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"Dead Winter Dead" (Atlantic)
"Edge of Thorns" (Atlantic)

"Dead Winter Dead" (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

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True or false? The year is 1995 and a metal band on major label completes a concept album. Believe it or not, it is true. Atlantic Records released Savatage's "Dead Winter Dead" in the mid '90s to little fanfare or critical acclaim. No doubt the success of Queensryche's "Operation: Mindcrime" had something to do with the likelihood of a concept album seeing the light of day even ten years after that masterpiece, but "Dead Winter Dead" qualifies as a gem that deserves to be heard by the legion of heavy metal fans everywhere.

"Dead Winter Dead" is a very accomplished concept. The background for the story is the tragic situation in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in the early '90s. A young Serbian man and a young Muslim woman find themselves on opposite sides of an ethnic war. In the midst of it all an old man continues to defy the odds by playing Beethoven and Mozart on his cello despite the artillery shells exploding around him. The young man and the young woman are soothed by the old man's music. Yet, one day the old man becomes a victim of the violence - the young man and young woman are drawn to the spot to find the old man dead from mortar explosions. At this point the young man and the young woman see each other and realize that ethnic differences are not the reason for a war - the story ends with them fleeing the war together.

Savatage draw a wealth of impassioned and spirited playing from this story line. The music is special as it places emphasis on the mood of the story at all times. Classical influences complement a solid fusion of hard rock and heavy metal for a remarkable musical piece that works in its entirety.

Lyrically, the story is told in chronological order with text substituting for lyrics in the instrumental pieces. The loss of innocence sprung forth from war's senseless destruction and forced maturity brought upon the young are the underlying themes. Savatage treat these subjects with dignity and grace. "Dead Winter Dead" is a very bold effort.

The emotional content is so high and so well deployed in an artistic form that I can't help but award "Dead Winter Dead" three chainsaws.

"Dead Winter Dead" was produced by Paul O'Neill (Aerosmith, Badlands) and co-produced by Jon Oliva (Savatage, Darklin Reach).

Savatage is Zak Stevens on vocals, Johnny Lee Middleton on bass, Chris Caffrey on guitar, Al Pitrelli on guitar, and Jeff Plate on drums. Jon Oliva contributed keyboards and additional vocals.

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"Edge of Thorns" (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Kate Smith

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"Edge of Thorns" is one of Savatage's more transitional albums. Not as hard as "Dungeons are Calling," Zak Stevens' voice fits into the progressive metal sound that this album holds.

Criss Olivia, one of the more underrated guitarists in metal, was unfortunately only featured on this album before he died in a tragic car crash. 

"Follow Me" will hold the listener's interest with quick changes in speed, time and dynamics and it pretty much shows off every member of the band. "He Carves His Stone," a dark melody about a man that lost his loved ones and prepares for his death, starts out gently with some light guitar but throws you by turning into a hard rocking tune with Zak's throaty screams and an awesome solo from Criss. 

"Edge of Thorns" may not be one of Savatage's best albums, but it's definitely worth giving a listen to.

Rating Guide:

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) A classic. This record will kick your ass.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) So-so. You've heard better.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

restinks.jpg (954 bytes) Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01 Dec 2019 12:47:26 -0500.