Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Virgin Steele - The House Of Atreus Act 1

Maybe it started out as simply amusing, but it's now quite inspiring the way this wobbly cult band from the lower rung of the '80s has regurgitated and reinvented itself as a power metal powerhouse that thinks and thrives beyond its concrete New York confines, much like the band they now sound like: Manowar. Indeed, The House Of Atreus Act 1 is like a complicated, riff-mad, but sonically conservative Manowar epic, halfway to that band's quixotic midrange sound, icing on the cake being David DeFeis' '70s transformation into the only man to sound like Eric Adams. Strange but pleasing; and DeFeis, of course, is his own man as well, adding his own bag of tricks to those perky precise thespian phrasings. It matches the over-reaching concept as well, The House Of Atreus Act 1 being a big-ass Greek tragedy of Savatage proportions. Musically the rest of the tiny band, Ed Pursino and Frank Gilchrist, never lose sight of the drama, summarily laying a soundtrack bed a quarter of the time, background mood music another quarter, and then smartly metal rocking the remaining half, again like prime Manowar or other purposeful '80s purveyors. Lots going on both sonically and lyrically, Virgin Steele wilfully committed and surrendered to the idea of a concept record, which in itself is something to be admired given the usual fear at building something this challenging.
Rating 8

Hades - The Downside
(Metal Blade)

These likable, savvy, no-bullshit working guys from Jersey are still busy remaking and reliving a metal past that is obscure and flavourful enough to make their "old" new material useful in the everything everything metal 2000s. A whole lot of writers and reviewers couldn't cop to the first reunion album SaviorSelf, and I suspect they'll be lining up to declare the shite wence again. What they are missing is the concept that this band is from a metal generation even older than their '80s product, knowledgeable fans of the '70s and the '80s, dissing the '90s, and writing at a level that on the surface is dated, but will prove to be timeless. But enough acrobatics. The Downside is indeed a Pandora's Box of retro mindgames, but in being that, it chooses doom, dirt, organics and an interesting discerning sampling of power and prog over other equally, less, or more viable salad bar items. So track after track sets an atmosphere, a tone, maybe reminding you of either a characteristic or experimental track from a Bay Area thrash band, albeit with mature substantial lyrics. Metal Church, Solitude Aeturnus, Crowbar, Testament, Overkill, Nevermore, Soundgarden. . . it also swirls to mind. And to be fair, your main influence is old Hades and Non-Fiction, displaying the fact that these boys, despite choosing a difficult pigpen right smack in the middle of everything, indeed own their own arresting, unarguable and scientifically discernible shade, even if it takes a spectrometer to verify it.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3