Virgin Steele – “Seven Devils Moonshine” 5 CD Boxset (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Oh. My. God. 5 CDs? 88 tracks? Man, that must be a record – even for ‘barbarian romantic’ David DeFeis, a classical trained pianist and degree qualified composer whose 3 1/2 octave voice was inspired in a bid to do what legendary guitar players like Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen could perform with their guitars! Over the course of 37 years in what became his band Virgin Steele, DeFeis has become somewhat a cult figure himself, initially mixing classical with metal along with mythological lyrics and today, also including goth, blues, jazz and even theatrical aspects such that his songs are more befitting their title of ‘acts’! Following the departure of initial founder guitarist Jack Starr, DeFeis found Edward Pursino in 1984, and together they have created some of the most brilliant music on the planet. As stated, “Seven Devils Moonshine” is nothing short of gargantuan, possible the largest metal if not rock release ever. Comprising 3 brand new albums, along with re-releases of 2 compilations “Hymns To Victory” and “The Book Of Burning” (each with unreleased bonus tracks), the sheer range, in addition to the volume of tracks is unbelievable, not forgetting the incredible passion and atmosphere that each one conveys, such is the composing mastery of DeFeis! Disc 1 – Black Wine For Mourning features 11 brand new recordings of new tracks written just these past few months, plus 2 re-written…re-imagined covers. Opening with ‘Seven Dead Within’, DeFeis is in full Robert Plant mode as he soars and yelps as Pursino shows his own measure through some amazing guitar work while orchestrals flow around them as a dark rasping voice adds even more drama. Things pick up on ‘Psychic Slaughter’ as Matt McKasty adds his double bass drumming alongside DeFeis’s piano work as the awesome vocal spectacle unfolds through a feisty duet of soulful highs and harsh screeching conveying a true Jekyll and Hyde play off, resplendent this time with more prominent bass lines from Josh Block. The orchestral version of ‘Bonedust’ is no less impressive for its musicianship as the strong epic atmosphere lends more to a film score overlaid by DeFeis’s moving piano and touching vocals – that is until the cellos get going taking the number into an atmospheric concerto of equally huge proportions completed by harsher operatic tones. Disc 2 – Red Wine For Warning is definitely more rocky, with ‘Rip Off’ leading the way with its harder riffs and Pursino breaking off with his own virtuoso work while DeFeis’s voice takes on a more sultry form. ‘The Poisoned Wound’ is nothing short of musical beauty, lead by Pursino’s heart breaking guitar as this incredible instrumental unfolds and despite inevitably ending, remains etched into your memory. With DeFeis back wailing on the mid tempo ‘Rock Steady’, Pursino follows with emotionally powerful riffs, resonating into your soul as well as your loins on this very sexy number indeed, made all the more so from Block’s bass reverberations – wow, talk about musical orgasm ha ha! Heading into proto speed metal on ‘The Graveyard Dance’ which, at under a minute, is a feisty jam but certainly an incredible one showcasing McKasty’s snare work, the acoustic power of ‘Twilight Of The Gods, a folk / epic piece cannot be understated as Pursino and DeFeis excel together as moving chords and delicate string plucking match the gentle and at just the right moment, emotionally powerful tones bringing brilliant closure to this second new album. Disc 3 Gothic Voodoo Anthems sees the return of orchestrals backing a powerful piano matched by some truly moving vocals from DeFeis on ‘I Will Come For You’ which definitely takes on more darker and theatrical proportions as the number goes on, but never fails to lose your interest thanks to the stellar performance that keeps you on edge for the next bit of excitement and ending oh so movingly thanks to the uplifting symphony and of course, DeFeis’s own stirring voice. Heading back into epic metal on the 8 minute ‘By The Hammer Of Zeus’, the heavy keys build the drama as the contrasting soul and harsh vocals lead into the mesmerising chorus accompanied by energetic cellos along with DeFeis’s power yelps. Quite how one man can achieve all of this is truly impressive but I’m sure glad that David DeFeis has been heaven sent on a release truly to behold!