlight, because they all basically deliver the same bad vocals and lifeless performances. This being the band’s eighth album, they obviously have some fans somewhere. So, I would say that fans of Virgin Steele would probably like this, if this is what they’ve always sounded like. But to me, this album is another example of how to waste time, money, plastic, paper, and ink on a record contract. Avoid it at all costs.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
December 24th, 2000


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