Going strong for almost 35 years, New York's Virgin Steele led by vocalist and lyricist David DeFeis returns with another gargantuan platter of classic melodic heavy metal, Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation. Yup. It's another long one, nearly 89 minutes, and that doesn't count the two CD digipak, which has another 15 songs (which I didn't get).
If you know Virgin Steele, and you probably wouldn't be reading this if you didn't, you know their sound. Surprisingly, unlike some previous albums, this one doesn't quite have that symphonic angle. No, it's more straight forward American power metal. That's not to say that the metal within isn't grand and pompous, you know, typical Virgin Steele. Mostly, it's done with, on a larger scale, with the arrangement and then throw the guitar lines and DeFeis' vocals and vocal arrangements. Honestly, I think he must 20 or more different ways to sing, scream, screech, growl, or howl. Sometimes I wonder if, excepting the lyrics, he knows what's going to come out between those pearly whites.
Largely, I think the quinessential characteristic of Virgin Steele is their ability to make any song sound epic, even the short ones. For instance, Queen Of The Dead, just over four minutes, moves on big riffs over thumping drums, a simple but boastful refrain, and some soaring guitar solos. Another song, Glamour, twists the arrangement with more tough riffs to start, only to calm down in the middle with some piano, and bring those ambitious riffs back in the end.
But Virgin Steele likes their longer songs as well, which are abundant. Of curiosity are Delirium and Hymns To Damnation, likely some of the most subdued stuff here. They both move moderately, churning gently but building as they progress, mostly led by DeFeis' lyrics and vocal presentation. Everything eventually leads to a tight guitar solo, often with DeFeis' still singing or screeching. Actually, I kind of wanted him to shut the hell up and let guitarist Edward Pursino be heard. Another song of interest is Demolition Queen. It's possibly the closest thing to a metal rock song (complete with cow bell) on the album, at least in the first half. At the midpoint it slows down to almost metal ballad or anthem proportions with a slight blues feel to the guitar solo. Then it never quite gets the rock groove back.
The bottom line is pretty simple. Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation is more classic Virgin Steele, epic and outrageous, grand and pompous, all that you would expect from David DeFeis and company. Recommended.
The bottom line is pretty simple. Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation is more classic Virgin Steele, epic and outrageous, grand and pompous, all that you would expect from David DeFeis and company.
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