Virgin Steele is a Heavy metal band from New York, founded in 1981, but more recently they have displayed progressive and symphonic metal elements.
They play what they call «barbaric-romantic» metal, which is very symphonic and contains many elements from classical music. Band-leader David DeFeis describes the music as «From a whisper to a scream, barbaric, romantic, bombastic, yet subtle, grandiose, yet earthy. A call, a shout, an invocation to Freedom and the continual awakening to the awareness that every moment of life is lived to its fullest potential. It is a force, a sacred quest which drives Virgin Steele on.»
Many Virgin Steele songs are mythological, dealing with subjects from especially Greek mytholgy and the Christian religion. Some of their albums are concept albums.
The later albums tend to be more epic and mythological. On the early albums (up till Life Among the Ruins), many songs are more real-life based stories of love and sex.
According to David DeFeis, all the lyrics he writes are based on real life in some form or another
The band was founded at the beginning of the Eighties by Jack Starr, a guitarist of French origins, who wanted to look for the right elements to form the ultimate heavy metal band. The first to answer his call was drummer Joey Ayvazian, and together they start auditioning singers. They auditioned around 40 singers before David DeFeis was introduced to Jack by a friend of Joey. With an astounding interpretation of «Child In Time», David got the vacant role of singer, bringing with him bassist Joe O’Reilly.
Virgin Steele debuted in 1982 with «Children of the Storm» (a song loved by Metallica), included in the compilation «U.S. Metal Vol. II». A bit 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. David, who also plays piano and keyboards, shows a particular liking for pompous and melodic arrangements, while Jack goes for a harder and more immediate assault.
The following year (1983) «Guardians of the Flame» The album is supported by a mini LP called «Wait for the Night» («A Cry in the Night» in the English version).
After this, Jack Starr left in a dispute with DeFeis’ over the direction the band should take, and afterwards recruited former Riot vocalist Rhett Forrester (killed in 1994 by someone unknown) and Rods’ rhythmic section and releases a powerful heavy metal album called «Out of Darkness». Jack and his new venture tried to keep the Virgin Steele name for themselves, appearing with this moniker at the Breaking Sound Festival (Paris). They had a weak claim to the name, though, and so David DeFeis and the rest of the band (completed by guitarist Edward Pursino) managed to keep the Virgin Steele name after a victorious legal case against Jack Starr.
The new lineup recorded «Noble Savage», which melts classic and epic metal. Once again the album doesn’t sell as much as it could have and Virgin Steele is once more confined in the «good but…» bands.
In 1987 rumors are spread around that Virgin Steele released a thrash metal album under the name Exorcist to follow the success of the genre: DeFeis denies all and no one has ever found proof.
The band finally manages to come to Europe supporting friends Manowar and gains great approval from all quarters because of their live performances. When things started to come together, though, some inexplicable laws seemed to apply and the following album, «Age of Consent», got a very narrow distribution and ended up a complete commercial failure. Virgin Steele were then in their darkest period: their label shut down and Joe O’Reilly decided to leave, and therefore the band stopped playing for a while: David finally finished his graduate in piano and composition, and played with a semi-improvised band called «Smoke Stark Lightning», featuring some famous musicians like his old mate Jack Starr and drummer Bobby Rondinelli.
In 1993 Rob De Martino was chosen as the new bass player and the band signed up with Shark, and finally Virgin Steele came back with «Life Among the Ruins», an album of Whitesnake-influenced hard rock with a strong bluesy vein. This album is probably the most atypical in the Virgin Steele discography, and disliked by many fans. featuring none of the epic elements of the band, and the lyrics are mostly love songs rather than mythology-based.
And one year later the band returned with «The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Part 1», an album of epic metal full of melodic and symphonic influences, very progressive oriented. Virgin Steele come back to Europe supporting Manowar and Uriah Heep. At the end of 1995 the second part came out, following the concept of the first one.
After another European tour a new album was released in March 1998: the third and final chapter of the «Marriage» saga, titled «Invictus». This was their heaviest album at the time and also very epic. Lyrically it is a concept album about humanity’s rebellion against a pantheon of evil, uncaring gods.
1999 saw the release of The House of Atreus - Act I, the first part of a metal opera concept album, based on the Oresteia, an ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus. This album was similar to Invictus, just as heavy and epic, but had a darker and more «ethereal» atmosphere. The House of Atreus - Act II came in 2000 and was less heavy but more melodic than the first part.
While it would be some time for a new studio album, the band did release two compilations in 2002. The Book of Burning consists of a mixture of previously unreleased songs, new compositions created by David Defeis in collaboration with original guitarist Jack Starr, and re-recordings of various songs from the first two albums. Hymns to Victory, consequently, is a best-of album covering the band’s career from «Noble Savage» until their latest album «The House of Atreus Act II».
In September 2006, after 6 years without an all-new studio album, the band released its 11th full-length Visions of Eden. The album revolves heavily around Gnostic beliefs and critically revisits the traditional Christian mythology with regards to the creation of the Earth and the Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve. An even darker, more melancholic drama than the House of Atreus saga, the story revolves around Lilith, the first wife of Adam and a symbol of female strength and independence. Representing the female side of the true, higher god, she suffers under the lusting, jealous Demiurge who represents the Christian god, and as an emancipated woman who could not get along with the dominant Adam stands in stark contrast to Eve. Adam’s second wife is portrayed as a docile, subservient partner created by the demiurge at the request of Adam, who could not cope with an independent woman on equal footing with him.
There are also rumours that a DVD live album is planned
Virgin Steele (1982)
Guardians of the Flame (1983)
Noble Savage (1985)
Age of Consent (1988)
Life Among the Ruins (1993)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I (1994)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II (1995)
The House of Atreus Act I (1999)
The House of Atreus Act II (2000)
Visions of Eden (2006)
David DeFeis - Vocals, bass, piano, keyboards
Edward Pursino - Guitars, bass
Frank Gilchriest - Drums
Josh Block - Bass