Virgin Steele – Virgin Steele
This one will be quite the undertaking. For the pleasure of you, the Black Wind readers, I’m going to embark on a journey across the discography of one of heavy metal’s most misunderstood bands; Virgin Steele.
This was Virgin Steele’s debut album, the self titled release which is so far away from their current sound. Virgin Steele sees the band in their most basic of forms, far from the mighty warrior they would become over their career. Here the band is like an adolescent squire, with nothing but the vest and briefs. It would take years for the band to amass their armour, put manly hairs on their collective chests, and manage to unleash the great sword of fire from its sheathe. Before pressing too deep, I must clear up that, in the interest of the rewind, I’m going to be reviewing the original ten tracks, though from the re-issue of the album (good luck finding an original). Now that that’s out of the way, let me unlock the door to the past and take a look at Virgin Steele.
The album opens up with the double track “Minuet in G Minor/ Danger Zone”, which was a quite common practice in the early eighties in particular, and basically it’s an intro and a song in one track. The intro part is something of a prelude to the bombast that would continually worm its way into the bands sound. After this long part, the band kicks into some traditional eighties heavy metal riffing, and David DeFeis begins cooing all over. His youthful voice is quite different to the more rip-roaring style he would develop and hone over the band’s nineties releases. He shrills and shrieks all over Virgin Steele, which is what the eighties were all about, and if I had to draw any comparison I could only really mention Crimson Glory’s late, great Midnight.
Vying for the spotlight we have Jack Starr, who would go on to play one more album with Virgin Steele. Jack Starr’s playing is good, and particularly virtuosic, almost neoclassical in places. He spews leads forth as often as he can, and the album feels largely like Jack and David are pushing each other out of the way to show the world what they can do. It works though, and gives the album its main charm, which is the youthful energy. The music contained is quite far from the heavy/ power metal Virgin Steele would later become renowned for. Here their sound is pure vintage eighties metal, and early eighties metal at that.
For all its charm, Virgin Steele is a very uneven album, and possibly the band’s most uneven release. Between standard heavy metal numbers, hair metal style cringers, and a ballad which would have even your mother rearing; Virgin Steele is that embarrassing first year at school, or first day at work where you confuse the bathrooms and end up in the ladies room (anyone?) The closest we get to glory here is “Children Of The Storm”, which shows the band taking their first, shaky steps into more epic territory, or in the band’s namesake track, which has some of the heavier riffs on the album. However, taking the album as it is, and discounting everything they would later do; the first three songs are actually pretty cool early eighties style metal. Jack Starr’s guitar work is definitely the highpoint of the album, and even when they’re squeezing out the shocking ballad “Still In Love With You”, he always nails a sweet lick to keep from cheese poisoning.
Despite its shortcomings, for a debut early-eighties album it definitely has some merit in some of the riffs and arrangement, particularly “Virgin Steele” and “Children Of The Storm”. Jack Starr’s guitar work also helps in spades keeping interest. I’d say this one would appeal to those curious of the early metal scene, as well as eighties metal fans in general; provided they can stomach their fair share of cheese. As for Virgin Steele fans, you should probably leave this one until late in your exploration of the band, if at all. Pitted against the rest of their discography, it isn’t a great representation of what the band is about. Plus David DeFeis’ vocals are almost too much here, and that’s saying something.
Chris’ rating 3.0 out of 5