Virgin Steele - _Invictus_
(Modern Music / Noise, 1998)
by: Alvin Wee (10 out of 10)
Whenever a legendary band like Running Wild or Manowar unveils a new album, there's bound to be a certain electricity surrounding it. Canadian legends Virgin Steele are no exception. With a history of classic albums behind them, frontman Daniel Defeis has led his band of warriors through traditional hard-rock albums like _Noble Savage_ and magnificent epics like the _Marriage_ saga, while at the same time contributing with his fathomless talent to cult underground legends like Exorcist and Piledriver. This time around, conceptually linked with the _Marriage_ series, _Invictus_ shows the aggressive side of Virgin Steele, offering up a lethal mix of Manowar and Running Wild, laced with vicious, almost screaming vocals. Present as always are the Manowar-esque epic tracks like "Mind, Body, Spirit" and "Through Blood and Fire", replete with Eric Adams-inspired shrieks. It might be sacrilege to say this, but I'm strongly tempted to compare any of these tracks to Manowar's finest work. One listen to "Defiance", a stunning mix of Running Wild verses and Manowar choruses, and you'll see what I mean. I'm not trying to put Virgin Steele down as merely excellent clones; on the contrary, what sets them apart from bands like Gothic Knights or Sacred Steel are the unique riffs and bold structural experimentation, immortalised in the 10-minute opus "Veni, Vedi, Vici". Flowing seamlessly from angelic mourning to rollicking prog-rock to out-and-out metal and back, this epic, and most of the sixteen tracks on the album, never fail to sound inspired, varied and dynamic. Boasting qualities above and beyond most bands of the genre, like their irreproachable musicianship, a knack for appropriate experimentation and a general triumph in the glory days of heavy metal, there's no reason why, if Manowar are hailed as the "Kings of Metal", Virgin Steele would not deserve their own crowns.

(article published 8/7/1998)

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