Archive for Fight for the Rock

A Joint Post With Mike Ladano: Ranking Savatage Albums from Worst to First

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2022 by 80smetalman

After a successful joint post with 2Loud where we ranked Survivor albums from worst to first, I have decided to do it again, only this time with Mike Ladano. From our years of reading each other’s posts, we have learned that both of us are big Savatage fans. Therefore, it seemed mandatory that we write a joint post ranking Savatage albums from worst to first. The only difference is that this time, my sister Dawn and eldest son Jake are also offering their rankings as they are also big Savatage fans. It will be interesting to see which albums we agree on and how different our rankings are. So, enough of me rambling, here’s Savatage ranked from worst to first.

11, Fight For the Rock (1986)

It seems almost universally agreed that “Fight For the Rock” is the worst Savatage album, though I did point out the positives when I wrote about it. This album is too pop. Savatage were chasing hits and that’s the reason for this album. They do a cover of a 70s hit “Day After Day” but it lacks that Savatage metal influence. It is saying something when, at least in my opinion, the best song is a re-recording from the debut album.

10l Poets and Madmen (2001)

Here’s where some people might think I am a madman. First of all, this album is many steps above the one at the bottom, “Poets and Madmen” is a damn fine album. My only issue is that while there are some great tracks on the album, none of them would make my top ten list of Savatage songs. I have always considered the album the band’s last hurrah as it is their final studio album. “The Rumour” is my favourite track on the album and “Morphine Child” is also a great track. .

9. Guitar Ballet (1989)

Actually, it took a couple of listens between this one and “Poets and Madmen” to decide which got nine and which ten. “Guitar Ballet” won out for two reasons. One, Criss Oliva lays down some cool solos on it and two: it hosts my all time favourite Savatage song, “When the Crowds Are Gone” and the title track would make my top ten, maybe even five. What lets the album is that there are no real standout songs on the second side, “Mentally Yours” being the one exception. If the second side was as good as the first, I would have it higher in my rankings.

8. Power of the Night (1985)

When I wrote my post for “Power of the Night,” I said that I thought it was a rough draft for their breakout album which would come two years later and is ranked at number three. There are some very strong tracks on the album and the band’s hunger is plain to hear. In fact, there are no tracks I would consider weak, just maybe needing a bit more polish which would come on future albums. “Warriors” and “Necrophilia” are the best tracks here but hearing this album and the one which would come two year later, I am led to question further about what were they thinking with “Fight for the Rock?”

7. Handful of Rain (1994)

Credit to Jon Oliva where credit is due. “Handful of Rain” was the first album following the tragic death of guitarist Criss, Jon’s brother. It is reported that the band was in disarray following Criss’s death. It is said that “Handful of Rain” is the Savatage album not made by Savatage. What happened was that Zack Stevens still handled the vocals and they got Alex Skolnick from Testament to play guitar but Jon came out of retirement and performed the bass and drum duties. Even with all of that, a great album came out if it. The title track and “Taunting Cobras” are my faves but I also really like “Castles Burning.”

6. Sirens (1983)

I feel that it’s only fitting that the debut album, “Sirens” gets the middle spot. While I didn’t listen to the album until many years later, I can hear the potential behind the band. It is said that the album is split between the commercial route they could have taken, (we see where that went with “Fight for the Rock”) and the more metal route which Savatage is famous for. What I love about the album is the fact that Criss is let off the leash and hammers our some really great guitar solos, especially on the last two tracks, “Scream Murder” and “Out on the Streets.”

5. Streets- A Rock Opera (1991)

“Streets” is what it says in the title, a rock opera. Jon and Criss always wanted to make such a concept album and boy, what a great job they did here. The story is about the rise and fall of DT Jesus and the songs tell the story very well as well as the great musicianship which the band is famous for. There are some great standout tracks here like “Jesus Saves,” “Strange Reality” and my personal favourite, “Somewhere in Time.” I think my problem is that I lost the CD so it doesn’t get regular listens and Christmas is over. Maybe I can put it on my birthday list for June.

4. Wake of Magellan (1998)

“Wake of Magellan” is another concept album and it’s also a great one. It tells three stories, one about a brave attempt by a ship’s boatswain to save a stowaway from being thrown overboard. The second is the story of Irish reporter Veronica Guerin who died fighting the drug trade in her country. The final is the who the album is named after, Ferdinand Magellan, sails out into the Atlantic to give himself a glorious death. However, he sees a man drowning and saves him, therefore, regretting his decision and chooses life. Many great tracks adorn the album, the title track for one and “Complaint in the System.” “Blackjack Guillotine” and “Turns To Me” are also great tracks.

3. Hall of the Mountain King

I said when I posted about the album and I’ll say it again, “Hall of the Mountain King” was the breakthrough album for Savatage. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this album has ten great tracks, so many I won’t list them individually but my favourite is there for a listen. HoMK is the only album from the 1980s to make my top five but it definitely deserves its place. Jon”s refined shrieks of terror accompanied by Criss’s guitar make this album what it is.

2. Dead Winter Dead (1995)

Another great concept album focusing on the war in what was Yugoslavia which was going on at the time it was made. Listening to the tracks, I can hear why I think this is their best concept album, especially with all of those tracks. Criss Oliva might have no longer been with us but Al Pitrelli and Chris Cafferey do a great job in his place. Again, too many great songs to listen individually but my two favourites here both begin with “This.” The title track makes a good change up.

Edge of Thorns (1993)

There are several reasons why “Edge of Thorns” takes the number one spot. For one, this was the last album with Criss before his tragic death. It’s also the first album to feature Zack Stevens on vocals and his vocals gave the album the extra lift it needed. Of course the number of great tracks on the album has a lot to do with it as well although I still can’t figure out who Skraggy is and what’s so special about his tomb. A very personal reason why “Edge of Thorns” is number one is because the track “All That I Bleed” helped me get through the break up of my first marriage.

That was my list but now it’s time to share my sister’s and son’s lists.

My sister Dawn

Dawn’s List:

Note: she refused to rank Savatage’s first three albums as she feels they were unworthy.

8. Poets and Madmen

7. Wake of Magellan

6. Streets

5. Hall of the Mountain King

4. Guitar Ballet

3. Edge of Thorns

2. Handful of Rain

  1. Dead Winter Dead
My son Jake in the front. It’s also his third anniversary so will everyone please which him and his wife Grace a Happy Anniversary!

Jake’s List:

11. Fight For the Rock

10. Power of the Night

9. Sirens

8. Handful of Rain

7. Hall of the Mountain King

6. Wake of Magellan

5. Guitar Ballet

4. Edge of Thorns

3. Streets

2. Dead Winter Dead

  1. Poets and Madmen

That was the Savatage rankings from Dawn, Jake and myself and you can check out Mike’s rankings here:

Next post: Happy New Year

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Great Metal Albums of 1987: Savatage- Hall of the Mountain King

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2022 by 80smetalman

“Hall of the Mountain King” is the album which thrust Savatage into the spotlight of the heavy metal world. It is definitely a redeeming album for the band after the misstep that was “Fight for the Rock.” While, that album wasn’t as bad as many might say, it is nothing in comparison to the 1987 “Hall of the Mountain King.” This is a fantastic album hands down and the only album from the 1980s to make it into the top five of my favourite Savatage albums list.

My thought as to why this album was so successful is that they went back to what they did on the 1985 “Power of the Night” album. When I posted about that album, I stated that it was a blueprint for the iconic album I am posting about right now.

Savatage comes roaring out of the starting blocks with “24 Hours Ago” and it is clear that they aren’t going to take any prisoners. They are definitely firing on all cylinders here. That carries on with “Beyond the Doors of the Dark,” a no nonsense what we would call these days, power metal tune. Jon Oliva shrieks his way through the song but it sounds right with it. The shredding of brother Criss takes this track to even more dizzier heights. But better is yet to come!

All the things I wrote about Johnny Lee Middleton’s bass playing on the previous album goes even further here. He starts out “Legions of the Night” with a great bass line and combined with Criss’s six-string magic, make a lethal cocktail of cool heavy metal. Jon keeps his vocals shriek free but sings in a more raspier way and it works very well. Oh, did I mention how well Criss shreds on it?

That party is kept well and truly going on the following track “Strange Wings.” This goes more in the vein of what some would consider ‘traditional’ Savatage. This song would have been at home on any Savatage album and the best track on at least one. It’s a very strong melodic metal tune with all the key elements I have been writing about on the other tracks thus far.

Things take a breather on “Prelude to Madness.” It’s an instrumental and if those who want to categorize heavy metal into subgenres, then this is one of the first songs I would classify as progressive metal. Keyboards are brought in and they complement the track, especially as Criss does what Criss does best on it. Now, I’m not sure if the band meant it to happen but I think “Prelude to Madness” is the perfect intro to the title track and in my opinion, the best track on the album. It takes power metal and progressive metal, (okay, I’m using terms unheard of back in 1987), and blend them together to make one hell of a great song. Not only does Criss shred away here but his rhythm guitar spot in the middle of the song is just mind blowing. Jon’s shrieks are accompanied by a sinister laugh and the rhythm section is especially tight. Definitely a brilliant song, though I might be biased. Here’s the funny thing, even though it’s the best song on the album, it only comes in fourth in my favourite Savatage songs of all time list.

While the title track might be the best track, the remaining four tracks don’t take the album down in any way. “The Price You Pay” is a good solid song which keeps things ticking along nicely. Again, the band does everything right on it. However, things take an upturn, if that’s possible, on “White Witch.” This is the fastest track on the album with some great riffing from guess who? The bass and drums keep a pounding pace and I sometimes think that maybe Jon’s voice was more suited to songs like this. This is the one Savatage song which could get a mosh pit going. Following on is a short instrumental in which we get to hear Criss at his best before a very apt closer in “Devastation.” To quote song: “We should have listened to what Christ had to say.” There’s nothing new I can say about the track except it just ends the album extremely well.

Track Listing:

  1. 24 Hours Ago
  2. Beyond the Doors of the Dark
  3. Legions
  4. Strange Wings
  5. Prelude to Madness
  6. Hall of the Mountain King
  7. The Price You Pay
  8. White Witch
  9. Last Dawn
  10. Devastation

Jon Oliva- ‘The Grit’ vocals, piano

Criss Oliva- ‘The Crunch’ guitars

Johnny Lee Middleton- ‘The Thunder’ bass, backing vocals

Steve Wacholz- ‘Doctor Killdrums’ drums, percussion

There’s no denying I am a huge Savatage fan. Though I had heard of the band, it was “Hall of the Mountain King” which made me the big fan I am today. Of course, their other great albums help as well.

Next post: Battlezone- Children of Madness

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