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) (last update 5/23/2017)

June 17, 2012

Backhill Project ~ Tribute To Savatage (EP)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: tribute, prog-metal, hard rock, Finnish
Label: self-released
Year: 2010
Home: Finland

Members: Kimmo Peramaki ~ vocals/guitars/keyboards/drum programming
Mikael Kontolampi ~ bass

This tribute to Florida prog-metal legends Savatage by the BP is not as bad as the Return Of The Mountain King compilation by an array of European underground prog-metal bands or the one copycat album by the Trans-Sylvanian Orchestra ... it also isn't the best, but getting far closer than probably any tribute before it. Albeit, really, nobody can do a Savatage song quite right with the same spirit ... even including off-shoots Jon Oliva's Pain, Circle II Circle & Savatage's later incarnation as Trans-Siberian Orchestra ... & that's why no Savatage tribute is a spotless affair. Criss Oliva was raw & rough with his Randy Rhoads licks flying, so raw it hurt at times, while later guitarists Alex Skolnick & Al Pitrelli had a long background of session & lead guitar work spanning the musical range that is hard to duplicate by a young player. Nobody has brother Jon Oliva's theatrical voice & few Zak Stevens deep nuanced deep croon. Then there's producer Paul O'Neill who brought prog-rock & classical music together in a fusion not heard by Dream Theater, Rainbow or Yngwie Malmsteen, ELP or any other classically infused musician. Maybe someone can imitate part of the equation, but there's so many variables that makes Savatage an enigmatic entity that it's impossible to truly imitate. One can get the notes right but the spirit lacks. While the songs loose everything when disassembled to become a new entity & so far no band has tried that approach. The problem is that imitation over recreation is a fine line to walk, whoever the band being imitated or doing the imitating. BP is the solo work of guitarist/vocalist Kimmo Peramaki of Finland's Masquerage plus bassist Mikael Kontolampi. Imitating Savatage puts a lot on Kimmo's shoulders & its a bit too much. It's not that he doesn't turn out four great songs, the problem is he falls under the weight. The songs are interesting, but don't quite hit the same emotional highs as the originals. He hits the notes, but doesn't get the soul inside the songs. It seems that the best tributes are when a band just does a song or two on an album, which has seen lots of successful outcomes, versus giving over an entire album to a single band. The biggest problem is that Kimmo is not the vocalist of either Oliva or Stevens. While Savatage is a prog-metal with not a hint of L.A. hair metal but in Kimmo's fingers it sounds like a hair metal band. There's a poseur show-off quality typical of that genre. But, it should be said in Kimmo's defense he knows the challenge of copying his favorite band. As he writes in the linear notes notes: "[Savatage's] music is not only energy, it's pure art! ... In my opinion, nobody can learn & play the guitar solos like Criss did." The album is offered free so there's no reason not to look for it & draw your own conclusion, but largely only fans of Savatage, BP or Masquerage will be interested. If nothing else its just nice seeing someone give tribute to Savatage, who greatly deserve more than they've received. Songs covered include: "Gutter Ballet", "Power Of The Night", "Edge Of Thorns" & "Strange Wings".

(featured on The World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast: episode 87 "Strange Wings & Backhill Project", June 2012, click here to listen)

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