Whilst browsing my new local CD shop (The Beat Goes On) I stumbled across a Virgin Steele album. I had heard of the band, but often passed them up as just another symphonic power metal group along the lines of Skylark and Rhapsody (of Fire). The album was "The House Atreus Act I" the title intrigued me as did the song titles and since it was under $10, I decided why not.
Damn, did I miss the mark completely with this band. First off, Virgin Steele has been around a decade before the previously mentioned bands. Secondly, this album ain't your mother's Symphonic Power Metal. "The House Of Atreus Act I" is pure unadulterated heavy metal with symphonic flourishes to bring out the epicness of the story.
Think Manowar, if Manowar were a European Power Metal band. In fact, the singer David DeFeis is a dead ringer for Manowar's Eric Adams. Both bands came out around the same time, both from New York, so really, Eric Adams could be a dead ringer for David Defeis. I don't know. What I do know is that this album is solid Manowar style heavy metal and I love Manowar.
I feel like a tool for passing this group by for so long and now it's dang hard trying to track down there other albums (especially "The House Of Atreus Act II. This is a double album dammit!). The reviews I've read have been glowing and so they should be. This album is epic and heavy. It is 75 minutes of glorious Greek Mythology based music.
The story concerns the end of the curse of the House of Atreus. After the end of the Trojan War, Agamemnon travels home to his murderously plotting wife (seeking revenge for when Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter Iphegenia) where much unpleasantness happens and Agamemnon is murdered. There is probably more to it then that, but I haven't explored the lyrics much.
What is really important here is the music. Concept albums or metal operas are hit and miss. "The House Of Atreus Act I" is a home run. Think of Manowar's song "Achilles : Agony and Ecstasy in eight parts" only more accessible and simply more epic. The metal songs are grand with biting guitar and soaring melodies interspersed with several interludes that serve as narratives without so much as being narratives. The album does indeed flow well.
For a concept album, I do feel the metal songs could stand on their own merits. This makes the album easier to take in, however, the glory of it all is to hear it as one solid musical journey. I do have to commend the band for their exquisite writing skills. To create a body of work like "The House Of Atreus Act I" that works on a whole, yet still have "radio" hits. That is not an easy task.
My favourite songs are the opener's "Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy)" and "Blaze of Victory (The Watchman's Song)" as well as the pseudo ballad "Gate Of Kings" which is dark and atmospheric with uber catchy chorus.
I cannot say enough good things about this album. If you like power metal this will blow your mind. If you like good Heavy Metal (like mid to late Manowar) this is right up your alley. Or heck, if you like music damn it, this album rocks!
Now to track down Act II ... sigh ...