Virgin Steele – “Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation” 2CD / LP / CD (Steamhammer)
With his diverse background in classical music, theater and opera, you knew Virgin Steele were gonna be something special coming from multi instrumentalist David DeFeis! Although initially formed by Jack Starr, DeFeis’s huge influence is undoubted especially in the evolution of the band’s unique sound of ‘barbarian romanticism’, something that continues on to this day now that the band’s rights have passed to DeFeis from a long departed Starr. From whispers to wailing, sopranos to screaming, you get it all from DeFeis’s three and a half octaves – and that’s just the vocals! Now 33 years on, “Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation” is their 13th album and presents another mesmerizing masterpiece. With DeFeis himself handling bass, keyboards and orchestrations, long time compadre Edward Pursino is on 6 string guitar and backed by Josh Block on 7 & 8 string guitars. As you can imagine this multi layered approach creates a very rich sound with the album having a very natural feel to it, from the organic live production to the straight from the heart performances – almost spontaneous – but by no means contrived. Despite its dark title conceptualizing the blackness of the human soul, I actually found the material anything but that – probably because I was completely enchanted by the incredible beauty of the music! In some cases still continuing the Greek mythological theme like on ‘Persephone‘, what really shows DeFeis’s talent is that he doesn’t simply rely on that but personalizes his compositions to still convey his underlying emotions which are then vividly brought to life by his stunning vocal performance. Additionally, the material is equally eclectic, from the proto metal of opener ‘Luzifers Hammer‘ with its heavy, rumbling bass and trippy soprano wailings perfectly suiting its lyrical theme of drugs (rather than Satan) to ‘The Plague And The Hammer’ showcasing Pursino’s dextrous neo classical soloing to the astounding ‘Glamour’ superbly contrasting ethereal cinematic goth harmonies with thrash like sections – the list is simply endless when it comes to the mind blowing talents of David DeFeis! With CD2 containing 15 more tracks from covers of Sabbath, Bloodrock, & Zeppelin, starting with John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ theme, DeFeis even re-arranges and re-writes a classical piece by composer Vladimir Rebikov – in anyone else’s hands a potential folly but with this man it’s almost as if he were born to defy the gods themselves!