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, April 1, 2012

Savatage ~ Power Of The Night

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: heavy metal, prog-rock
Label: Atlantic
Year: 1985
Home: Florida (disbanded)

Members: Jon Oliva ~ vocals/keyboards
Criss Oliva ~ guitars
Keith Collins ~ bass
Steve Wacholz ~ drums


Power Of The Night is the third album by legendary prog-metallers Savatage, though in some ways the second as both Sirens & The Dungeons Are Calling are from the same exhaustive three day session. This is also the final with the original line-up. Being that the first two Savatage albums are from the same session there's no growth in the music, so its here that we first see the band move a step forward ... & a slight step back. That step forward is most obvious in the slick commercial polish that graces the album via a bigger budget & more time in the studio courtesy of their new label Atlantic, though the Randy Rhoads-esque riffing & Dio-esque rock opera singing are still there courtesy of brothers Jon & the late Criss Oliva. Jon gives all his trademark growls, screams, force & power unlike few other singers on the scene then, attempting to do more than just sing but create vocal magic & move heavy metal into the realm of prog-rock. There's also a step forward in that guitar riffs are now more focused & tighter showing the development of Criss's playing. But, with the slick polish & tighter playing comes with the removal of any overall feeling & mood, while the roughness that made the previous releases feel like a climb out of the Florida swamp is washed away. It's still a dark & gloomy band, but not dark, gloomy & wildman raw. Further, the lyrics are much weaker than what came before. Insted of creating more songs like the fantastic epic "The Dungeons Are Calling", a song actually about drug addiction, songwriter Jon Oliva has taken more to songs of fist raising poser rock'n'roll & sex. There were some of these on Sirens & are the weakest tracks, so its ashame he goes in that direction more than not here. He's one of the most under-rated wordsmiths in heavy metal ... with Power Of The Night not helping his reputation much. Though, "Unusual" is a haunting love ballad of a strange woman that would fit perfectly on MTV if given the chance, let alone opens the door to discovering Jon's lyrical talents, making up where some of the others songs fail. As for those failures it's like he didn't really have anything to sing about or he was trying to blend in more with the surrounding music scene, while what would eventually make him a cult legend was his not blending in. In terms of not blending in there are some hints of where Savatage would later go. Original bassist Keith Collins has said that Jon Olivia always wanted the rock opera outcome that would later transform Savatage into the enigmatic Trans-Siberian Orchestra but was unable to get there on his own terms. This vision makes itself first known here, as hindsight displays. Check out the dramatic keyboard break on "Warriors", while "Fantasy Of Youth" has the same feeling that would come to dominate the ballads in the years ahead. The final track "In The Dream" ends the album on a tremendous high with the biggest ballad yet created by Savatage & its nothing but early Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It's not to be missed. If all one hears are these few cited songs one will certainly walk away inspired. Savatage is a band that does inspire & that's what keeps it alive fifteen years after its death while so many other bands lie forgotten. Given its the original line-up there's also a different feeling in the rhythm section. Keith Collins, though he's quoted as saying he's not the player his successor Johnny Lee Middleton is, has a style that's more driving in a Geezer Butler style, versus Middleton who shadows more & throws in flourishes. The difference might be indiscernable to non-musicians. Collins would actually have some of his parts overdubbed by Criss Oliva when the brothers weren't happy with the result. This was a fact Collins wouldn't discover until 2011 from a note I wrote to him. In an interesting footnote the producer of the album is the same that would go on to do Megadeth's classic groundbreaking Countdown To Extinction. "Hard For Love" & "Skull Session" earned a parental advisory sticker for the album increasing sales, a technique employed on the follow-up Fight For The Rock.

(featured on the World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast: episode 73 "Power Of The Night," March 2012, click here to listen)


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