Virgin Steele - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part Two (1995)
I think it's clear what an important metal album this is, and an instant favorite of mine! This is actually my first taste of Virgin Steele, though I first heard vocalist David DeFeis in a few tracks from two "Metal Opera" projects Avantasia and Avalon. Pardon me if I sound like a brown-nosing fanboy in this review, though I'm trying not to be...
This is a much better album that I consider the superb sequel, in a similar vein to the second installments of movie franchises like Terminator, Alien, and the first Star Wars trilogy. While I just gave the incredible Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II a listen, I have not yet done the same to Part I so I won't say much about that first part. Part II brushes aside anything that's too straight and expands on a wide epic power metal canvas, with stunning lyrics, incredible music, and the excellent majesty of production.
"A Symphony of Steele" proves it all in burning headbanging perfection. Then they think even further in the progressive field of "Crown of Glory" that'll have your jaw dropping in awe. "From Chaos to Creation" is very interesting for an interlude, basically a short epic power metal instrumental. It's best to listen not by itself but as a nice contributing transition... An excellent crushing metal tune is "Twilight of the Gods" that showcases their Helloween/Blind Guardian influences. "Rising Unchained" spiritually continues the calm yet chaotic line of the previous songs in the band's excellent symmetry, with great lyrics to love ("Don’t cry for mercy, for you know there will be none").
"Transfiguration" once again proves what a professional DeFeis. Even at this ballad stage, there's never a dull moment, but instead something special in every bite. Then at the center is "Prometheus the Fallen One", an epic piece of metal art! However, just when you thought they've reached their height of glory there, "Emalaith" shows the finest times of Virgin Steele. The masterful character and dynamic drama would leave you stunned. A true symphonic power metal opera track! "Strawgirl" is another power ballad.
Inspired by Judas Priest, "Devil/Angel" is straight on the heavy riffs while having catchy excellence. While not too sophisticated, an electric aura of magnificent passion lights up the direct riffs and extraordinary leads. DeFeis' vocals in the chorus sound simple yet superb. A fantastic song to love before the rest... "Unholy Water" is commercial-sounding, but the quality stays high. You'll definitely be raising your fists to the victorious "Victory is Mine". Finally, the title outro isn't as good as the other interlude, but ends the album well on a solid tone, like part of the end credits for a movie.
Some might think it would be better to listen to both parts together to open greater context, and probably the album after this one as well, but having just listened to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II alone, there's a lot to praise. Every song has at least one perfect aspect, with amazing vocals and motifs. This is incredible mastery Virgin Steele has gained. Any fan of heavy/power metal should give this essential album a listen and add to their collection!
Favorites: "A Symphony of Steele", "Crown of Glory", "Rising Unchained", "Prometheus the Fallen One", "Emalaith", "Devil/Angel", "Victory is Mine"