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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Virgin Steele

Black Light Bacchanalia

Review by Gary Hill

When I first got this CD I put into the heavy metal pile because of the band name and some of the titles. In fairness, the band’s website calls them a metal band, too. Frankly, I think they are more progressive rock than metal. Whatever you call this music, though, it’s powerful and dynamic. It’s quite diverse in terms of music and vocal styles. It’s a great album. In fact, I’d consider it one of the best releases of the year. If you like your progressive rock with some serious metal built in, you’ll love this. It should be mentioned that some of the lyrics do deserve a parental warning.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
By The Hammer Of Zeus (And TheWrecking Ball Of Thor)

As this pounds in its rather aggressive and raw. Multiple bits of vocals come in during the arrangement. It resolves out to the verse with an aggressive musical style, but melodic vocals. This is really a great marriage of more extreme and more mainstream metal sounds. The track is actually quite complex and works through a number of changes and alterations and doesn’t fall as firmly into progressive rock as some of the other music, but it lands there.

Pagan Heart
This is much more completely progressive rock than the opener was. It’s got a definite melodic element to it and it’s far from a simple piece of music. It still manages to get pretty heavy. There’s a tasty soaring guitar solo section built into this that gives way to some real progressive rock. It alternates between more prog-like sounds and more pure metal as it continues.
The Bread of Wickedness
This cut is quite dramatic and powerful. A wide range of vocal styles and musical shifts make it intriguing.
In A Dream Of Fire
The introduction on this really calls to mind Queen. The track is one of the most purely progressive rock pieces on show. It works through several changes and alterations and is overall pretty melodic. It is definitely based in a symphonic, epic metal type of arrangement, but the metal part of the equation is barely present.
Nepenthe (I Live Tomorrow)
A keyboard and vocal ballad motif leads out here. They build up on this a bit, but in general it retains this central musical concept for the first minute and a half. Even when it does change, it’s just through the addition of some crunchy guitar. 
The Orpheus Taboo
Here’s another that fits far closer into neo-prog than it does heavy metal. Yes, there is some crunch, but overall this is very melodic and very powerful and prog-like. There are some sections on this piece that call to mind Queen, but I also hear plenty of Dream Theater in the mix. Yes, it does turn more metallic at points, but the dynamic and ever-changing arrangement and the melodic movements really put this pretty firmly into progressive rock territory.
To Crown Them With Halos (Parts1 & 2)
At over eleven minutes in length, this is quite epic. It also has both some of the most purely progressive rock and some of the most purely metallic music on show here. It works through a series of changes on the introduction and then drops to just piano and voice to continue. This is really an amazing musical journey that encompasses many variants and changes. It’s a heck of a ride. While parts are metallic, this is all progressive rock.
The Black Light Bacchanalia (The Age That Is To Come)
While this track has more real heavy metal to be found than the previous one did, it still fits firmly into a metallic progressive rock category. Parts of this even make me think of King Crimson’s Red album. One thing that’s constant on this album is change.

The Tortures Of The Damned
At just under three minutes in length, this is the shortest cut on show here. The track starts as a piano and vocal ballad. It gets more metallic as it carries on. It could be argued that this one is heavy metal, but really it’s got a lot of piano in the arrangement. There are symphonic elements as it powers up later, too.
Necropolis (He Answers Them with Death)
A nine-minute plus track, this is another that’s quite diverse and features plenty of heavy metal and progressive rock built into it. It’s a powerful and diverse and dynamic number that at times calls to mind Dream Theater. They don’t change the general concept a lot here, but this is its own number, too. There’s an awesome keyboard based movement later. A melodic vocal segment comes later and some of the tracks most pure prog follows this at first, but then it leads to a more metallic jam. Still, it lands well in the realm of progressive rock.
Eternal Regret
Another nine-minute number, this starts with a piano and voice arrangement. Again, that’s just a starting point and they take it out into a wide range of varying musical themes and concepts. It’s another cool track that showcases a very talented band. I know they call it heavy metal, but really this is far more progressive rock than it is metal. Much of this is in a powerful and evocative balladic approach. It’s pretty and rather sad, but also very cool. Normally I think that a disc is better served going out with an energetic cut, but this one is so powerfully emotional that it works.
 
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