Virgin Steele - Seven Devils Moonshine - (0/10)

Published on October 22, 2018

Tracklist:

  1. Ghost Harvest (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) Vintage 1 – Black Wine for Mourning
  2. Ghost Harvest (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) Vintage 2 – Red Wine for Warning
  3. Gothic Voodoo Anthems
  4. Hymns to Victory
  5. The Book of Burning

Genre:

Depressive Rock

Label:

Steamhammer

Playing Time:

3:58:00

Country:

U.S.A

Year:

2018

Website:

Visit page

Taking the wrecking ball to a legend

 

 

There are bands that build up a legendary status and run with it, some call it quits while people are still sad about that happening and then there are some that try to continue on and completely ruin everything that they had once stood for. Enter David DeFeis and Virgin Steele. The New Yorkers ascended into the highest echelons of symphonic and theatrical power metal with albums such as Noble Savage or the outstanding duologies of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The House of Atreus before starting to dip with The Black Light Bacchanalia and then going for an absolute crash landing with Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation, shedding much of the qualities that had once made them one of the hottest acts and especially in the vocal department showing at times cringeworthy performances. So when Seven Devils Moonshine was announced as a 5-CD box with three (!) full albums of new material, it felt more like a threat than a promise.

 

The two last CDs are re-issues of Hymns to Victory and The Book of Burning, in line with the recent re-releases of the band’s back catalogue, so the review will focus on the other three albums totaling to almost four hours of music and the last time a band tried something as ambitious as this, it backfired completely (see Therion’s three-hour snoozefest Beloved Antichrist). And DeFeis continues to actively not just chisel away on his legend status, but he has now resorted to the wrecking ball approach, because where Nocturnes already was bad, Seven Devils Moonshine reaches a new nadir for Virgin Steele.

 

Dave DeFeis has always been known for a very theatrical approach to singing, with a strong falsetto, some growls (not death metal like growls, more something feral, in line with his nick name “lion”), but always with great control and working with the song, but from opener “Seven Dead Within” on it already becomes clear that the alarming tendency of the previous album continues with DeFeis’ voice being all over the place, switching from a warbling “normal” tone to wailing highs and weak growls, but without the flow or power he used to master. The fact that the song underneath is boring does not help matters, neither does the production that puts the vocals fully centre and to the fore, while the guitars suffer greatly. Both Nocturnes and now this set actually make one wonder what happened with Ed Pursino as well, since his playing is greatly subdued, feels uninspired and makes one wonder what is role within Virgin Steele is these days.

 

Now this sounds very doom and gloom, but unfortunately it is not just a bad start to the album, but the one that sets the pace for the following hours and confirms that Nocturnes has not been a one off dud. There are a few “orchestral versions” to be found here and they sound cheap and badly done, like “Bonedust”, where there is no structure, no real build and at times he almost sounds like he is singing backwards, because he is completely unintelligible.

 

Everything sounds bloodless and blah, there is no dramatic moments, no soaring choruses, no outstanding melodies, it just blubbers past and even when the tempo goes up a bit, there is no power, no conviction. A good example for this lack of energy and spark is “Feral”, ten minutes long, with the same tempo through and through, lacklustre vocals (some of the high pitched yelps are just cringeworthy), a noodled guitar solo that doesn’t match the rest of the song, if this is feral, I don’t want to see their definition of a house cat. The duo of “Julienne” and “Princess Amy” is among the most vapid ballad-like material of recent times and the horrendous cover version of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game” is an abomination even on this trip through the haunted castle, even more so as it is stretched beyond belief to over 9 (!) minutes. Add to that that the following two songs almost seamlessly pick up where it left off, making it feel like an even longer torture.

 

And all this was just the first album! The second one…well, if the listener’s ears have not caved in yet, they will try to find a way to seal themselves, because the piano and vocal version of “The Evil in Her Eyes” (original off Noble Savage) has some horribly shrieky vocals that are interspersed with forced sounding growls, efficiently killing an originally great song. But what follows ranges somewhere between seedy bar music and mediocre as best rock, since there is not an ounce of metal to be found on this trainwreck, the song title of “Rip Off” will probably be quoted a lot, when people buy this set without hearing anything first.

 

The hits just keep coming, like with “Jesus Just Left Chicago” (with this weird “Chicowgow” pronunciation), which feels like DeFeis try to bring in the bar/blues feel, but falls flat with his odd phrasings and total lack of flow, continuing to drag into “Soul Kitchen” and the following tracks which all seamlessly blend into each other (and make one wonder why they were separated into different tracks to begin with) and despite their respective short duration drag on and on, even featuring a reprise of “When the Music’s Over” (which is only a mean tease, since there still is plenty to follow). And “The Triple Goddess”… After almost three minutes of pressed sounding narration it morphs into a pseudo-symphonic song with random-seeming choir before bringing in female vocalization and then finally going somewhat orchestral, but without rhyme, reason or cohesion. It is telling, if live acoustic versions of older songs (in this case “Twilight of the Gods” and “Transfiguration” off The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II) are the highlights of this set, where even DeFeis still sounds like he used to.

 

Then on to disc three and a whole bunch of “orchestral versions” and this is where things go from really bad to even worse, starting off with the complete destruction of the originally dynamic and dramatic “I Will Come For You”, which has been stripped of everything (including quality) but piano, cheap orchestral sounding keyboards and DeFeis cringeworthy vocal performance, where he sings, yelps, growls and shrieks his way through the song, practically murdering what once had been a great song. Or “Kingdom of the Fearless” off The House of Atreus Act I, which is another abominable piece of musical homicide, killed by cheap symphonics, horrible vocals and everything dragging on from the beginning on.

 

And to be clear, ‘orchestral version’ does not mean to just go only vocals and piano. It would require some actual “orchestral” elements, which the majority of these versions here does not have. But that is just a minor gripe in comparison to the rest. Mother Love Bone’s “Bone China” is not sacred either, a rare cover of this song, but it falls in line with the rest of the album, unfortunately, since the vast majority of this disc sounds almost the same, one way or another, be it Led Zeppelin, the three Mother Love Bone covers etc., which at times are made even worse by DeFeis odd phrasings and pronunciations (like ‘dawkness’), which further defile some of the blues songs he decided to cover with just vocals and piano as well, making the third disc another absolute waste.

 

Now this review probably reads overtly negative, but every single word is absolutely deserved and is a manifest to how low this band has sunk. This constitutes first degree musical homicide. Nocturnes… had been a very bad omen, but nobody could expect Seven Devils Moonshine to be as total of a disaster. One album of this would have been bad enough, but whatever prompted DeFeis to release three of them in one shot goes way beyond any comprehension. If this set can serve one purpose, then as living proof that some bands should call it quits when people are still sad about it…

 

So even if you are an absolute die-hard fan of Virgin Steele – AVOID at all costs!

Alex Melzer

Author: Alex Melzer

The grey eminence behind TMO. Head of the Brotherhood. Conqueror of Cancer

10 thoughts on “Virgin Steele – Seven Devils Moonshine

  1. An album consists of many songs and to me it;s shocking how a critic kills an abum as a whole.Does Nocturnes album have good songs?Yes it does.And does the second cd of that album is experimental with a big dose of humor?Yes, because that was the point.Also the Baccenalia album is very good.The production is bad, the singing is also worse than the old days but the songs are remarkable.
    When i will hear the new album i will come back with an opinion.
    It’s true that David Defeis lost his great voice and my understanding is that the financials are bad, hence the use of drum machines.
    As far as the style of music, Virgin Steele has always been some kind of a chameleon.A look at their albums will convince you.
    But all those negative critics have made me very curious to listen to this new work from Steele. 🙂

    • I’ve been following Virgin Steele since “Age of Consent” and for a good time considered them one of my favourite bands of all time. The decline has been tremendous, though, and it feels as if he is releasing everything he records, unfiltered.

      While I can appreciate a band that is not content with repeating themselves, but try different things, it is a completely different story when the quality of both music and voice take an almost unprecedented nosedive.

      I try to always take the good with the bad, but on this trilogy there just is nothing that I could really name as redeeming qualities or factors, especially when coming from one of the most established names in the field, because they themselves have set the bar that they now are being measured against.

      Trust me, I do not enjoy slaughtering a new album by any band and even less so by one of my in a way still favourites…

  2. But this is a boxset with new material as a bonus for the fans. It’s not three new albums. It would be easy for defeis to record a 45 minute album. Instead he gives us lots of recordings knowing full well that it will not be a coherent work. I am sure you understand that replaying old songs with a single guitar is not a new album by VS. Or putting a Chris Isaac song in there clearly shows the nature of this release

  3. Defeis has the balls to be himself. He is a great musician with great voice and amazing composing talent. The new songs are very catchy, songs with blues influences have amazing blues solos by Pursino. As always the choruses are wonderful with emotional melodies. There are covers, from Hendrix and Chris Isaak that are beautiful. Music unites and these two songs are the proof. The stripped down version of old songs are not my cup of tea. All in all, this is a great gift from VS to their fans. This group has so many influences and they are all shown in these songs. Kate bush, led zeppelin, blues rock and classic blues along with power metal. Just like their name is a contrast. Do yourself a favor and listen at least the volume 1 black wine for mourning. The mood they create with this CD is just dreamy.

  4. Honestly you have not understand anything
    abou this albums if there a zero (0)to allow
    it is to your review.

    I consider this effort very well done, the orchestration
    added to the previous songs has a value added.

    Thank M. Defeis for your work a genius voice and
    to all the band for the effort.

    Hafid from Casablanca,Morocco

  5. I have to agree with the review. I’ve been a big fan of VS since Invictus, and the Atreus suite just blew me away. I like the Visions of Eden and the Black Light Bacchanalia. I even sort of like the Noctures album too, although I felt like it would have been much better as 1 CD album with all the experimental and otherwise weird rubbish left out.

    Now sadly it just seems Defeis is completely losing his grip on reality if he hasn’t already done so. I mean just look at the material he posts on the VS Youtube channel. He has recorded ‘music videos’ for the past and present VS songs literally himself where he basically sings in his own backyard and records it with his mobile phone. It’s the kind stuff kids do when you give then a camera, and he’s had to disable the comments for those videos because too many commenters would otherwise just post to question his sanity. Now the new album or box set, or whatever you want to call it, basically follows the same format. It’s Defeis attempting to do everything by himself, but not managing very well at it. I bet he has somehow managed to alienate pretty much everyone around him, so he has no one left to make music with. I actually bet he’s suffering from some form of megalomania that has him thinking that everything he does is legendary and the best thing ever, whereas in reality he’s just sitting alone in his kitchen with his cheap Casio keyboard, making bad covers from his own songs. It’s really just sad. I would so want the band to make a proper come back with a good METAL album such as those in the 2000’s, but it requires someone has a serious discussion with David and perhaps gets him some help. 🙁

    • Quite have the same feeling, Virgin Steele (or may I say David) kinda lost it overnight…

      After what may be one of the greatest streak of top albums in Heavy Metal’s history (at least from the first “Marriage…” to the second “Atreus”, but “Noble Savage” and “Age Of Consent” were already great, and “Life Among The Ruins” was OK), nothing for 6 years, then “Visions…”, which is not bas, but, what happened to David ? What Happened to Edward (does he even really play on the record, and the following ones ?) ? Still, besides the overall “MIDI” sound of the album, it was cool enough to be considered as “good but not top” VS album…

      Then, the “Bacchanalia” thing just got me lost, I just like the opening track, the rest is quite dull and unworthy… and David seems to fill the musical void by placing his voice everywhere… where are the guitars ? Where are Edward’s furious riffing and inspired soloing ? Yet again, the albums seems recorded on a PC with MIDI instruments.

      Things were a (little bit) better with “Nocturnes…” at least there are like 4-5 songs I truly enjoy and still listen from time to time, but still I have that feeling of David filling the void, but overall, I find the album more consistent than the previous one, and quite on par with “Visions…”…

      Then I watched some “videoclips” made by David… and I just felt like I was watching someone lonely and at the edge of insanity…

      I’ll try to put an ear on the last box, but, I think I already know there’s nothing for me in it…

      And that’s sad, considering the 80’s/90’s VS is one of my top 5 band of all time

  6. Usually Alex is pretty good, but I think this review was pretty rushed and Alex didn’t quite give it the time it deserved, because he didn’t seem to fully understand what this box-set is. It seems like he did not recognize the fact that there are over two dozen cover tunes in this set.

    Many of the songs are not VS songs! ‘Rip-off ‘is an old T-Rex song from 1971, the Electric Warrior album, it is not a VS original. He shouldn’t complain that is doesn’t sound ‘Metal’ when these are not Metal songs.

    VS covers tons of old blues stuff, that is the whole point… 26 of the 58 songs on the first three ‘new’ discs are cover tunes and 11 songs are remakes. In total only 18 of the 88 songs (20%) are actually ‘new’ VS material, and even some those are lots little throw-away pieces, not actual full songs.

    This whole set is a mixed bag of all sorts of fun, stuff, medleys, orchestral, cover tunes, it is a real mixed bag for the true fan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *