Virgin Steele – The Passion of Dionysus Review

It’s impossible to get a hold of all Metal bands that exist in this sad and lonely and pathetic little planet. Even from the 1980’s, when I had all the time – but no cash – to listen to many bands there were bands that I totally lost track of them even if they had their moment under the sun. I admit that Virgin Steele, and many others, were one of them. Ironically, I have a good memory of the band. I mean, by magazines and other means. Unfortunately, it’s one band that I’ve never listened to an album or even a song. When I got “The Passion of Dionysus” I had absolutely no idea of what I would find. The thing is that I’m a little impressed by the album. The music in here is pure passion. The kind of passion that only Metal music can deliver to the fan, if you know what I mean.

For the fans that don’t know the band I’ve got some info from the Wikipedia. “At the beginning of the 1980s, Jack Starr (a guitarist of French origin) was looking for the right elements to form the ultimate heavy metal band. The first to answer his call was drummer Joey Ayvazian and together they started jamming and auditioning singers. Future L.A. Guns bassist Kelly Nickels joined them in 1981. They auditioned around 40 singers before David DeFeis was introduced to Jack by a friend of Joey.

With an interpretation of “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, “Child in Time” by Deep Purple and “Catch the Rainbow” by Rainbow, David got the vacant role of singer, bringing with him bassist Joe O’Reilly. At the end of 1981 the first line-up was ready.

Virgin Steele debuted in 1982 with “Children of the Storm” (a song loved by Metallica), included in the compilation “U.S. Metal Vol. II.” Later they issued their self-titled first album. Their style was and remains very original, a melding of American heavy metal and Rainbow’s epic atmospheres. DeFeis, who also plays piano and keyboards, shows a particular liking for pompous and melodic arrangements, while Starr goes for a harder and more immediate assault. Fan mail was becoming more interesting. Two letters in particular stand out, one from a young band, who were from Seattle. Their name was Queensrÿche. The other, from California, also a band, who called themselves Metallica.” The rest is history.

As this is my first Virgin Steele album, I have to compare it with other albums and bands I know. The first band that comes to mind is Savatage from “Gutter Ballet” era. From where I’m standing “The Passion of Dionysus” has the modern opera grip that “Gutter Ballet” has. It’s not only to tell a story, it’s also to make the story convincing using music to do so. And by using music I mean having Metal as a basis and modern classical music to fulfill the moments Metal can’t do it. Bottomline, it’s pretty much it. It sounds pretty simple but, in fact, it’s not. The music in here is complex with lots of changes and movements as in a modern opera. There are moments, though, that I feel the influence of AOR bands.

The philosophical concept of the album is duality. Maybe that’s the reason most songs are a dialogue between Dionysus and other persons. Our modern society deals all the time with duality in many ways. Good or evil, black or white, live or die, heavy and light are some examples. Musicwise the album explores this having its moments of calm before the storm. The sweet and the harsh is always in here as in tracks as “To Bind & Kill A God,” for instance.

Liking it or not, it’s hard to say that “The Passion of Dionysus” isn’t bold as it goes deep on subjects that aren’t discussed. To turn into music feelings is always something complex. To put into music complex feelings is even harder. Virgin Steele did it here flawlessly.

Virgin Steele “The Passion of Dionysus” will be released on July 07th via Steamhammer / SPV Records.

Track Listing:

  1. The Gethsemane Effect
  2. You’ll Never See the Sun Again
  3. A Song of Possession
  4. The Ritual of Descent
  5. Spiritual Warfare
  6. Black Earth & Blood
  7. The Passion of Dionysus
  8. To Bind & Kill a God
  9. Unio Mystica
  10. I Will Fear No Man For I Am a God

Watch “Spiritual Warfare” official video here: