Here are the seven most underrated bands from New York, as chosen by Virgin Steele's David DeFeis.
The veteran heavy metal/power metal group formed in Long Island, New York over 40 years and have churned out some seriously epic records throughout their career, with a primary focus on mythology to drive the cinematic offerings. Their latest is The Passion of Dionysus, an 80-minute/10-track opus that marks their first studio record since 2015's Nocturnes of Hellfire & Damnation.
"The album deals with the concept of duality. Where something is both one thing and its opposite simultaneously," DeFeis says of the themes of Virgin Steele's new album, continuing, "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.“
As the group's career dates back to the early '80s, DeFeis also has warm memories of the club days and all the promising rock and metal acts who populated that scene at the time.
Since he's been a New Yorker for so long, Loudwire felt compelled to get his take on the state's most underrated acts!
"New York State most certainly has a ton of talented musicians, bands and artists dwelling within its borders, and Long Island is most definitely very much a part of the wonderful state of New York. Therefore, since I have spent a truly massive amount of time in the rock clubs here on Long Island, including a 10-year period where I was out in one, two, three or more of our glorious rock clubs every single night of the week," he recalls.
"I will focus on those bands that I went to see quite often here on this island where I live, and where my group Virgin Steele began," DeFeis adds, contextualizing his approach for his list of New York's most underrated bands, which can be viewed below.
Get your copy of 'The Passion of Dionysus' on CD or vinyl and follow Virgin Steele on Facebook,, Twitter and Spotify.
Virgin Steele, "The Gethsemane Effect"
Harlequin were a very progressive, super theatrical rock band from Long Island that regularly performed all over the club scene, venturing further out as well.
Led by Sam Negron (vocals, 12 string acoustic guitar), they did stunning versions of epic Genesis tracks such as “The Musical Box,” “Watcher of the Skies,” In the Cage,” etc. Sammy would dress up in outrageous costumes and act out all the various bits. It was really quite Shakespearian in a way!
I also clearly remember them performing “Hero and Heroine” by The Strawbs, 10cc’s “Wall Street Shuffle,” tracks by Jethro Tull — mainly all progressive type music.
They had two wonderful guitar players, a great bass player and an excellent drummer. Their talented keyboard player Burt, in addition to an arsenal of keyboards, also had a mellotron…a serious must for all those Genesis tracks.
Harlequin also performed original music. I can still hear their excellent song “Trees” in my head.
They had a weekly residency at my father’s Arena Players Theater in East Farmingdale on Route 109. Sammy would raid the prop and costume rooms for items to use in that evening’s show. Every concert was more than magickal! It was otherworldly! They should have been huge!
Swift Kick were an excellent band that stormed through all of the Long Island clubs with their own particular blend of street swagger, flash and metal theatrics.
Their cover selections included everything from The Monroes’ “What Do All The People Know,” to AC/DC’s “Sin City,” to songs by Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and Judas Priest.
I first heard the Priest song “Desert Plains” when Swift Kick did it at Cheers the Rock Night Club. I didn’t know it was a Priest song and thought they had written it.
They did write their own material too and one track, “Suicide,” was a big crowd favorite and was included on Radio Station WBAB’s Long Island rock band compilation album Homegrown named after their radio program that featured Long Island groups. Virgin Steele appeared on that program several times.
When Swift Kick first started out they used to open up for Twisted Sister. When Virgin Steele first started playing in the clubs, we opened for Swift Kick a few times.
Their guitar player, Tony Bruno, went on to play in Danger Danger and was also the musical director for Rihanna.
Swift Kick came across as a UFO-meets-AC/DC sort of street vibe.
Rat Race Choir were an outstanding group with amazing musicianship all around. Every musician from every other band went to hear them as often as they could.
They performed lots of covers (Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, Jethro Tull) and their own songs such as, “Skeletron,” “Dancin’ Flame” and “Struck By Lightning."
Drummer Steve Luongo performed with The Who bass player John Entwistle many times and eventually joined Entwistle’s group. Again, they were all truly outstanding players.
These guys could move from full tilt heavy rock to blues to super jazzy moments in the blink of an eye. With all original songs in “Taking It To Detroit,” “Reason to Kill,” “Fireball Express,” and, my favorite, “The Room,” The Good Rats ruled the Long Island clubs.
They were a powerhouse force with twin guitars, fluid bass, an unstoppable drummer, and soaring over it all were the unique, charismatic vocals of Peppi Marchello.
I saw them numerous times in the clubs, and also once at the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead where The Ramones opened up for them.
I used to run into Peppi all the time when we were both recording at Media Recording Studios. I was always in that studio with Virgin Steele and Peppi was always in there working on another Rats album, so we became friendly with each other. I remember telling him that I loved his voice and that the singer from Angel (Frank Dimino) reminded me of him. They have a similar vibrato.
Cintron were another excellent Long Island rock band led by singer/guitarist George Cintron. He sang like Paul Rodgers from Bad Company and played guitar like Randy Rhoads. They did covers by Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, etc. and did their own songs.
George is still very active in various musical projects and plays on and off again with my Virgin Steele Life Among the Ruins era bass player Rob DeMartino and ex-Rainbow/Black Sabbath drummer Bobby Rondinelli.
Cintron had a strong loyal following, and I caught their act many times and always enjoyed them, and I still greatly enjoy hearing whatever George is doing.
They featured a real flashy guitar player and a great singer named Ray Gillen, who later went on to front Badlands after a brief stint in Black Sabbath.
They did lots of Van Halen and Rainbow covers, and I remember them doing an outstanding version of “Burning Heart” by Vandenburg. They would have been quite successful if they had stayed together.
[NO VIDEO AVAILABLE]
Prior to Ray joining Black Sabbath, he was in a band called Rondinelli that featured monster drummer Bobby Rondinelli, his brother Teddy (an excellent bluesy, wailing guitarist), their sister Dorothy (classical-tinged keyboards), and, on bass, the powerful anchor and consummate professional Rob DeMartino.
They were a super tight powerhouse unit. Teddy played and sang like Leslie West from Mountain and I just loved everything that they did, especially a track called “White Lady.”
Right after we had done the Virgin Steele album Age of Consent, Ray Gillen left the Rondinelli group, so they asked me to come down and jam with them. It was a glorious sounding rehearsal and I would have loved being in that band, but I was fully committed to what I was doing with Virgin Steele.