VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

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nightsblood
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VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#1 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:41 am

This album will be 20 years old in a few months :shock: I've always loved it, so I thought I'd give it a little write-up before bedtime tonight....

Over the years I had heard several of VS's early releases, either in full or in part, and felt they were decent overall, but this was the album that finally hooked me. I heard it via tape trading a year so so after it came out and it floored me. Over the following years I worked my way through most of their back catalog and kept tabs on their current releases. But this is still THE album for me.

What makes 'Invictus' stand out in the VS catalog? There is no hint of sleazy party rock mixed in, which tainted more than one of their earlier releases. There is also no overwrought storyline that is tediously dragged out for far too many songs/albums. Sure, there's still a theme to it, but the album and the songs that compose it stand on their own perfectly well. They stripped all that baggage away and delivered a powerful, even angry-sounding, album that perfectly encapsulated what they SHOULD have been doing all along. The vocals are incredible, the musicianship (which has always been a bit thin-sounding, especially for the grandiose vision they try to capture) actually roars, and the songs smolder with a barely contained, pissed off fury that propels them forward throughout the full length of the album. I know nothing about the band's mindset at that time- I never read any interviews with them written during that period- but the tone is reminiscent of ICED EARTH's 'Burnt Offerings', when the band channeled a huge amount of anger and resentment into their songwriting.

Another comparison (that might be somewhat controversial) is MANOWAR's 'Warriors of the World', which came out a few years later. Both bands had delivered some decidedly uneven albums through the early-mid 90s, and both tended to let too much cheese manifest within their music. But on these two albums both bands managed to shed the silly elements and deliver albums proving you can sing about battles, warriors, etc without sounding like total cheeseballs (sadly MANOWAR devolved on subsequent releases).

20 years later I don't get around to playing 'Invictus' as much as I used to. But when I do, the album still rocks me. The only time VS really came close to this same level of quality IMO, was on 'The Marriage of Heaven & Hell part 1'. 'Part 2' was a swing and a miss, the Atreus albums were OK but had too few high-quality songs spread out over an enormous length, and the post-Atreus titles have failed to impress me at all. It should be mentioned that 'Age of Consent' had some brilliant material on it that got overshadowed by some other, er, questionable inclusions.

It's a shame 'Invictus' went largely overlooked. At that time, the power metal scene was roaring back to life, but the lion's share of attention went to acts like my gay lover (wannabes who at least knew who STORMWITCH were), RHAPSODY (the definition of pompous fantasy fluff), ICED EARTH (who never matched the brilliance of their first three albums once Todd MacFarlane gave them cover art) and STRATOVARIUS ("hey, it's been 11 months since we recorded an album, let's make another one and see if it can sound even more limp-wristed than the previous one!"). And thus 'Innvictus' was destined to become a dusty relic, much like those depicted on the artwork. But while 'Glory to the Brave' no longer gets played, 'Legendary Tales' gets more eyerolls than spins, and Timo Tolkki's discs have long since been traded away, there is still plenty of life among the ruins of 'Invictus'.
Last edited by nightsblood on Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

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ION BRITTON
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus'

Post#2 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:06 am

A masterpiece, the last really great album they released and probably their rawest one as well. After that, I liked only a few tracks off the 1st Atreus, the rest range from mediocre to total crap.
Good against Evil, Evil sure to win

"It really didn't matter if they liked it or not, i was going to give it to them straight down their throats" -John Stewart

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doomedplanet
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus'

Post#3 » Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:43 pm

I always liked this period of the band, sort of like Manowar-Jr to me. Could not believe how they morphed into this sound but I like it and the other late era-VS albums now, so much different than how they started.
"The type of people who buy their albums won't be offended. They like boobs and bare bottoms" - Joanne Latham.

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nightsblood
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus'

Post#4 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:45 pm

Definitely their rawest, and hard to argue that it's not their best.

Yeah, they really covered a wide range of styles over the years. Which leads me to today's topic...

So I've been playing 'Age of Consent' all week.
What a weird album!
I never heard this one back when it was released; no one I knew growing up had even heard of VS, and once I found references to it, they weren't exactly glowing reviews. Then you had different track lists on the reissues, and the confusion mounted. But eventually I picked up a promo copy of the 2011 reissue (the local used store had it for $5; couldn't pass that up).
What a weird album!
The reissue seems to have flipped the sides, so it starts with the brilliant 'Burning of Rome'. Jesus Christ on a bike! This is amazing! It sounds like it's straight off 'Marriage pt 1'. "I'll see you again through the eyes of our son"- BRILLIANT!!!
'Let it Roar' isn't as great, but still a solid pounder.
'Lion in Winter' is great, what a cool song!
Then 'Perfect Mansions'.... oh my God I think I just got wet (like a young gi- oh, er, wrong band). This song is freaking INCREDIBLE!!! This is like the best album ever! What the hell was everyone complaining about?
'Serpent's Kiss'.... uh, that, doesn't work. Geez, that's a clunker; too heavy, very disjointed sounding. But you're gonna have a dud sooner or later.
OK, 'On the Wings of Night', oh hell, that's a catchy, galloping chorus! We're back on track after that Serpent misfire! The hits just keep comin-, wait, did he just sing "I'm a dangerous lover"? Huh? It's galloping along, but, wait, what did he just say?
Well what's next? 'Seventeen'......OH. So THAT's what they warned me about. Excuse me while I vomit.
....
'Tragedy' is a pretty good entry in their barbaric romantic ballad style, OK.
'Stay on Top' cover.... WTF?!
'Chains of Fire' isn't bad at all.
'Desert Plai-' wait, another cover? Um, at least it's better than the Uriah Heap cover two songs ago.
'Cry Forever' is a pretty good entry in their bar-, wait, didn't they just play this song a few tracks back?
'We Are Eternal'... wait, is this really the same album that started with 'Burning of Rome'???
'Screaming for V-", wait, ANOTHER cover AND another 'Priest cover, W. T. F. ????
'The Curse', uh, why is VS trying to play thrash metal?
....
What a weird album!
I'm not sure I've ever heard a record quite as schizophrenic as this one. You literally have about half an album of sheer brilliance and half an album of unlistenable schlock. And straddling that chasm is 'On the Wings of Night', which somehow combines the lyrics of 'Look What the Cat Dragged In' with the music of 'Hail to England'.... it's as if a drunken Joey DiMeo bent Brett Michaels over a Marshall stack backstage and somebody recorded the event for posterity. Am I going to hell for liking this song? Will the gates of Valhalla be closed to me if I DON'T like this song?!
What a weird song!
What a weird album!
....
Hmmmm, what should I listen to next week? Haven't played 'Life Among the Ruins' in a long time.........
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

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ION BRITTON
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#5 » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:26 pm

Better skip that one and go straight to both Marriages which feature some of their finest tracks ever.
Good against Evil, Evil sure to win

"It really didn't matter if they liked it or not, i was going to give it to them straight down their throats" -John Stewart

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Priamos
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#6 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:15 am

"Noble Savage" is among my top 10 albums of all time. Unfortunately their last albums are crappy beyond redemption.
We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged...

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Khnud
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#7 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:10 pm

I'm shamefully unaware of VS's contributions to the metal scene. I owned their first album for a while, didn't like it and traded it away years ago. Never bothered about their later releases. Which ones should I start with?
Laugh at you in ecstasy, wallow in the gore.
Blast you with their twisted minds, behold the Dogs Of War.

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ION BRITTON
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#8 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 pm

Guardians Of The Flame and Noble Savage for starters. The classic trademark VS sound.
Good against Evil, Evil sure to win

"It really didn't matter if they liked it or not, i was going to give it to them straight down their throats" -John Stewart

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nightsblood
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#9 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 12:39 am

Quick replies:

'Marriage 1' has always found its way back into my CD player over the years. 'Blood & Gasoline', 'House of Dust', etc... great album! 'Pt 2' failed to impress me despite numerous efforts; not even sure I burned a copy before I traded it away years ago. My dim recollection of it was that the songs were ok, but the album was long, the songs dragged, and none of them really stood out.

'Noble Savage' was an album 1 would like sometimes, then re-play it a month later and hate it. It was one of the last VS albums I got around to hearing, which probably didn't help matters.

The s/t isn't very good as I recall; the only reason I still have a copy is an old colleague got m a copy autographed for me, so I've kept it for that reason. The follow-up, 'Guardian of the Flame', is MUCH better, especially if you like Jack Starr's later solo material. He was booted after the album unfortunately, but he made some quality releases on his own, while VS did alright as well, so maybe it worked out OK for all involved. But anyway, try 'Guardian' for their early sound, 'Marriage pt 1' or 'Invictus' for their mid-period sound, and then pick and choose with the understanding that things can be very uneven.

I think I'll still be revisiting 'Life Among the Ruins' soon, as I have some interesting memories of what the album sounds like, but I haven't played it in a few years (at least), so I wanna see how it measures up today.
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

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bigfootkit
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#10 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:35 pm

Like Khnud, i'm pretty much ignorant of Virgin Steele.
Although i have rips of their first two albums, (which have some good moments on them), i wasn't sufficiently moved by anything i heard to investigate anything beyond that initial pair.
Is it worth my while to do so, or are the later records good in a 'there are some great tracks on those 90's Riot albums' fashion?
I cannot, I shall not, I will not obey.
Avenger wrote : I'm not a copyright office nor a judicial entity.

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doomedplanet
Posts: 2008

Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#11 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 6:40 pm

Listen to "Invictus" for sure. I called them Manowar-Jr in my comment because this was the first time I noticed similarities, but I meant it in a positive way because I love old Manowar: when they had energy. "Invictus" is their best album to me. Early era very different beast completely, which I like too.
"The type of people who buy their albums won't be offended. They like boobs and bare bottoms" - Joanne Latham.

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DaN
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#12 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:19 pm

A proper Cheers to Alan for a great, enticing review of "Invictus". I've had friends raving about later-period VS many times before, so this was well-timed push for me to finally check them out. When these albums came out, symphonic/bombastic post-80's Metal wasn't exactly a major blip on my radar ..to put it mildly.

I've only had a listen to these 3 so far, in this order:

Invictus - almost too much of a blatant Manowar-influence here at times (esp the vocals) but that's not really a bad thing once you get into the songs. This album feels like a grower and I think I'm gonna come back to it a lot!

Marriage 1 - This on the other hand made me think of post-millennia Iron Maiden. Some great tunes but a bit too much symphonics to really strike a blow with me. Needs more spins..

Marriage 2 - The opener is incredible and the best song I've ever heard by the band. Frankly the whole first half of the album is stellar but then it sort of looses momentum..

I'll be keeping all 3 of these on my playlist for a while I think, but what about the rest? Which would be the 4th and 5th best of the rest?

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tbieri
Posts: 593

Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#13 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:05 am

1. Invictus 9/10
2. Noble Savage 8.5/10
3. Marriage (both) 8.5/10
4. Virgin Steel 8/10
5. Guardians of the Flame 8/10
6. Life Among Ruins 8/10 (more Melodic Metal but still very good)
7. Age of Consent 7.5/10 (bad sound but some very good songs, also some not so good ones)
8. The House of Actreus (both) 7.5/10
9. The Book of Burning 7.5/10
10. Visions of Eden 7/10
11. The Black Light Baccanalia 6.5/10
12. Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation 6/10

I like a lot everything from Virgin Steel til the Marriage albums!

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ION BRITTON
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Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#14 » Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:54 am

For those albums that I do bother to some degree here's how it goes for me

1. Noble Savage 10/10
2. Guardians Of The Flame 9.5/10
3. Marriage pt.1 9.5/10
4. Invictus 9/10
5. Marriage pt.2 8.5/10
6. Book Of Burning 8.5/10
7. Age of Consent 7.5/10
8. Atreus pt.1 7/10
9. Atreus pt.2 6/10
10. S/T 6/10

And my favorite VS tracks

1. Don't Say Goodbye
2. Burning of Rome
3. Thy Kingdom Come
4. I Am The One (Book Of Burning version)
5. Defiance
6. Victory Is Mine
7. Gate Of Kings
8. The Angel Of Light
9. Blood Of The Saints
10. Hell Or High Water
Good against Evil, Evil sure to win

"It really didn't matter if they liked it or not, i was going to give it to them straight down their throats" -John Stewart

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nightsblood
Posts: 2374

Re: VIRGIN STEELE 'Invictus' (And Other Albums)

Post#15 » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:22 am

Glad some folks are taking a look at VS for the first time.
I'll try a quick ranking as well:
1. Invictus A+
--agreed, their best
2. Marriage 1 A-
--and definitely 2nd best for me

Now some are ranked pretty close:
3. Age of Consent B+
4. Guardians of the flame B (haven't played in ages)
5-6 Atreus pt 1-2 B- (some good songs, but spread out among a lot of intros, outros, interludes, and fillers)
7 Life Among Ruins-B- need to revisit, but maybe about here
8. Noble Savage C sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't
9. Marriage 2 C- remember most of it being too long/boring. Not bad, just kinda dull

? The Book of Burning ?? Never heard; wasn't this mostly a comp w/ a few new tracks?

These last few are pretty weak:
10. Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation C- only played a few times, I remember a couple of decent tracks
11- s/t C-
12. The Black Light Baccanalia- D+ don't recall much that was worthwhile on this one
13. Visions of Eden F- definitely my least favorite. Long, dull album that never once kindled even a spark of attention. I played it a few times, but even by the second spin it just felt a chore to even sit through the album.
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"
-Becky

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