Metal Built on Tragedy
CoC interviews Virgin Steele
by: Adrian Bromley
The success of Virgin Steele has always seemed to rest upon the shoulders of its leader David DeFeis. The band's latest effort, _The House of Atreus: Act I_, no doubt almost broke his back.

The 73-minute opus _THoA_, a long winding epic of great instrumentals and grand songwriting shaped around a Greek tragedy, is one of those records that'll easily draw you into the fold, not letting go until the magical music experience is over. The album is indeed a work of art and DeFeis knows this. He knows this all too well.

"I have always been up for a challenge", starts the singer/keyboardist/ringleader down the line from New York. "I just really wanted to stretch the boundaries and show people what could be done. We are just three people [DeFeis is supported strongly by guitarist/bassist Edward Pursino and drummer Frank Gilchriest --Adrian] just going at it. No guest players, no choirs, it is just us playing the music. If you put your mind to it, look what can be done. I wanted to also push the boundaries of metal music in general and say that this is the 21st Century classical music."

While many European acts have ventured forward and explored ideas of incorporating classical music and metal music, not many North American acts have been up to the challenge... until now.

"Playing metal music has always been a thrilling time for me and my band. It is worth the hard work that goes into it. From the first record we have ever put out till now it has been a building process with the band. We have grown over the years and it has been great to take in all of this hard work and ideas. I didn't get into doing this style of music on this record to get rich quick or be the flavor of the month. I just wanted, as I said already, to push the boundaries for me physically and technically."

Through the years, Virgin Steele has been a band that has been quite visible within the metal realm. Their music, while not mainstream or at the top of the heap, has always existed and stayed true to their beliefs. Through albums like _The Marriage of Heaven and Hell_, _Noble Savage_ or _Invictus_, the band has always focused on keeping their dream alive. It has always been a big priority for them.

"Knowing what I have done with this record", he says, "I know there is a lot more for me left to do. There is still a spark and things will go on. There will be a follow-up to this record. _THoA_ will finish at Act II, but the style will continue in whatever subject matter we tackle. I feel like this is somewhat of a new beginning in the sound of Virgin Steele. It is just starting to get good now for us. I want to go on for many, many years to come."

"I enjoyed the obstacle that this record and its ideas brought to me", he says. "It was very hard at times. I wrote both Act I and Act II at the same time, some 40 odd tracks. The hardest part was trying to work the flow of the lyrics, to work within the framework of what was provided. It isn't just endless lyrics, there are many instrumentals as well."

Just imagining the labour that went into this work gives me the creeps. DeFeis' hard work is showcased here through blood, sweat and tears, no doubt. The impossible became the possible with this release and there is no doubt this effort lies deep within his heart as a prized possession of musical creativity.

"People probably think the music took months to record. Not really. A lot of the material on _THoA_ was done in one take, sometimes. It was just like go for it and move on. The thing about the studio work is that it makes you really become attached to your work. At the end of the day, when all is done and mixed and all that, I love what I have done, but at the same time hate it. I hate it because I can hear the music sounding ten times better had I had more time, but you have to go with what you are provided with. I just at that point step back and take it in for what it is. It is done, so we move on from there."

"I am very proud of the compositional standpoint of this record", DeFeis says about the overall framework of _THoA_. "Being able to write the songs and get my brain on record has been the highlight. There are some great performances here and now the songs themselves can be taken by anyone (i.e. theatre company, etc.) and be able to perform them and have a similar result."

And what about those metal fans that just see Virgin Steele as glorified '80s metalheads working around a Greek tragedy? "They obviously aren't listening", he interjects. "This isn't a dated style of metal. We come from traditional metal roots but the harmonies and the melody that are used are not some rehashed Iron Maiden or Dio sounding material. This is true modern forward-thinking metal and I think those people need to open up their ears and see just what it is all about."

(article submitted 25/5/2000)


CHATS
8/12/2001 A Bromley Virgin Steele: A Greek Tragedy Written in Metal
ALBUMS
7/8/1998 A Wee 10 Virgin Steele - Invictus
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