Listen All Of Y'all, It's A Savatage!
The Album I'm reviewing today is "Edge of Thorns" which is the first Savatage album I bought. My curiousity was peaked by 2 brothers I went to Highschool with who were huge fans of the band. I was not to be disappointed. Edge... is a great album and though it is not a "concept", it still carries the progressive influence started on "Gutter Bullet". Sadly this would be the last album recorded by Criss Olivia
(killed in a car accident by a drunk driver) the lead guitarist and brother to other founding member Jon Olivia. However, Criss did not go gentle into that good night. "Edge of Thorns" features some brilliant guitar work. This album is also the debut for new vocalist Zachary Stevens. Zak had some big shoes to fill, stepping in to replace Jon (the mountain king) Olivia, but fill them he did. Zak is one of the finest metal vocalists out there and I attribute him to helping bring Savatage a more progressive sound. His crisp melodic vocals are a fine contrast to Jon's raspier/darker style and it's brilliant when both are featured on albums (Dead Winter Dead and Wake of Magellen).
The first song and title track sets the mood for the album with its piano intro and majestic sound. "He Carves His Stone" has an early Savatage feel musically and Zach really shines on this track. Very powerful. Criss's solo work is also quite nice on these tracks and throughout the album. The solo's are complex, yet written for the song. They are there to enhance the tune, not to impress other guitarists and I think that's why Savatage was so special.
There are 2 instrumentals and if there were ever song titles that fit instrumental songs, these are it. "labyrinths" is a guitar driven tune which has the feeling of someone searching and becoming more panicked and anxious, before the song trails off. "Exit Music" is a beautiful piano piece which is appropriately fitting for simply leaving a room or leaving this world.
"Degrees Of Sanity", "Conversation Piece" and "Damien" are all fine examples of progressive power metal tunes, each uniquely emphasizing heavy guitar riffs and piano/acoustic guitar mixes. "Conversation Piece" features some clever lyrics which could be discussed over a cup of tea (heehee).
"All that I bleed" brings out the passion in Zaks Vocals which blend sweetly with the piano. "Miles Away" picks up the pace after a couple of slower heavy tunes with very catchy riffwork.
The 2 tracks I like the most are "Sleep" which is a great acoustic guitar tune with a nice bluesy outro (and is the only Savatage song I can kinda play sort of all the way through!) and "Follow Me". "Follow Me" is my favourite track. It's led into by "labyrinths". The tune features some very passionate and powerful vocals by Zachary and some great guitar work by Chriss (especially the intro picking riff which picks up as "labyrinths" ends).
"Edge Of Thorns" features some great Savatage songs and shows some real growth for the band.
I myself love the progressive power metal route they would take after this album and is surely an influence by key songwriter Jon Olivia and producer Paul O'Neill. However, I can't help but wonder what Savatage would be doing or sound like if Criss Olivia were still with them. He was a fine musician.