Beyond the doors of darkness you will find
A thousand worlds for you to see
Take my hand and follow me"
One Word Review: Devastation
Those who thought that Savatage had gone soft with Fight for the rock only need to listen to the first few seconds of 24 hrs. ago before that illusion is shattered. After Producer and Sava-saviour Paul O'Neill discovered the band, Savatage were quick to avenge their slight detour with this classic Heavy Metal album. Powerful is the keyword here and it feels like the band had been re-energized and were determined to show everybody their Metal roots, while kicking some serious ass.
Hall of the mountain king was, and remains, the most aggressive Savatage album ever. All four members of the band do an outstanding job. Up front you have the challenging and virtuoso guitar playing of Cris Oliva (R.I.P.) and the insanely emotional screams of Jon Oliva, backed by the tightness of Johnny Lee Middleton on bass and Steve "Doc" Wacholz on drums. Four musicians at a new start to their career and a god-sent producer, make this is a total Metal attack. There are no ballads in sight on this album, just pure Heavy Metal.
The guitar work alone deserves a separate review with an off-the-scale rating. Criss Oliva's guitar screams aggression, energy, melody, and above all, emotion. Of all the Savatage albums he appears on, this one is my favorite guitar wise. Criss really outdoes himself and is all over the album, taking every chance to put in some kind of lead or other touch in the songs. No words are really sufficient to explain the feeling he puts into the notes. It is beyond amazing and has to be experienced. I can only sit with my mouth gaping open in a smile, thinking how much I would have loved to see this guy play live.
His brother, Jon Oliva is also a one of a kind singer. He is the most honest singer, I have ever heard. He sings straight from the heart, never holding back, but giving himself 100% to the songs. Some of the things he tries on this album are very brave, and he gets away with them due to his ragged raw emotion, which won me over a long time ago.
24 hrs. ago is a pretty complex Savatage song compared to their earlier work. A very aggressive riff is almost shattered by Jon's raw voice, but the raging guitar holds up and through the rest of the song, the two are screaming together. The last part, where the bass lays a foundation for Criss to show off is a very cool ending to the song, a song for the road.
The opening moment of Beyond the doors of the dark has been etched in my mind since I first heard it many years ago. It perfectly captures Jon, using what I like to call his "wicked storyteller voice" to create a huge atmosphere. A perfect intro to a dark and foreboding song. My personal highlights being the great heavy riff, and the "Psycho-Jon section", where his contrasting voices create a really cool passage.
Legions opens with a cool bass line, slowly being topped by Criss' guitar and Jon's overpowering scream. It is a song to the Savatage fans, and hearing Jon sing a line like "We're coming out tonight" makes me want to jump on the first plane to the U.S. to catch the band live, if only we were back in 1987. Of the three solos, my favorite is the second and longest, very beautiful and chilling.
Strange wings is extremely catchy and was the first song that really caught my interest. It has such a simple yet fantastic, powerful and melodic riff that I get an urge to play air guitar every time I hear it. The guitar work is varied and just really impressive. The highlight being the climax with just guitar and drums. Totally genius. Ray Gillen appears on background vocals too.
Prelude before madness is a very fitting title for this Metallic version of Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King", leading nicely to the title track, where pure madness does indeed ensue. Criss Oliva's chilling guitar lead, before the first words are sung, marks the perfect beginning to this Savatage classic. As he does in every song, Jon Oliva gives himself 100% and plays his parts to the extreme. Nobody has ever made such insane screams and gotten away with it so well. During the verses, he gives the song an epic feel by singing in a deeper voice than usual.
A favorite of mine is The price you pay. The whole song has a special feel, in part due to the powerful way Jon sings the lyrics. The riff in the verses gives a cool feeling to the song and again, so many things are going on guitarwise.
White witch can best be described as a fast adrenaline rush, which relates closely to the cocaine theme of the song. A good rocker, that would work great live, but not quite as interesting on record.
Last dawn is a short acoustic guitar piece by Criss and the only relaxing moment of the record. A nice breather before Devastation finishes the album on an epic note, with one of Criss' huge sweeping riffs during the verses lifting the song to higher ground. This song about the end of the word is a fitting end to this mighty Metal classic.
I have both the original release from 1987 and the re-release from 2002 from SPV. The 2002 version has some very cool liner notes by Clay Marshall as well as the lyrics for the songs. It has not been remastered and the sound is similar to the original release. The production is also the only thing that could be better on the album, as it is very compact and feels a little convoluted at times. While this does give the album a special atmosphere, I would have preferred just a tiny bit more clarity in the sound.
The songs are really what make the album so special and they have that timeless feel to them that defines a classic.
Written By Steen
Online: Thursday, July 2, 2015
Hall Of The Mountain King