Hymns To Victory
The Book of Burning
You know from the titles of these albums what to expect. Pretentious, symphonic classic power-/speed-metal, high on melodrama and low on subtlety. It gallops like Iron Maiden and pounds it chest like early-day Helloween, and it has songs called “Flames of Thy Power,” “The Mists of Avalon,” “Conjuration of the Watcher,” and – of course – “Minuet in G Minor.”
Hymns To Victory is the weaker of the two, and includes mostly re-mastered, already available material from their decade-spawning history, as well as alternate mixes and two new songs, one of which – “Saturday Night” – is particularly laughter-inducing, with its over the top, hilarious anthem-pretensions that falls flat on its face. A bit Quiet Riot-ish, in a bad way. Elsewhere, the opener “Flames of Thy Power” is pretty good, all falsetto vocals and drums that splutter away in a furious frenzy, and a melody line that may well stay stuck in your mind for days, whether you want it to or not. However, as evidenced on, say, “The Burning of Rome,” most of the tracks are too run-of-the-mill to ever garner any further reaction besides the occasional yawn and a disbelieving shake of the head.
The Book of Burning sees Virgin Steele mainly following the same formula, that is, symphonic pretensions, a turbo approach, and narratives only a role-player could love. Half of the material consists of re-recorded versions of older material, while the other half consists of new songs. And, surprise of all surprises, the new material is, frankly, pretty good. Opener “Conjuration of the Watcher” is delivered with an attack and a punch completely lacking on that other album and the songwriting far exceeds what’s come before. Same thing with the body part of the other new material. Virgin Steele must’ve been honing their writing craft like mad since their previous albums and they seem hungrier than ever before. Part of this may have to do with the production, as even the re-recorded versions of previously released material pack more punch than anything on Hymns To Victory, but the difference is too notable to not having to do with a growth in the band itself. Not to say everything’s up to standard, mind, what with the tedious “Rain Of Fire,” or the rocker-by-numbers “Hot And Wild” (ah, the titles!), but it’s still better than what one could reasonably hope for. A learning band, then, surprisingly enough. I never though I’d say this, but Virgin Steele is one to watch. Whoops.
Noise Records: http://www.noiserecords.com