Seven Devils Moonshine

Virgin Steele

After nearly 35 years in the business, I guess it was their time. Nearly stripped […]
November 5, 2018
Virgin Steele - Seven Devils Moonshine album cover

After nearly 35 years in the business, I guess it was their time. Nearly stripped from their past glory, the American Heavy Metal band VIRGIN STEELE, led by the undying vocalist and composer, David DeFeis, reached a crossroad where it was decided that a boxset was in order. But not just a boxset ladies and gentlemen, a kind of package that won't show you dusty unreleased tracks, or garage demos, no no. The freshly forged "Seven Devils Moonshine", issued via SPV / Steamhammer Records, is a cause effect of a tremendous studio work on three new studio albums, yes you are reading this right. Three brand new chapters out of the burning mind of Mr. DeFeis and his crew, experiments and colorful interpretations.

Usually I don't start with the packaging when it comes to reissues, so a time for a change wouldn't you say? Alright. The boxset is of a high quality, didn't expect anything less from Steamhammer Records. Enclosed within the package are the three "Seven Devils Moonshine", which will be detailed about later in the review, and also two nice surprises in the image of two reissues of two early best off albums, "The Book Of Burning" and "Hymns To Victory".  The whole five albums are sealed in quality cardboard boxes and on top there are is the booklet, displaying the three albums' second artwork version, which is pretty neat along with consisting of 24 pages of lyrics and credits. Pretty ordinary I'd say but in a good standard. Finally on the boxset, as a small treat for the fans, there is a nice sticker of the "Seven Devils Moonshine"'s main artwork. Something that may find its way to your bumper sticker or your room door. Generally, I was excited by the packaging and the contents, and I believe it is justifies the band's anniversary celebration.

Ghost Harvest - Vintage I - Black Wine For Mourning (7/10)


Now let's get down to what we are really here, VIRGIN STEELE's music. Honestly, last time that I listened to the band's material was more than a decade ago, trailing to the "House Of Atreus" chapters. These two albums showed true might and theatrical abilities, a cocktail of Metal and drama, attributing to the mythological venture with grace. Now, almost 18 years after the Greek vengeance, with albums passing me by, here I am with the musical adventure of "Seven Devils Moonshine". Let's just say that I came to find a different kind of beast, directed into being much less wild but rather more artistic, and I am not dwelling to that maturity thing.

First on the list is "Ghost Harvest - Vintage I - Black Wine For Mourning". Just by its title, there is an expectation for something exquisite, like dark wine. As fan of varying kinds of wine, it had me intrigued, yet I didn't pour me a glass to accompany the listening session. I wanted to remain as focused as possible. In overall, the album is filled by epic tracks, displaying various types of stories to tell, which don't seem to be connected in any fashion. Musically, this is not the sort of VIRGIN STEELE that I have been accustomed to, and this is me being blunt.

I wouldn't necessarily recognize the compositions as Metal music, more on the verge of Hard Rock, with a few Metal elements. I gathered that DeFeis wanted something more out of the band's music, and chose to head forward in a direction that would flourish his perspective towards the theater even further. The use of orchestrations has been an integral part of the band for decades, yet the Metal element had always been chief.  There are very few heavy moments, enchanting bearing a masterly guitar work, nonetheless, I sensed that the idea of the album wasn't to break any walls, on the contrary, it serves as a presentation of the band's new direction, at least from what this piece tells me. In addition, there seems to be a strong importance on the vocals, nonetheless, I can understand why. Of course that DeFeis is the mainman, yet his vocal abilities give enough grounds to why he is so in the front, showing off his diverse voice and singing styles, from the wretched snarling fiend to the velvet prince in white.

Until now all seems fine, wouldn't you agree? Disregarding the fact that it isn't how I pictured VIRGIN STEELE to sound ever, I believe that there are tracks that are overly stretched, even at the cost of being tedious. DeFeis' perception of drama is great, and well put to work, however, at times it felt to me that he is overextending it, and within these lengthy tunes, it was just too much. However, when DeFeis' vision was spot on, it produced a measure of fine tracks such as "Justine", "Princess Amy", probably the one Hard N' Heavy driven song with an iconic chorus, "Hearts on Fire" and an epic version to an oldie, Chris Isaak's lasting classic "Wicked Game".

Ghost Harvest - Vintage II - Red Wine For Warning (6/10)


Going forward into the next chapter of VIRGIN STEELE's newest offering, "Ghost Harvest - Vintage II - Red Wine For Warning", I had a hunch that things are about to hit up a little bit and all that I had experienced up until now was just a mere intro. When I started listening I was prepared, passing through the gates of the new vineyard, the atmosphere felt familiar, nonetheless, distinct in its scent. I imagine that the warning in the title of the second chapter of "Seven Devils Moonshine" was to point out that in order to taste the vintage wine, one must be open minded in order to conceive it beyond the limits. Trust me that I tried the best I could and generally, it wasn't that bad.

Unlike the previous album, "Vintage II" is nicely divided into sections, or accurately pronounced as acts, as I presume that everything in DeFeis' mind has an entanglement with the world of theater. Even though I couldn't find a connection between the acts, there was a sense of order in the tracklist, other than merely presenting a whole lot of tracks in a single bunch.

Truth be told, I was looking for more than just a few rougher edges in the music, beyond DeFeis' voice, that has a knack of sending varying complex messages. In fact, I had a little run in with a soulful, on the verge of Blues, Hard Rock corner portrayed by "Feelin' Alright", which could have easily been a bar night hit, spectacular vocal performance, blazing guitar work aligned with well-engineered orchestration. "The Birth Of Beauty", although not to contrasted with past endeavors of Metallic power, may as well be one of the highest point of the album, a hearted balladry, led by a catchy lead guitar riff with a slow tempo rhythm, slowly guiding you into another universe. DeFeis' vocals echo throughout the song, showing that the years actually perfected his delivery. "Rock Steady" maintained the well regarded Hard Rock aspects in the music pumping, harmonic vocals commanding fine songwriting with soothing wintery atmospheric blend, one of my favorable tunes. Short but sweet, "The Poisoned Wound", came out knocking as one of the album's prime instrumentals, displaying basic rhythm with a solo guitar that is next to perfection.

And then things started getting complicated, though with a glint of light. I said earlier that it wasn't all that bad, I arrived prepared to listen to compositions that are uncanny. Showered by a variety of forms of R&B, Soul and Opera music directions, instrumentals that enticed the spirit but clearly to be a shocker for loyal fans of the band, suddenly I was struck by flamboyance of "Nutshell". Led by piano, lead guitar, electric and acoustic, orchestration, along with howling vocals, VIRGIN STEELE manifest one of their top instrumental works, a soundtrack that must be used in the future. "Sister Moon" exhibits another pleasant R&B mixed with a tinge of spirited Rock, a decent track that might also remind you of what is to be played in a vintage music establishment.

Pretty much it ended there, I got lost in translation afterwards, deep within the band's attempts to cuddle further with R&B, Soul and Opera. I can't deny them the fact that these tryouts were bold and several of them bore fruit as on "After Dark" for example, but no matter how I tried putting it, I sensed that I was losing VIRGIN STEELE to some other kind musical entity, born out of the ashes. Progression isn't a curse, nevertheless, the second chapter holds more enigmas than clarity.

Gothic Voodoo Anthems (5/10)


Enough wine tasting, I am leaving the vineyard, going straight to what seems to be a haunted house, into the realm of "Gothic Voodoo Anthems", last chapter of our "Seven Devils Moonshine" trilogy. After getting the impression of the previous chapter, I didn't need nor hunch or a feeling to what I was about to step into after the door was opened. I guessed that if it was to be the next step of VIRGIN STEELE, it wouldn't be so easy to digest, first nor second take. On the other hand, I had to give it a benefit.

One of the album's advantages is that it ushers the listener, especially the die-hard fan, providing a comfort zone of recognizable early songs. Sure, these aren't the original versions of course but actually orchestral versions. Even though regarded as a superiority, these epics crossed nearly half of the album, making me feel tiresome, drenched by lack of excitement that I never imagined that I would get from a VIRGIN STEELE album. "I Will Come For You" and "Kingdom Of The Fearless" saved the section of the new versions from total stillness and minor magnitude.

Stepping into the album's acts, it became clear to me that I will not find any trace of Rock or Metal merits in the material playing before me. The tools of the trade were piano, keyboards and of course DeFeis' vocals. Tunes flew by as if they had no significance, one by one they fell, forgotten into the the night. When a few did matter, such as "Gentle Groove" and "Death Letter Blues", I was awarded by a repeated melody vocal lines, continuous howling and raspy shrieks under the cover of piano dominated R&B. Call me crazy, I wished that this album would be a fading experiment.

Hymn To Victory (Reissue) / The Book Of Burning (Reissue) (9/10)


Following my sessions with VIRGIN STEELE's new material, I desperately needed a reminder from where these guys came from, how they started, how did they progress through the 80s and 90s into the new millenium. Fortunately for you and I that we were awarded by two special compilations from the early 00s, wonderfully summarizing several periods of the VIRGIN STEELE legacy, and also in a way show what was missed out throughout their career. Therefore, a smart decision by DeFeis and Co. to reissue these two albums, with "Hymn To Victory" focusing on the late 80s-90s era and "The Book Of Burning" mainly on the first two albums of the early 80s, yet with a carefully made treatment.

Call it my comfort zones as a fan of the band, but are these compilations examples of VIRGIN STEELE at its high and mighty glory? I guess that most of you would agree with me, hell yeah baby. Maybe it is also a sign that the band itself didn't forget its past and accomplishments, therefore, the newer releases were merely a token of festivity, DeFeis' way to commemorate the road taken, and the next in line material will be crushing as the larger part of VIRGIN STEELE's journey through the epics. I sure hope that this is the case.

Certainly there is no challenge between both albums, they complete each other marvelously, yet I can't help myself when it comes to "The Book Of Burning", surfacing unreleased tracks and re-recordings of some of the band's powerful hits.

"Seven Devils Moonshine" portrays the whole picture about VIRGIN STEELE's music. There is a unique vision in the newly written material, a fine execution of orchestral arrangements, however, there was something of a miss and it is pretty simple to know what. A whole lot of power. The orchestral songs lost most of their magic while the R&B and Blues attempts didn't really have me convinced, though I gave these countless chances. Either way, producing this boxset was bold move still to be cherished

7 / 10


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"Seven Devils Moonshine" Track-listing:

Ghost Harvest - Vintage I - Black Wine For Mourning
1. Seven Dead within
2. Green Dusk Blues
3. Psychic Slaughter
4. Bonedust (Orchestral Version)
5. Hearts on Fire
6. Child of the Morning Star
7. Murder in High-Gloss Relief
8. Feral
9. Justine
10. Princess Amy
11. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak Cover)
12. Little Wing (Clouds of Oblivion Medley)
13. The Gods Don't Remember... (Clouds of Oblivion Medley)

Ghost Harvest - Vintage II - Red Wine For Warning
1. The Evil In Her Eyes (Piano & Vocal Version)
2. Feelin' Alright
3. Sister Moon
Summertime Darkness Suite
4. Sweating Into Dawn
5. Summertime
6. Black Leaves Swirl Down My Street
7. Rip Off
The Gods Are Hungry Triptych
8. The Gods Are Hungry Poem
9. The Poisoned Wound
10. The Birth Of Beauty
11. Profession Of Violence...
12. Rock Steady
13. Nutshell
14. Slow & Easy "Intro"
15. Jesus Just Left Chicago
Late Night Barroom Hoodoo Medley
16. Soul Kitchen
17. When The Music's Over
18. Crawling King Snake
19. When The Music's Over "Reprise"
20. Imhullu
The Drained White Suite
21. After Dark
22. Wake The Dead
23. The Graveyard Dance
24. The Triple Goddess
25. Twilight Of The Gods (Live Acoustic Rehearsal Version)
26. Transfiguration (Live Acoustic Rehearsal Version)

Gothic Voodoo Anthems
1. I Will Come For You (Orchestral Version)
2. Queen Of The Dead (Orchestral Version)
3. The Orpheus Taboo (Orchestral Version)
4. Kingdom Of The Fearless (The Destruction Of Troy) (Orchestral Version)
5. The Black Light Bacchanalia (Orchestral Version)
6. Zeus Ascendant
7. By The Hammer Of Zeus (And The Wrecking Ball Of Thor) (Orchestral Version)
The Gothic Voodoo Suite
8. Rumanian Folk Dance No. 3 "Pe Loc"
9. Delirium "Excerpt"
10. Snakeskin Voodoo Man (Orchestral Version)
11. The Enchanter
The Fire & Ice Medley
12. Bone China
13. No Quarter
14. Bone China "Reprise"
Passion In The French Quarter Medley
15. Chloe Dancer
16. Gentle Groove
17. Darkness-Darkness
18. Death Letter Blues
19. Spoonful

Hymn To Victory (Reissue)
1. Flames Of Thy Power (From Blood They Rise)
2. Through The Ring Of Fire
3. Invictus
4. Crown Of Glory (Unscarred) (In Fury Mix)
5. Kingdom Of The Fearless (The Destruction Of Troy)
6. The Spirit Of Steele (Acoustic Version)
7. A Symphony Of Steele (Battle Mix)
8. The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)
9. I Will Come For You
10. Dust From The Burning & Amaranth (Orchestral Versions)
11. Noble Savage (Long Lost Early Mix)
12. Mists Of Avalon
13. Emalaith

The Book Of Burning (Reissue)
1. Conjurtion Of The Watcher
2. Don't Say Goodbye (Tonight)
3. Rain Of Fire
4. Annihilation
5. Hellfire Woman
6. Children Of The Storm
7. The Chosen Ones
8. The Succubus
9. Minuet In G Minor
10. The Redeemer
11. I Am The One
12. Hot And Wild
13. Birth Through Fire
14. Guardians Of The Flame
15. The Final Days
16. A Cry In The Night
17. Queen Of The Dead (Nordic Twilight Version)

Virgin Steele Lineup:

David DeFeis - Lead Vocals / Keyboards / Bass
Edward Pursin - Bass / Guitars
Joshua Block - Bass / Guitars
Matt McKast - Drums
Lynn Marie Delmato - Piano

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