Virgin Steele - The House of Atreus, Act I
T&T Records
Barbaric Romantic Metal Opera
22 songs (74'01)
Release year: 1999
Reviewed by Olivier
Archive review

You know, I am actually moved to have the chance to throw in a few lines about this masterpiece. In November 1999, New Yorkers and epic metallers Virgin Steele, led by the godlike David DeFeis, gifted the world a gem named The House of Atreus Act I. The gift actually was twofold because Act I obviously called for an Act II, which was equally great and made our voyage in Ancient Greece even more unforgettable. The House of Atreus saga is a Metal Opera, meant to be performed on stage by actors. And it was. For two years, throughout Europe and under the name of Klytaimnestra. If watching the play is no more an option nowadays, blasting your speakers into oblivion still is, so, everything is fine.

David DeFeis sounds, as always, like an angry angel alternating between whispers and panther roars. You can hear Agamemnon's quiet fury and unswerving determination in the opener Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy), a 7-minute piece of pure epic which would by itself justify acquiring this album. But what about And Hecate Smiled and this utterly liberating moment in the middle of the song when the Elders see all hell breaking loose! And the breathtaking and mystifying choruses of Through the Ring of Fire and Great Sword of Flame, and that epic piano whirlwind at the end of Return of the King, and the incredibly empowering Flames of the Black Star (The Arrows of Herakles). What about them!

The highlights in this album are legion, and it would be unfair (and a completely masochistic thing to do) to pick just one. But if I had to... then I would pick the... the simply not humanly bearable pristine beauty of Gate of Kings. Think of those mellow songs Manowar used to release back in the days (The Crown and the Ring, Heart of Steel). They were good enough, granted. But multiply their quality by a factor of a thousand. Now remove the cheesy lyrics and replace them by a perfect ending to an almost perfect album. Add in a pinch of emotion, a lot of epic, DeFeis' dreamlike voice (seriously, does this man even exists for real?), and you have an absolute, indisputable masterpiece of a song. Now everything lies in the eye of the beholder (or in this case the ear of the listener), true. But if after having closely listened to the whole album - with the lyrics to tell the characters apart of course - you are not moved by that ending... No. No I'm sorry, you're just not human.

But, "almost perfect", I said. Yes, this is not a perfect album. There are many instrumental and short tracks for the need of the story, and while they are not unpleasant at all, one must admit they in the end add too little compared to their overwhelming presence. Most of them easily could have been blended in longer tracks (actual songs). But this tiny little nitpick should not, ever, in any way, deter anybody to listen to this jewel of an album. And of course it's follow-up, The House of Atreus Act II.

An (ancient) article about Klytaimnestra.
Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy) (Youtube)

Killing Songs :
This album is designed to be experienced as a whole.
Olivier quoted 93 / 100
Other albums by Virgin Steele that we have reviewed:
Virgin Steele - The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell Part Two reviewed by Ben and quoted 92 / 100
Virgin Steele - The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell Part One reviewed by Ben and quoted 87 / 100
Virgin Steele - Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation reviewed by Andy and quoted 40 / 100
Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia reviewed by Chris and quoted 69 / 100
Virgin Steele - Age Of Consent reviewed by Ben and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 14 reviews click here
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