SAVATAGE is clearly a great band. Even after Criss Oliva’s death, they were able to create a magnificent style, founding the Metal Opera fashion with their great compositions that evolve from album to album, until they crafted their own identity as part of the Progressive genre.
According to the band, this album had two different stories being told: One is about Veronica Guerin, an Irish crime reporter who was murdered; this incident being the reason the Criminal Assets Bureau was established; and the second one is related to a descendant of Fernando de Magallanes (His name in Spanish, translated is Magellan) who wants to die on the sea before having a vision and watching a man nearly drown. He changes his mind and has a new respect for life (Sound familiar?).
Even thought this makes the album look like a conceptual work, I think the pace of the production doesn’t show this particular feature. When you listen to it you will feel that you are listening to a very derivative work and later, the conceptual story of the album. Let me tell you why:
First of all, it seems like the album was strictly created based on the final part of the album. Instead of creating some sort of EP, they felt that it was required to create a full LP in order to put these songs there. The album shows a great beginning as “The Ocean” introduces us to atmospheric sounds that of a sailor would hear, and the tune “Welcome” brings a very spectacular introduction of the band. “Turns to Me” then creates the illusion that we are about to listen to a great harmonic, epic production.
After this, the album continues with songs that many SAVATAGE fans from previous albums will find generic, like they have heard them before. This doesn’t mean that the songs are bad, but the directions the compositions play along with the performance are nothing that we haven’t heard from them. I certainly feel like the producer said “We have four great songs, now let’s write some filling material that sound like SAVATAGE to complete an LP." If this is your first album then the previous statement won’t matter to you. You will be able to have a great reference about what to expect from the band in other albums, but for a hardcore fan, it will make you feel like “I'll rather listen to Edge Of Thorns or something previously released since it is better done."
The final part of the album, which starts with the title track, is the highlight of this marvelous work - these songs are the reason this album is worth listening. The songs bring the Metal Opera feeling all around. This series of songs are very emotional, perfectly executed with harmonies and are so well-written that they totally bring you the atmosphere of the tale that is being told. When each one of these tracks ends, it doesn’t lose essence with the next one. Personally, I love the title track and "Hourglass" as the highlights of the album. You let me know if you don’t feel chills in your spine at some moments when you listen to them. Zak Stevens’ awesome vocals show versatility, and even if the guitar work of Caffery and Pitrelli won’t impress you technically, the powerful approach they reach can surely inspire you.
As a bonus for the USA edition (the one currently reviewed), we had an acoustic version of four previous works mostly interpreted on piano by Jon Oliva. He shows some great arrangements to these new versions but his voice certainly sounded weak. Nevertheless, the tracks are worth listening to and a great addition to the uniqueness of the album.
Even with the apparent lack of substance as an overall work, the album is worth listening. If you are new to the band, you will find a clear reference about what to expect in other albums. If you are a hardcore fan, the last songs will show SAVATAGE’s talent at its best, and that is something no one in the Metal environment should miss.
(Online October 26, 2010)