1995’s album “Dead Winter Dead“ has been the second concept album after the very successful and revered “Streets“ disc. The story revolves around the war on the Balkans in the early 90s and especially around an event that could have taken place in Sarajevo back then.
Everything is packed into an equally demanding musical concept. Because of the story most of the songs are rather calm and epic, the opening instrumental “Overture” sets the pace of the album right away. More orchestra and calmer parts, less tempo and heaviness. With “This Is The Time“, “This Isn’t What We Meant“ and “Not What You See“ we get three semi ballads on “Dead Winter Dead”, which I do not want to be regarded as negative, who knows the ballads and semi ballads of SAVATAGE knows that they never are getting sappy. The three songs even are among my personal faves on this album. Who already fears for this album, calm down, of course we still get the typical SAVATAGE Power Metal of the Eighties, just take “I Am“ or “Doesn’t Matter Anyway“ and you’ll be relieved.
Once more the singing of vocal god and by now unfortunately former singer Zak Stevens is incomparable. When this man starts to sing, he takes you onto a roller coaster ride of emotions. Especially the half ballads bring goose bumps to your whole body. The other musicians are their usual skilful selves, you cannot argue about the rhythm section of Johnny Lee Middleton (bass) and Jeff Plate (drums) and guitarist Chris Caffery is one of the best out there as well. Second axe swinger is Al Pitrelli, who later had a stint with MEGADETH. Hmm, there is somebody missing, you think? Exactly, the “Mountain King” himself: Jon Oliva. At the time of the recordings for “Dead Winter Dead“ it had been very quiet around Jon and he had stepped back a bit, also to work on his TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA project. Still he, of course, can be heard on “Dead Winter Dead”, for one he did the keyboard/piano parts, for the other he added some backing vocals. Not to forget that together with Paul O’Neill he has written all the songs and the duo also is responsible for the good production. The sound always fits the mood of the record and greatly conveys the emotions of the story.
“Dead Winter Dead“ is an album without any true weaknesses. Some die hard fans will hold SAVATAGE’s move towards calmer sounds against the band, but as usual this is a matter of taste. For me “Dead Winter Dead” is the last really completely good SAVATAGE album until today. If you draw a direct comparison, then it is only one per cent behind “Streets”. It is epic, emotional and still has the necessary power, where it is needed. SAVA fans need to have this album and fans of the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA should get it as well, if they are not SAVATAGE fans already anyway. All other Power Metal freaks that do not know SAVATAGE at all yet should feel ashamed…(grin).
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