It could be argued that, over the past 30 years, Virgin Steele have been one of the most maligned, under-rated and controversial – the latter in respect of the fact that they divide fans straight down the middle of the love ’em or hate ’em divide – metal bands of all…
In the mid 1990s, they somewhat belatedly jumped on the concept album bandwagon, with their most ambitious project to date – the two part ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’ opus, released in consecutive years… and now re-issued two decades later in one glorious double disc package.
A problem with re-issued albums, and particularly those which are not given the ‘benefit’ of a modern technological ‘makeover’, is that they can sound very dated, of their time. And, certainly, ‘The Marriage…’ has very much the feel of the Nineties about it: but, great albums also stand the test of time, and that also is the case here, as this beautifully packaged edition shows exactly why it helped to re-establish the Steele’s credibility as a viable metal band after a pretty dodgy period and helped them to progress to the most creatively and critically successful period of their career.
In his liner notes, vocalist David DeFeis notes that the motivation behind the creation of this particular marriage was to “come up with something truly over the top”: they certainly succeeded, as this double package fully encompasses the overblown, bombastic, monstrous epicness of the whole project. Clocking in (including bonus materials – two previously unreleased tracks and two live versions of songs from ‘Part I’) at just short of a mighty two-and-a-half hours, it lends a whole new definition to the term ‘epic’ in relation to heavy metal albums.
Conceptually, it’s almost immaculate from beginning to end, with rich layers of suitably grandiose instrumentation building the huge soundscape for DeFeis’ grandiloquent and not particularly vocal delivery, which very much treads Eric Adams territory with all too often frequency.
As mentioned above, the only major weakness with this otherwise elborate re-issue is its production values, which do sound dated and could most probably have benefitted from the odd tweak here and polish here. Nevertheless, the overall result is a rather pleasant wander down heavy metal’s memory lane!
Part One Tracklist:
I Will Come For You / Weeping Of The Spirits / Blood And Gasoline / Self Crucifixion / Last Supper / Warrior’s Lament / Trail Of Tears / The Raven Song / Forever I Will Roam / I Wake Up Screaming / House Of Dust / Blood Of The Saints / Life Among The Ruins / The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell
Angela’s Castle / The Sword Of Damocles
Recommended listening: Trail Of Tears
Part Two Tracklist:
A Symphony Of Steele / Crown Of Glory (Unscarred) / From Chaos To Creation / Twilight Of The Gods / Rising Unchained / Transfiguration / Prometheus The Fallen One / Emalaith / Strawgirl / Devil/Angel / Unholy Water / Victory Is Mine / The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell Revisited…
Life Among The Ruins (live version) / I Wake Up Screaming (live version)
Recommended listening: Rising Unchained