Virgin Steele – The House Of Atreus: Act II
Reviewed by Christopher Foley
Whereas The House Of Atreus: Act I was a difficult album to both digest and put into words, its follow up is even more-so. Spread over two discs, The House Of Atreus: Act II is absolutely packed with material to the point of bloating. Where the interludes on the predecessor were absolutely integral to the listening experience, here they are more of a detriment, feeling nowhere near as well one or important. Fortunately, the album is home to many a gem; it just requires a little more persistence to reap the benefits than it did on the last few albums.
I honestly feel that The House Of Atreus: Act II is the exact point in Virgin Steele’s career where DeFeis began to establish as well as introduce a lot of the elements which can be found on their next two releases. Whilst I think they were conceived around Invictus, I’d say this was the real birth. You can find early components of Visions Of Eden, particularly in David’s vocal performance, which was beginning to calm a little with his more feminine approach becoming more prominent. Those with a keen ear will notice similar motifs on “A Token Of My Hatred” or “Arms Of Mercury” to those on Visions Of Eden. Further still, I feel a stronger emphasis on keyboards, and even the odd spoken word part further signposts the future of the band.
In saying that though, the one thing that does truly separate The House Of Atreus: Act II from future releases is Edward Pursino’s guitars. Here he still dishes out the goods in the riff department, and is still very much an essential element to the band. It’s a shame he’s not as prominent in Virgin Steele as he once was, but that’s a story for another review.
I think the European power metal elements that had been creeping into the Virgin Steele sound are at their most prominent here too. The vast majority of the up-tempo tracks on The House Of Atreus: Act II adopt a lot in the way of double kicking and open chord segments, which is of course a hallmark of the Euro power sound. This is nowhere more evident than in the opening number “Wings Of Vengeance”, particularly in its massive chorus. I also think that the band would use this approach as something of a template for their speedier numbers in the future.
As I’ve found common with a lot of double albums, I feel The House Of Atreus: Act II could have very easily been snipped down to one CD, which would be particularly effective; packing all the highlights contained on the album into one disc. Speaking of highlights, “Resurrection Day (The Finale)” is without a doubt reason enough to make a purchase. It closes out the album and story in a similar dramatic fashion to the final movement of Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime ( “Waiting For 22” through to “Eyes Of A Stranger”). Further standout tracks would include the aforementioned “Wings Of Vengeance”, the mighty “Flames Of Thy Power (From Blood They Rise)”, and maybe my favourite track on the album, “The Wine Of Violence”.
Despite coming across a little too big for its boots, and undoubtedly riding on the coattails of its predecessor, The House Of Atreus: Act II still boasts plenty of merit, and thankfully enough not to loose itself completely under its scope. Whilst I’m not sure if the album truly deserves a place amongst the hallowed “classic five”, it is without a doubt an essential piece of The House Of Atreus canon, and a worthy Virgin Steele album.
3.75 // 5