Archive for Hall of the Mountain King

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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Great Metal Albums of 1983: Savatage- Sirens

Posted in 1980s, Concerts, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2017 by 80smetalman

220px-savatage_sirens_original_cover

UK Version

UK Version

“Sirens,” the debut album from one of my favourite bands of all time, is probably the only album released in 1983, which I actually own on CD. All the others, are either on vinyl or cassette. Plus, my copy is the 2011 remaster which has three really good bonus tracks. The reason for this is that they didn’t come to my attention until I saw them live in support of Ted Nugent in 1986. I was impressed with their music although I have to admit at the time, Jon Oliva’s vocals that evening didn’t totally bowl me over. However, that was enough to check out their album at the time, “The Power of the Rock” and I liked it. For some reason, I never inquired of any records before that and while I bought all the subsequent albums, I didn’t realize they had albums preexisting Power. Curse me for a fool but now I’ve fully rectified that.

Let’s pretend for a moment, I did things properly and bought “Sirens” when I should have. I would have still been totally impressed with this album and the band and would have loved them from that point. If I heard this and their other three albums before I had seen them live, I would have simply assumed that Jon was having a off night and enjoyed their show that much more. That is because “Sirens” has all the qualities which have made me a mad ‘Tage follower.

One problem I have discovered from listening to a CD in the car is that driving distracts you from properly listening to the album. I have always liked it when I listened while driving but I often missed the intricate little details that Savatage put in their songs and only now that I am listening it in the house, do I fully appreciate how good it is. Every song on the track radiates classic Savatage from the almost mysterious opener, “Sirens,” to the closer, “Out in the Streets.” Each song has it’s own identity while reminding you who’s singing and playing the song. If I have to pick favourites, it has to be “Scream Murder,” which barely beats out the closer.

For all my lack of impression of Jon’s vocals when I saw ‘Tage that evening in July, 1986, he sounds fine on “Sirens.” Even that shriek he is more famous for on “Hall of the Mountain King” is done very nicely on the title track here. He sound even more mental (in a good way) on “Rage.” Therefore, while even the hardest Savatage fan, if that’s not me, knows that Jon’s vocal ability is limited, he does very well with what he has here. As for brother Criss, his best guitar solos are on the last two tracks, probably why they’re my favourite, he does some really catchy hooks throughout the album. His solo on “I Believe” is quite good too. While the brothers Oliva show their stuff here, the rhythm section of Steve Wacholz on bass and Keith Collins on drums do their part in making this album so good. Hearing the album as I have the past few days, I think it knocks “Handful of Rain” off the number five spot on my list of favourite Savatage albums.

Track Listing:

  1. Sirens
  2. Holocaust
  3. I Believe
  4. Rage
  5. On the Run
  6. Twisted Little Sister
  7. Living for the Night
  8. Scream Murder
  9. Out on the Streets

Savatage I couldn't find a photo of this lineup online so I scanned the back cover of the CD

Savatage
I couldn’t find a photo of this lineup online so I scanned the back cover of the CD

Jon Oliva- shrieks of terror, vocals

Criss Oliva- metalaxe, guitars

Steve ‘Dr Kildrums’ Wacholz- barbaric canon, bass

Keith Collins- the bottom end, drums

Savatage’s debut album might have escaped my notice in 1983 but I did eventually get to listen to it. I slightly regret not getting “Sirens” then as it would have been the beginning of my loyal devotion to this band. However, no use fretting because even though it is such a great album, Savatage would go onto to bigger and better things. Still, what a great springboard to launch from.

Next post: Raven- All For One

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