Saturday, 20 June 2015

Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire and Damnation - Review

So as usual VS is dividing opinion with their new record and I can see why. For me the record splits straight into two. The first half of the record is great but soon gets really slow and steady which is not something I am looking for in my VS music at all. 

First of all the production is much improved but still not as heavy as Mr Defeis would have us believe. The guitars are a bit louder but not punchy at all by today's standards and his vocals are still louder than everything else. The drum machine or usage there of doesn't really bother me. I care less about drums than any part of heavy metal music. I need cool melodies and huge chest beating choruses to get excited over and the album starts off so well until we reach the half way point and things start to get really bogged down.

Opener Lucifer's Hammer is a real solid start with a driving riff and David going at it full bore with his vocal acrobatics which of course annoys many but doesn't bother me. I consider his yelps arrrghhhs woooos part of the VS sound and I sort of look forward to them in fact. Track two Queen of the Dead is pretty catchy as well but a bit slower but I still like the mood and feel a lot.

Black Sun-Black Mass is an old song is side project Exorcist recorded for VS and is a really cool and heavy song and one of my faves on the album. I really enjoy what they did with this one. It's heavy and midpaced with a nagging groove and nice aggressive vocals from David.

Persephone is classic VS to me and has everything I love about VS. Soaring epic melodies and a good bit of power but still a lot of subtleties. I wish to God there were more tracks like this on the album but alas it's the only one.

Devilhead is quite an interesting track and has some cool slow build but it hints at what will bog down the second half of the album. I still like it though which is meandering track with heavier parts mixed with slower moodiness.

Demolition Queen basically reminds me of Whitesnake totally. I can imagine Coverdale singing this track and it going down a storm. The song hints at their glam times with the Age of Consent album but for some reason I really quite like the track.

The Plague and The Fire unfortunately sees the album descend into quite a mournful dirge like state of song writing. It has a painfully slow and boring riff whilst David goes on and on over the top. The son seems to go nowhere not very fast. With such an epic title, you'd think you'd be in for a barnstorming and rousing VS song like you'd find on Invictus but no it just trundles along although the shredding guitar solo is quite cool.

We Disappear is a groove based slightly glammy song again not too far from Whitesnake again although much darker maybe Snake crossed with Sabbath? The riff is simple and midpaced whilst David croons over the top but it's far too bogged down. The end of the song is sort of okay with some nice melodies as David sings " We Disappear" over and over and the lead solo from Pursino is really nice but the song is 7:54 and drags on and on with little excitement.

Glamour is a song I should actually hate but I like it more than the last two dirges that's for sure as it has a little more urgency and the feel of it is a little cooler and not so bogged down. David uses his vocal range from full Coverdale "wanna get in to your panties" croon to screeching banshee from Hades. The riffs are a little more groovy and exciting at least and one of them sounds like Pantera's Cowboys from Hell believe it or not. The chorus sees a time change and David pronounces Glamour like "Glamooor" lol. Better than last two songs but that ain't saying much actually.

Please be fast and good Delirium but nope the second half of the album continues in this slow and bluesy vain with another dirge like ditty and at 7:33 it's quite a chore to listen to indeed. The chorus is sort of OK and sung well but the whole feel of the song is so mundane and boring basically. There's not enough urgency in the songs in the second half and Delirium is a prime example of getting bogged down in slow meandering.

Hymns to Damnation is the original title of the album so I expect this to a fiery tune but still Mr DeFeis refuses to up the ante. Have you forgotten that VS is a metal band? This song start acoustic and sounds actually really nice and melodic before a heavy riff thunders into view and David howls but the chorus is just slow which you'd think a galloping riff would go down so well he just keeps crooning and squealing on and on. Not a bad song but the album is full of slow songs. Isn't it time for something faster and energetic? No I guess.

Fallen Angels is surely gonna end things on an upbeat note you'd think. Afraid not. It's slow and ballad like throughout. Not horrible but we've heard enough of this slow and emotional drenched stuff. We need some mountain moving heavy metal but we ain't getting it here folks.

I cut this band a lot of slack much more than many who laugh at them and I appreciate the ambition but this album is a let down after a rather good start. The best rating I can give is 6.5/10 for the hint of former glories here and there but could even be reduced to 5/10 if you're a harsh critic. If you like VS when they go all moody and not bombastic, then you might like it more but I think those people are far in the minority. Most people love VS for the barbaric aspects of their sound but this album just doesn't deliver what we need for more than half it's length. There are some good songs for sure but I don't think they have another Invictus in them any more although I hope I'm wrong.

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