Virgin Steele – The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II
Virgin Steele – The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II (1994)
Written by: Christopher Foley
Let me just make this clear, this is one of my favourite albums, and without a doubt one of the most important CD’s I own. It was my first taste of the excellent Virgin Steele, and will likely always remain my most cherished release of theirs. I’m going to try my hardest not to go all fanboy on this one, though forgive me if I do come across that way at any point.
As far as sequels go, this is Terminator 2: Judgement Day, this is Aliens, hell this is The Empire Strikes Back, get the picture? As incredible as The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part I is, I feel Virgin Steele ups the ante here. The arrangements across the board are on a much grander scale, and I think whilst Part I was for the most part straight to the point, here on Part II the band paint over a much wider canvas, delivering an epic, swirling, life affirming affair.
Everything I loved about The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part I is featured here. The stunning lyrics, the incredible musicianship (featuring the introduction of future drummer Frank Gilchrest on a few tracks), and of course the excellent production values feature prominently. However, I will say that they drop a small degree of pugilism in favor of majesty. Don’t get me wrong, this is still perfectly headbangable, and you need look no further than the burning opener “Symphony Of Steele” for proof.
What The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II brings to the table – and what I feel differentiates it between it’s predecessor – is the forward thinking, progressive sensibility of tracks such as the jaw-dropping “Crown Of Glory”, and of course the album’s centerpieces “Prometheus The Fallen One” and “Emalaith”. These tracks in particular showcase Virgin Steele at their absolute finest. With masterful performance and arrangement, oozing characteristic motifs and dramatic dynamics, these songs leave you breathless. When I hear terms such as “metal opera” or “metal symphony” it’s the sounds described here which immediately spring to mind.
What makes the aforementioned tracks doubly effective is that they are placed amongst a varied selection of songs, from excellent metal crunchers in “Twilight Of The Gods” and the fist-banging “Victory Is Mine” right up to the poignant ballads “Strawgirl” and “Transfiguration”, further proving DeFeis’ professionalism in that department. Across the board, there isn’t a single dull moment on The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II, with each number bringing something entirely its own to the table.
As a stand alone album, I really can’t recommend this one enough. Every single aspect feels as close to perfect as you’re ever going to get. Listening in context with its predecessor opens up both albums even more, with vocal lines and musical motifs reflecting and complimenting each other. Hell, stick The Marriage albums in context with the next three and you’ll find a lot of subtle nods to one another. This is an incredible point in Virgin Steele’s career, at which point they display an almost intimidating mastery over their genre. Any fan of the traditional and power metal styles would be at a loss without The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II in their collection. Essential!
5 // 5