There are two ways to approach and evaluate Virgin Steele’s new opus. The first is to get into the logic of comparing the new album with the masterpieces of the past. The second is to come to terms with the idea that DeFeis, since 2010, has chosen a different musical path with all the side effects that this decision entails. If you choose the first path, then the game is certainly lost right from the very start. The second path is clearly safer and the approach more moderate. Personally, I’ve chosen the second route without being overall defensive or turning a blind eye over Virgin Steele’s musical course in the last few years. Because, frankly, it’s very hard to appreciate DeFeis’ musical vision in the last 13 or so years but trust me…if you give it a try you will be awarded with precious memories of a lifelong, magical journey.
“The Passion Of Dionysus” continues in the same compositional pattern of the last three albums. Complex, epic compositions that need many listens to assimilate the vision and what exactly DeFeis wants to achieve. In fact, the task is further hampered by a rather poor production but I know for a fact that DeFeis pays more attention to the songs themselves and their compositional structure than the sound per se. With that in mind, we must say that most of the instruments are programmed on DeFeis’ keyboards and computer; therefore the final sound result doesn’t do justice to the overall quality of the songs! I am pretty certain that if we had been treated with a real rhythm section and most importantly if Edward Pursino had been more involved in the recording of the new record, then the result would be even better. Yet, “The Passion Of Dionysus” is epic, is glorious and at the end of the day is…Virgin Steele. Pure and simple.
Having said that, if you give the album a chance, you will find some very good ideas and inspired moments that would shine even more in the light of a proper production. Especially, on “To Bind & Kill A God”, “Spiritual Warfare” and “You’ll Never See The Sun Again”, DeFeis takes a sneaky peek at the greatness of the second “Atreus” style and why not at the atmosphere of “Visions of Eden”.
So, those who have embraced the latter Virgin Steele period will find quite a few interesting (and intriguing) elements in “The Passion Of Dionysus”. Personally, I have separated the two Virgin Steele time periods and I know what to expect from DeFeis. After all, we are talking about a great musician who gave us some milestone albums in the past…and we should never forget that!
Highlight: the concept of the album -inspired again by ancient Greece- revolves around the simultaneous presence of freedom and restriction of human nature in society.