Ah! the dreaded and often maligned concept album. Mastered by few imitated by many. So long the territory of Rock and Metal giants, be it based on knights on ice, far away worlds or fragmented dreams the dreaded concept album has been both a nadir and zenith of many a bands' career.
Described as interminably pretentious over indulgent and generally as appetising as Fred Durst at an after dinner speech concept albums are not for the feint of heart.
However one band has managed to keep alive this format through dedication, bombast and not to little skill and endeavour. From lowly beginnings as a tour de force Power Metal band SAVATAGE has carved an almost lonely niche in the Rock spectrum for two decades continually evolving from the constraints of Power Metal to super sleek Progressive Rock concept album wielding machine.
It’s not been without its criticisms and might be missing that all important wedge of Heavy Metal but in 1991 with their first concept album relating the age old tale of sex, drugs and Rock n Roll SAVATAGE turned themselves from an impressive underground Metal band into skilled, exuberant and risk taking Rock band.
The triumvirate of vocalist Jon Oliva, guitarist Criss Oliva and producer Paul O’Niell combined to recorded a master class in top quality Rock and Metal. From the powerful, heavy weight bellow of Jon Oliva to the intricate solos and pounding riffs of Criss Oliva all spruced up by a magnificent production by O’Neill ‘’Streets – A Rock Opera’’ swings from all out ball busters like ‘’Jesus Saves’’, to super ballads in the shape of ‘Tonight He Grins Again’’, then to stadium Rockers like ‘’Strange Reality’’, through impassioned vocal driven songs like ‘’A Little Too Far’’, then backed to SLADE meets KISS meets QUEEN in the catchy ‘’You’re Alive’’.
The chunky VAN HALEN-esque riffing of ‘’Sammy And Tex’’ matched by a rasping vocal line by Jon Oliva injects some steel into proceedings whilst the concert favourite ‘’Ghost In The Ruins’’ with Oliva pushing the vocals chords to an impressive level only delivers another sledge hammer riff from Criss Oliva. And if that’s not enough check out ‘’Agony And Ecstasy’’ for some of Criss Oliva’s best riff and solo work.
Bordering on the exquisite, the emotion and the passion are there for all to hear. So often forgotten about SAVATAGE is a true vestige of pioneering Heavy Metal. I can’t think of a band so influential and revered that they are still an almost unknown quantity. Record sales might indicate popularity but I would trade every million plus selling Metal album if the majority could produce masterpieces like this without a doubt.
(Online May 5, 2007)