Virgin Steele
The House Of Atreus Act I

Virgin Steele. Long a name bandied around the American heavy metal community, and presently still one of the hotter outfits in the scene, upholding good old American heavy metal along with Wardog, Wykked Wytch, Seven Witches and Kamelot. This elusive troupe dates back to even the heyday of Metallica, but for some strange reason have never truly received the recognition that many feel they are sorely due. Being somewhat of a new advocate to this band (I have but this release and the one before among their extensive catalogue), I will deliver my relatively objective opinion on this band.

Long known to be a concept band, Virgin Steele have once again built an entire album’s worth of music around the single thematic storyline of Agamemnon (the Greek tragedy) and to their credit to a wonderful job of using this storyline to create a wholesomely enjoyable ‘barbaric romantic heavy metal opera’. Each song represents a chapter in the storyline, and range from soliloquy to synth/manipulated sound tracks to the nominal traditional heavy metal tracks, of which forms a bulk of the material on offer in this rather long ( an hour plus) cut.

Admittedly, this often swells to rather ludicrous levels of pretentious pomposity. The keyboard passages are obsessively pseudo-medieval and only serve to prompt one’s finger to the fast forward button most of the time, and at others they are but passable, never really doing anything more than providing completely unnecessary reprieves from the metal tracks and adding several layers of cheese on the material. One cannot help but deem them as fillers.

When it does come to the metal tracks, we are presented with a simple, riff-based formula that finds its way predominantly throughout the entirety of the album. The riffs on show chug and titillate in a semi-thrash kind of way, producing songs that are very enjoyable, catchy and ultimately very listenable. Choruses are monumental and anthemic, presented with sparkling vocal hooks and simplistic melodic bite, coalescing with the fleshy rifferama to create songs that, albeit incredibly simple, make songs that buzz around your consciousness for weeks to come.

In the end, if you can get past the slightly contrived pomposity and overblown nature of this ‘heavy metal opera’, herein lies an honest and passionate, and LISTENABLE metal album that will, in all honesty, remind you of the reason why you started listening to metal in the first place. Sounds cliché? Perhaps. Meat and potatoes heavy metal that sparkles with honesty and warmth. Along with Wykked Wytch, Lord Weird Slough Feg and Seven Witches, surely Virgin Steele should get the attention they deserve this time.


© 2000 equimanthorn