Virgin Steele – Life Among The Ruins
Life Among The Ruins
Reviewed by Chris Foley
Okay, I think this is going to be the one where a lot of you guys disagree with me. Life Among The Ruins is much maligned by a majority of Virgin Steele fans. Of course, I can kind of see why, as this isn’t a full-steam-ahead heavy metal release, there’s nothing like “Noble Savage” or “The Burning Of Rome” here, although on the other hand, is the style displayed here on Life Among The Ruins really that shocking? It’s not like the last few albums didn’t have songs like “Seventeen” or “Rock Me”. In fact, I’d say that the best way to look at this album is to see it as the culmination of the band’s more commercial, rockier tendencies that tried to break free in the last few albums.
What makes Life Among The Ruins great is that the album is 100% focused, I don’t care how fantastic some of the songs were on the last two releases; both albums had songs that didn’t fit the bill. There’s none of that here, the album takes a bluesy Whitesnake/Deep Purple approach and they keep the style burning throughout. What’s great is that the sound really works here, the band’s metal roots keep this energetic and raunchy, and there are signature Virgin Steele moments littered across the album which keeps Life Among The Ruins in check with both the preceding and following records.
David DeFeis and Edward Pursino are of course the stars of the show here, with David sounding his very best. I feel this is where he really started to perfect his style and the performance here paves the way well for the utter mastery on the next release. As for Pursino, man, can that guy play! Rip roaring lead guitars and really strong, memorable riffs adorn just about every track here, although “Sex Religion Machine” and “Crown Of Thorns” really serve up the goods. I guess I should mention the rhythm section too, which I feel is masterfully propulsive, with some particularly catchy bass lines. The late eighties style production really highlights every aspect of the sound too. Honestly, I’d say this release sounds just about perfect (although I have the reissue so can’t comment too much on the original).
As I stated earlier, this is an album which gets a shockingly bad rap, and it’s one that is completely undeserved. Regardless of genre, this is a fantastic release, with a strong collection of songs. The balance across the album is excellent as well, always driving yet chill enough to kick back too. This is also where I think David perfected writing ballads; whilst they’re still a little cheesy, I think the arrangement, vocal lines, and general melody are second to none, making songs like “Never Believed In Good-Bye” and “The Last Rose Of Summer” classics among the Virgin Steele ballad repertoire.
To close, I will say that this is an album best visited later in one’s exploration of Virgin Steele’s discography. However, I also maintain that this is essential for any real fan of the band, as it is the bridge between the first two eras of Steele. Some of the darker, (can I really call anything here dark? I’m doing it anyways…) more blues oriented songs here really laid the foundation for what they would do on the next album, and of course the more commercial, accessible style throws back to some of the stuff they were doing in the eighties. Seriously, don’t listen to the naysayers, give Life Among The Ruins a chance, you might well be surprised.
4 // 5