Virgin Steele formed in New York way back in 1981. The distinctive vocals of singer and keyboard player David DeFeis was a great fit in the days of operatic, dramatic metal from that era. The classic album was self-titled and rocked the world in 82 and over the years DeFeis and the boys have seen different line-ups but their music has remained consistant, heavy and well written. Of note is the album from 83 "Noble Savage" which was a classic from the Jack Starr era of the band.
Fast-forward to 2023 and Virgin Steele are back with a great new album "The Passion of Dionysus".
The new album ‘The Passion Of Dionysus’ was released on June 30, 2023 worldwide through SPV/Steamhammer as CD DigiPak (incl. poster and 24 pages booklet), 2LP Gatefold (in purple-violet vinyl), CD/LP bundle with shirt (only at the Steamhammer Shop), download and stream: https://VirginSteele.lnk.to/ThePassionOfDionysus
At a time when cultural innovation is being side-lined as never before and many unusual forms of music are succumbing to the temptation of the commercially more lucrative mainstream, Virgin Steele are the shining silver lining. For over 40 years, mastermind David DeFeis has kept one of the most imaginative bands in the power metal genre on track with his excellent songwriting and charismatic voice. At the same time, DeFeis has never stopped evolving as a composer, musician and producer, updating his symphonic-tinged sound with exciting new influences. He has already accomplished this many times over with classics like ‘Invictus’ (1998), ‘The House Of Atreus I & II’ (1999/2000) or ‘Visions Of Eden’ (2006). In his current album ‘The Passion Of Dionysus’, DeFeis surpasses himself in his unbridled creativity. Eight years after the acclaimed studio opus ‘Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation’ (2015), DeFeis` brilliant signature maneuvers the album through a gripping parable about control and freedom, creating another highlight of the Virgin Steele career.
As usual, David DeFeis has chosen a downright epic theme that delves deep into the annals of human history, while maintaining a concrete reference to the present: „The album deals with the concept of duality. Where something is both one thing and its opposite simultaneously“, he explains the underlying message of the new record. „It obviously has to do with Dionysus and, as the title suggests, his “Passion” or suffering, and his coming to Thebes to avenge the slander of his mother, as well as punish the King of Thebes for denying his worship there. But that being said, more is going on. “ In ‘The Passion Of Dionysus’ DeFeis tells the epic struggle between the twin forces of control/restraint and freedom/release, as well as dealing with the question of “whether or not there is room in society for the irrational, the wild, the letting-go aspects of ourselves.”
There is no doubt that David DeFeis is not only an ingenious composer and musician, but also a true visionary who – with his band – has the perfect medium at his disposal to evolve both humanly and culturally: „I see Virgin Steele as a way of life. The band is my vehicle with which I traverse vast oceans of experience. We are always doing things our own way, on our own specific terms.“ Looking at the grandiose ‘The Passion Of Dionysus’, it’s no wonder at all that his fans accept this approach unconditionally.
We caught up David in June 2023...
When did you first form Virgin Steele?
In October of 1981, and after 3 weeks of rehearsal we went into the studio and recorded & mixed our first album in less than a week...
What were your musical influences?
At that time it was QUEEN, LED ZEPPELIN, UFO, BLACK SABBATH, T.REX…the list goes on…
What made you become a musician?
I grew up in a house where there was Theatre (my father was a director, producer and actor of Plays)…we had Opera…from my oldest sister, and there was Rock music from my other sister and my brother. It was all so incredibly exciting and inspiring and I had to be a part of it all…so I dove in head first and synthesized and combined and cross-pollinated all those various musical & theatrical elements until what came out was this Barbaric-Romantic music that I do with VIRGIN STEELE. I started singing in bands at the age of 11, and I started piano lessons at the age of about 8…
You have been cited as musical influences by bands such as Metallica. That must feel great?!
Yes it is very gratifying to learn that we have been an influence, an inspiration, and have had a positive effect on other musicians.
After the 80s early albums Virgin Steele seemed to be on hiatus, what happened?
We finished recording the album AGE OF CONSENT in late 1988 and it was released in early 1989. The next album LIFE AMONG THE RUINS was recorded in 1992 and came out in 1993…so it was about a 2-year absence. We had some management issues that needed sorting out. We fired the old management and I took the job upon myself and I am still essentially doing it.
In the 90s you made a come back. How did that go?
It went very well. We issued LIFE AMONG THE RUINS, then recorded and released THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1, then shortly after we issued THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2, then INVICTUS…then THE HOUSE OF ATREUS ACT 1, THE HOUSE OF ATREUS ACT 2…MAGICK FIRE MUSIC…and the first re-issues of NOBLE SAVAGE & AGE OF CONSENT.
Since then you have been releasing work and doing live shows but sporadically? Why?
ANSWER: Actually we did quite a bit of touring all through the 90’s and up through to the mid and later 2000’s. Around 2011 or so we started doing more one offs in the way of live gigs, in order to try to accommodate the various members life styles and availability. We began spending more time in the studio than onstage and we were therefore super productive, and we were able to release a lot more music than any band would if they were constantly touring all the time.
Tell us about your side projects?
Which ones do you mean? I don’t currently have any side projects.
What about 2023 and your new album " THE PASSION OF DIONYSUS" on Steamhammer Records?
What would you like to know about it? As regards the recording aspect, it went relatively quickly. I always lay down the piano first and then we begin to build up from there, with the guitars being the second thing we record. And on this album I wanted the guitars to have the richness in harmonic vocabulary that the piano has, so there is quite a bit of layering going on even if at times that is not so obvious. The mixing took the longest to do as it always does, because I hear things one way in my head and trying to bring that out into reality can sometimes be difficult, but in the end…I think it is a very good sounding record that accurately captures all the emotions, and all the violence and beauty that was intended and was built into the songs.
Who's in the band now?
ANSWER: Same people as the last 20 years or more…me as always, plus Edward Pursino on 6 string guitar, and Josh Block on 7 string guitar, and now Matt McKasty on drums.
How did recording the album go?
ANSWER: Great! There were no problems…it was all very inspiring. What Dionysus embodies and what our tale here concerns, is an epic struggle to the death between the twin forces of control/restraint and freedom/release, and whether or not there is room in society for the irrational, the wild…the “letting go” aspects of ourselves. Ultimately it concludes that a space or a place for the irrational must be allowed in order for society to exist, function properly and continue to thrive. When one opposes or denies a place for the irrational like King Pentheus does in our tale, then the person, place, thing or society will be ripped apart…exactly like what comes to be the ultimate fate of Pentheus.
Science has shown us that even rats need escape from absolute reality!
“THE PASSON OF DIONYSUS” album depicts an epic struggle, between the twin forces of control/restraint and freedom/release. It depicts the passion or suffering of the God…his struggles, his great betrayal at the hands of those he trusted…his rage, his frustration, his death, & his resurrection, and on another level this Work also portrays and expresses what the God dearly loves…or is most “passionate” about. That being said, as I hinted at earlier embedded within this offering lurks another duality…something else is also simultaneously going on.
You've released 2 songs already from the album, "The Gethsemane Effect" and "Spiritual Warfare"?
Yes that is correct, and there will be one more single issued right before the album is released on the 30th of June.
How do you feel the sound of today's Virgin Steele differs or echos that of earlier line-ups?
I have been very fond of all the various line-ups we have had and all the various “eras” of VIRGIN STEELE history, but I am probably happiest with where we are at, right now at this particular moment in time. The albums are quite a bit darker now…and have been getting progressively darker with each release, and I have also been able to bring in more of my “classical music” side with each subsequent release.
Any live dates planned?
Yes. We have Spain and Crete and Italy confirmed and more dates are being discussed so more dates will be added in the weeks ahead.
What do you think of the music industry now compared to the 80s and 90s?
It was more fun in the 80’s and 90’s and I think people took the music more seriously and were more committed back then. Today there is too much fragmentation.
Have you got any advice for any vocalist or band starting out?
Never sign away or give up your publishing or songwriting rights! If you are a composer or a lyricist…protect your Works…join the various songwriter, and publisher societies that protect your creations!