Sunday, October 26, 2008

The End Of Savatage ... ?

Although Jon Oliva had stepped down as vocalist for Savatage, he remained around and helped pick Zak Stevens as his replacement. Jon continued to write and perform piano/keyboards with the band while pursuing a solo project with Chris Caffery.

"Edge Of Thorns" sees Savatage return to straight forward heavy metal while retaining the progressive sound introduced on "Gutter Ballet". The production here is much improved and Chriss' guitars regain their signature crunch. "Edge Of Thorns" is the first Savatage album I bought as it was their newest release when I was introduced to them by the Nielsen brothers in high school.

Starting off with the title track, "Edge Of Thorns" begins with a piano riff that's soon joined by guitars and the band. It's a melodic tune with a galloping riff and a nice solo. "Lights Out" is a faster song with wailing guitar work. "Skraggy's Tomb" is a haunting reflection on alcoholism both sombre and moving .

"Labyrinths" is a vivid instrumental along the lines of "Last Dawn" from "Hall Of The Mountain King" which seamlessly transitions into "Follow Me", my favourite song on this album. The finger picking intro is super melodic and Zak shows his range here with his velvety voice. The song builds into a passionate metal tune with great solo work.

"Exit Music" is a piano instrumental which really should have been at the end of the album because it literally feels like end credits music or a theme playing people out. It's a beautiful piece. "Degrees Of Sanity", "Conversation Piece" and "Damien" are solid melodic crunchers with some unique and heavy riffs. This reminds us fans that Savatage still know how to be metal.

"All That I bleed" is a raw piano driven song both haunting and hopeful. A very moving song with a beautiful solo. "Miles Away" begins quietly and builds into a rocking uplifting song. The album closer "Sleep" is a sombre acoustic song simple and moving.

"Edge Of Thorns" is a fine follow up to "Streets" and continued to grow as song-writers. The addition of Zak Stevens was great. His soothing tones complimented Chriss' gritty guitar work.

Unfortunately, the rock world was delivered a shocking blow when founding member and lead guitarist Chriss Oliva was killed by drunk driver on October 17th 1993. At least he was able to leave his musical mark with some of metals greatest songs before his life was cut short.

Would Savatage continue on after this tragedy? We'll find out with my next review of Savatage's "Handful Of Rain" album.


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