Sunday, September 28, 2008

They Fought The Rock And The Rock ... Won ...?

Savatage's third full-length album is a step backwards for the band. A kind of fumble at a critical point in their career. Upon reading the background story behind the recording of "Fight For The Rock" I can sum it all up with the phrase, a gong show.

"Fight For The Rock" is a solid rock album with the emphasis on rock, but frankly, it's not Savatage. Being comprised of music mostly written for other Atlantic label artists, the album comes across as a bit of a sellout or an attempt at commercial success when in fact it was youthful naivety that dang near destroyed them. I'm inclined to believe the liner notes history simply cause of the quality albums the band had recorded up to this point and afterwards.

This is an unfortunate black mark on Savatage's long career. All the same "Fight For The Rock" has some decent tracks with a little Savatage metal sprinkled in. This could have spelt disaster in the hands of another band, but Savatage are great song-writers and superb musicians.

Starting off with the title track, "Fight For The Rock" is a solid rock anthem with catchy melodies and a sing a long chorus. I find the intro to "The Edge Of Midnight" to be corny, the song itself is a strong effort with a mild Sav(y) edge to it. And "Hyde" (my favourite song here) could easily have fit on "Power Of The Night". Its haunting melodies are catchy and Jon's vocals shine over Chriss' dark riffs.

"Crying For Love" and "Lady In Disguise" are fairly standard tunes catchy but not Savatage. "She's Only Rock N Roll" is memorable with some nice guitar work and "Red Light Paradise" adds a darker Sav(y) touch to its cool riffs.

The band rerecorded "Out On The Streets" (from "Siren") which is a nice slower piece, though hardly distinguishable from the original and shows the band were struggling for filler. The 2 covers are done nicely, but don't have the Savatage feel to help them stand out. "Day After Day" is super catchy and sticky sweet with some beautiful melodies. A very nice song. "Wishing Well" is not bad, but nothing to write home about. The fact that this is the ONLY Savatage album to feature covers speaks volumes.

My copy came with 2 bonus live songs "The Dungeons Are Calling" and "City Beneath The Surface" which are of killer quality and damned fine songs.

"Fight For The Rock" is actually pretty good ... for a rock album. As Jon Oliva states, it is not a Savatage album. It's unfortunate the mess the band went through with this album, but it can be pretty much forgiven with the solid effort of "Hall Of The Mountain King" that came next.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's A Power I'm Drawing ...

On Savatage's Third outing the band softens a bit leaving more accessible songs that lose most of the dark, bleak feel of the "Dungeon's ..." EP. "Power Of The Night" is by no means a bad album, it's chalked full of catchy riffs, screeching solos and gravelly melodies. This is one the first "early" Savatage albums I picked up and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Power Of The Night" kicks off with the albums title track which is a mid-fast paced anthem that is instantly hooky and memorable. "Unusual" is a catchy galloper with an eerie chorus assisted by subtle keyboards.

The dark edge is not completely lost. "Necrophilia" is a mid-fast pace song with some killer riffs. "Fountain Of Youth" is pretty dark with some cool guitar work and wicked breakdown which showcases Jon Oliva's unique vocal qualities. This is a fun song, but it has a disjointed feel. Like tacked together parts that don't have a continuous flow.

"Washed Out" and "Skull Session" are fast and heavy with thick galloping riffs and wailing solos that never sacrifice melody. "Hard For Love" is a toss away rocker with a strong commercial feel that's made for radio. It's catchy, but just doesn't feel right here. "Stuck On You"s commercial rock feel is not as cheesy, but still a throwaway.

"In The Dream" is the album closing ballad whose sombre passion lets the listener ease out of the record. It's a nice tune with some cool solos. My favourite song here is "Warriors". It starts off quiet and atmospheric before kicking in with a killer mid-pace riffs and solos. It's the song that sticks with me long after I've stopped listening to the album.

Overall "Power Of The Night" is a solid album, though not their best work. The band at this point was really laying down a distinct style and the Oliva brothers really shine here.

However, the band took a step back with their next release. The lackluster "Fight For The Rock".

That's coming up next.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Madness Reigns!

Where "Sirens" suffered with a few clunker tracks, the follow-up ep (apparently recorded during the "Sirens" sessions) "The Dungeons Are Calling" makes up for in spades. Even the throw away Motorhead inspired track "The Whip" is a solid pummeling slab of 80's heavy metal.

"The Dungeons Are Calling" is one of my favourite Savatage albums of their early sound and is super dark blurring the lines of heavy metal and speed metal with killer riffs and solos and solid song-writing whose quality won't be matched until 1987's "Hall Of The Mountain King".

The album opens with Sava's signature haunting intro as it eases us into the bleak onslaught that is the title track. "By The Grace Of The Witch" doesn't let up with it's dark melodies and catchy riffs. "Visions" picks up the pace with speed metal flourishes and "Midas Knight" slows us back down with a clean intro and heavy mid-paced riffs.

"City Beneath The Surface" is a stand out track with floydian keyboard intro and a heavy brooding Sabbath inspired doom style riff. The rest of the song is straight forward dark heavy metal. Though the title track is my favourite, this is a close second.

The 3 bonus tracks here are even pretty solid. "Metalhead" is a raw blistering rocker, "Before I Hang" is mid-paced cruncher with "Streets ..." style screeching riffs. "Stranger In The Dark" is a power ballad which has early usage of the pre-chorus riff and lyrics from "This Is Where You Should Be" from "From The Gutter To The Stage" and the solo and rhythm guitar part of "Follow Me" from "Edge Of Thorns". It was fun to hear an early recording which ended up being dissected and put to better use.

The hidden "rap" is amusing if not skip-able. "The Dungeons Are Calling" is a flat out fine example of traditional heavy metal. It's dark, heavy and melodic. Jon Oliva's vocals find their own here. His rasp tears through like gravel with a strong sense for melody and he hones his screeches that would eventually crown him the Mountain King.

Coming up next is Savatage's 2nd full-length and 3rd offering "Power Of The Night"

In case you haven't noticed, I've been way behind in posts, but I'm hoping to be caught up soon.
Thanks loyal readers for continually checking!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

You're Approaching The Island Of The ....

As I've stated in a few of my posts, Savatage is my favourite band. It's hard for me to narrow that down, but if asked Savatage is the band. I first got exposed to Savatage in Highschool by the Nielsen brothers who introduced me to "Edge Of Thorns". I then picked up "Streets ..." and "Hall Of The Mountain King". I was hooked.

"Sirens" the bands debut was hard to find and so I only got it via iTunes to round out my collection. Although this album features one of my favourite Savatage songs (the title track) the album as a whole is not one I spin through frequently.

"Sirens" is raw traditional heavy metal and hints at the bands early unique sound that would peak (in my opinion) on "Hall Of The Mountain King". The title track kicks of the album with a killer riff and haunting intro. It's dark and catchy. "Holocaust" continues the dark riff work and is nice and heavy. These songs are most like the sound Savatage would polish on later releases.

"On The Run" is a mid-paced rocker with a dark groove. "Rage" and "Scream Murder" are straight up heavy metal with "Rage" having a Motorhead feel. "Living For The Night" and "Twisted Little Sister" are not bad, but seem like filler. "I Believe" has a melodic opening before jumping into an aggressive groove with a fine solo.

The album ends with the power ballad "Out On The Streets" whose sombre melody hints at a bleak hopefulness. I've always enjoyed Savatage's ballads. The bonus tracks are not bad either with "Target" being another ballad and "Living On The Edge Of Time" being faster and melodic. The hidden track ("Island Of The Kings" as listed on iTunes) is a sweet acoustic instrumental that's catchy and vivid.

Overall, I enjoyed "Sirens" and it was a solid start for the band. However, it's the follow-up ep "Dungeons Are Calling" which shows the bands true potential.

That's coming up.