History & Biography
SAVATAGE - POWER OF THE NIGHT - EDEL
Speed metal classics are few and far between, but Savatage’s 1985 full-length debut Power Of The Night is clearly one.
Power Of The Night was an amazing album upon release an even more so because the Floridians had obtained a contract from a major label on the back of an underground album and an EP of prime heavy metal. Power Of The Night maintains the quality, speed and the inimitable sounds of the band despite the lingering presence of keyboards, which thankfully are used as fodder more than anything.
The album is riddled with marquee Savatagisms including Jon Oliva banshee screams, Criss Oliva’s unique riffs and crazed solos and a hard as nail rhythm section that pounds the metal into the skull in every session. Interestingly, the production by Max Norman shows its age on the CD edition with some fidelity loss manifested through a slight hiss in the background. Still, the album has a sharp vocal and guitar sound and an outstanding drum sound, which to this day stands out. Not only are Steve Wacholz’s snares lucid and present, but also his drums are tuned fully for heaviness.
After a minute of the wind blowing through the studio the title track kicks in and begins the album with a serious injection of speed and talent. What power! This song is a bona fide speed metal masterpiece and features lyrics that should have been included on Metallian’s 'most metal lyrics' poll. Unusual slows things down a bit in style before Warriors kicks in evoking gangland imagery. Perceptive listeners will hear a martial beat in the song. Washed Out lives a very simple riff and squealing guitars, while Hard For Love is an action-packed speed metal brawler with heavy intent. Fountain Of Youth is filler musically, but picks up on an interesting theme.
For such a heavy album, Power Of The Night contains several love songs including Unusual, Necrophilia, Hard For Love, Stuck On You and In The Dream. Necrophilia is, of course, the coolest, which is why one feels dismal to read about the maiden being undeservedly dejected.
This edition comes with a bonus song called Sleep, which does just that to the listener. Taking the word 'bonus' in vain the track turns the notion of the band as serious or extreme upside-down and ends the album on a sour note. Why the band would include a track that gives Elton John a run for his piano money is beyond mere mortals. Given that as the Lord Metallian we are immortal the explanation is that behind every man is a wimp and Savatage’s manifestation is this sappy ballad. Unfortunately, this track is correctly placed at the album’s end. Its position is accurate so far as the band’s subsequent album was the wimped-out Fight For The Rock.
Nonetheless, Power of The Night is a great album full of power, velocity, originality and unique assets all around. Raise The Fist Of The Metal Child! - Ali “The Metallian”
SAVATAGE - POETS & MADMEN - NUCLEAR BLAST
The new Savatage album Poets & Madmen is something of a 'back to the future' release for the Florida elder statesmen. But more on that later. For years the prestige band of Atlantic Records (ie the band that doesn't really sell enough for the major, but is kept for showcase reasons), Savatage has been released to Nuclear Blast in North America and Steamhammer in Europe. A European EP entitled Commissar (misspelled German for commissioner) was out a couple of months ago, but otherwise this is the band's first release in some three years. Not only has the band undergone a couple of label changes but also lost its singer and guitarist. It's the new line up that sees the band, while not completely regaining the heavier sounds of the early days, feature a sound a little more guitar-oriented and with Jon Oliva again front stage resembling something harder than the output of the past decade. It's all reminiscent of the story of Sisyphus: pushing boulders up the hill only to watch them roll back down immediately. The pomp, concept, piano, Queen-inspired harmonies, etc. are all still present. The band already has a new vocalist in tow whose direction is unclear. It's just that, as was the case on albums like Streets or Gutter Ballet, Savatage now incorporates some instances of heaviness. That and Jon Oliva's original vocals will probably mean a little more interest this time around on behalf of heavy metal fans. Otherwise persons like this writer will forever cling to the old LPs like Power Of The Night or Dungeons Are Calling as our only Savatagian treasures. - Ali "The Metallian"