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Review: Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia
Virgin Steele
The Black Light Bacchanalia

Label: SPV
Year released: 2010
Duration: 72:00
Tracks: 11
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 3/5

Review online: November 12, 2010
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
The Black Light Bacchanalia

Rated 4.01/5 (80.24%) (82 Votes)

I am a relative latecomer to the Virgin Steele camp, which seems odd as they've been around since 1981, a time when I was starting to discover Heavy Metal. Well, this Internet thingy wasn't around back then, so perhaps I can be forgiven. Anyway, a band I'd always meant to check out, my first exposure came via the well liked The House of Atreus: Act I, an album that didn't do much for me. I had to be missing something. So when their latest The Black Light Bacchanalia came out I thought, here's my chance.

The Black Light Bacchanalia seems destined to be one of those albums that forever divide not only Virgin Steele fans, but metal fans in general. My first listen left me slack-jawed. What the hell is this? Everything I'd read about Virgin Steele was how big and powerful their sound was, a modern day Manowar, but here was an album with a muted, almost muddy, production. One of my fellow reviewers suggested more volume, and that definitely helps, but still, I was expecting my windows to shatter. Buried in there are some seriously cool riffs and drumming, but you've got to really listen if you want to appreciate them. There's also a lot of piano, so much, that at times, it was akin to a Heavy Metal version of The Who's Quadrophenia (and I like Quadrophenia). Then there are David Defeis' vocals. Many of us are familiar with them, if not from Virgin Steele, then from Avantasia's The Metal Opera I & II. A Power Metal vocalist of the highest order, he's doing something truly different on The Black Light Bacchanalia. There are some great moments on songs like "By the Hammer of Zeus (and the Wrecking Ball of Thor)" and "To Crown Them with Halos, Parts 1 & 2" but, more often than not, he's somewhere else. Whether its low moaning, whispering or even high pitched squeals that might better be left to a female singer, he's clearly trying some different things. And while I commend him for that, the constant changes render his performance inconsistent. Not to mention the massive effects, like echo, piled high on much of what he does.

I wanted to like The Black Light Bacchanalia more than I did, but I also wanted to dislike it more. It definitely has some cool parts but I just can't get my head around it. Sometimes I really enjoy it while other times I have to shut if off. Rarely has an album done that, and never have I meant "your mileage will vary" more.

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