Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Savatage ~ The Dungeons Are Calling (EP)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: heavy metal, black metal, thrash, speed metal

Label: Metal Blade
Year: 1985

Home: Florida (disbanded)

Members: ~ Jon Oliva ~ vocals
Criss Oliva ~ guitars/b. vocals
Keith Collins ~ bass/b. vocals

Steve Wacholz ~ drums

The first two Savatage albums, Sirens & its follow-up two years later The Dungeons Are Calling, were actually recorded in the same three day marathon session. Although the music is essentially the same on the two releases the choice in what songs were given to what album makes a big difference. The both have a few weak tracks but due to its shorter length of only six songs Dungeons has a tighter focus, feels heavier because of it, is less experimental & has the added appeal of seemingly being thematically arranged around dark topics such as torture, witches, hell. It's lyrically black metal, though the songs don't fall into the typical approach as frontman/composer Jon Oliva is actually a storyteller in disguise lacing tales that feel like they come out of his own life, with the witches & dungeons only literary devices to discuss things like drug addiction, with his equally enchanting Alice Cooper-esque vocalizing. Some have called Sirens one of the earliest examples of death metal, which by association includes this album since they are both from the same session. But, really it's a combination of many of the metal forms that were floating around & a desire to just play fast, furious & venomous like noone had before. It can only be blamed on marketing & distribution that Savatage didn't become bigger than Metallica, who were going for similiar sounds, or other early speed metal bands. For those familiar with the later prog-metal Savatage ... or the Savatage after the death of guitarist Criss Oliva & the introduction of composer/producer Paul O'Neill & would include guitarists Chris Caffery, Alice Cooper's Al Pitrelli & Testament's Alex Skolnick ... this is really a completely different band. Some might even call this the true Savatage as it's the Savatage as helmed by Jon Oliva with his & the vision of his guitar playing brother to guide him, sink or swim. Though, surely it would be swim as one listen will belay that Criss Oliva very well could have been the next Randy Rhoads if given the big break & a little time to polish up his playing. He's raw & wild in a way that wasn't dominating the hair metal charts at the time culling from Accept, Judas Priest & Venom. For those who are curious about early Savatage if you are familiar with the Oliva/Caffery side project Doctor Butcher or Jon Oliva's Pain this is a short leap. For those who know Savatage via its current incarnation as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, in which Oliva doesn't perform with the band, The Dungeons Are Calling has a similiar sense of vocal theatrics but this is the heavy metal that TSO just poses as without ever actually pushing itself to fist-pumping levels. There's a few weaker tracks such as probably the most sex-laden song Savatage ever did "The Whip", but this is due to more to the shallow lyrical topic than anything else as it actually contains some great guitar slinging that current metal fans would fall in love with immediately ... if Savatage was still a viable entity in the current metal community. The later Special Edition release includes remastered songs & bonus tracks making it worth getting.

(featured on the World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast: episode 35 "The Dungeons Are Calling", September 2011, click here to listen)


2 comments:

  1. It was great to revist this Album Agian. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I consider it always gret to revisit early Savatage (early being the pre-Paul O'Neill days).

    ReplyDelete