Author Topic: The Savatage Discography - Result and cause...  (Read 22100 times)

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Offline The Dark Master

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The Savatage Discography - Result and cause...
« on: August 07, 2015, 01:10:31 PM »
Introduction - Hi! Welcome to Hell!

Welcome, metalheads, to the Savatage discussion thread!  Over the course of the following weeks I shall delve deep into the history and music of one of the most influential and underrated bands in the whole of heavy metal.

   I feel the word “underrated” tends to get thrown around a bit too loosely when talking about music, especially music that thrives in the underground, like metal.  Most, if not all, people have their own personal favourite bands and artists that they have to introduce to their friends because, for whatever reason, said artists were never able to break into the mainstream in a significant way.  For many of us music lovers, and particularly for metal fans, this is a common dilemma with which we can all empathize.  We've all had those moments of discovering a new band that blew us away, only to receive blank stares from friends and family when raving about our recent musical findings. 

   That being said, I think it goes without saying that for many bands who never break into the mainstream, the reasons why are fairly obvious.  Whether it is bad timing, lack of label support, the wrong singer, noncommercial songwriting, or various other causes, there is usually something that betrays a band's failure for being able to break into mainstream success.  Even if we, as fans, cannot accept such explanations, we can at least understand them.

   But every once in a while, there is a band that seemed to have all the elements needed to make it big.  A major label deal, strong support of MTV's Headbanger's Ball, a world-renowned producer/composer, a ripping instrumental section spearheaded by one of the most innovative guitarists of the day, and a songwriting team so versatile and talented they were second to none.  Savatage had all these elements going for them.  And yet, during the roughly two decades they were active after the release of their first album in 1983, not once did they produce a gold record, and they fared little better for live attendance at their concerts.  From the band's birth in the raw and wild underground metal scene of the early 80's to a slow, withering death in the early 2000's, the band spent most of their career slugging it out in clubs worldwide, even in countries where their support was the strongest.  Certainly various tragedies and misfortunes plagued the band throughout their careers, but were these alone enough to derail their apparent destinies as metal superstars?  The band's dogged persistence would argue otherwise.  For whatever reasons (and there are many), commercial success eluded Savatage even when all the elements needed to make them into one of the biggest bands on the planet seemed to be perfectly aligned.

   This apparent injustice, all too familiar for many metal fans, is particularly acute with Savatage due to the massive commercial and critical success of their side project, Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  The musical links between Savatage and TSO go beyond simply having many of the same musicians involved in both bands: the very song that turned TSO into a worldwide phenomena was released as a Savatage song first!  Not re-recorded, not even re-mixed, simply re-released under a different name!  Furthermore, the very sound of TSO was a direct continuation of a distinctive musical formula Savatage had been developing since the late 80's, and had perfected by the mid 90's.  If blame for Savatage's lack of success can be laid anywhere, it is certainly not at the feet of their songwriting prowess.  Nor can it be attributed to their unique blend of heavy metal, progressive rock, classical music, and, most distinctive of all, Broadway musicals, a blend which has served TSO very well over the years.  To this day, TSO continues to sell out arenas, while Savatage lies dormant in obscurity.

   Discovering why Savatage failed to attain the critical and commercial success so readily due them is something I shall explore in this thread.  But this discussion will be, first and foremost, about the music.  Few bands can be said to have gone through such drastic changes in style as Savatage.  It is entirely possible to play two Savatage albums back to back and not know they are by the same band without prior knowledge, a truly amazing and bewildeing fact.  It is in their diversity, as well as the unique blend of the sound they created that Savatage have exerted their greatest influence on succeeding generations of metal bands.  From the bone crushing heaviness of The Dungeons Are Calling to the epic, sweeping symphonic rock opera of Dead Winter Dead, it is not difficult to image how they inspired the bands who came after them, and it leaves one to wonder were the myriad sub-genres of the metal world would be today had Savatage not tread so many paths before them.  Power, progressive, symphonic, even a bit of death and doom in their early days, Savatage pioneered many flavours of metal before they became sub-genres in their own right throughout the course of the 90's.  It is only relatively recently that they are being acknowledged for the considerable influence they cast over the bands that followed in their wake.  For this reason alone, Savatage deserves the respect of metal fans the world over.

   So strap yourselves in for a musical journey the likes of which few other metal bands have endured.  I feel far too many only listen to one or a handful of the band's albums, and in so doing fail to see the wild, epic, and ultimately tragic picture of one of the greatest bands of all time.  Once you have experienced the Savatage story from beginning to end, you will never look at the band in quite the same way as you did before, if you had even looked at them at all.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2015, 03:56:34 PM by The Dark Master »

Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Into: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2015, 01:13:55 PM »
I would like to apologize for not yet having completed the write-up and historical overview for Sirens.  This weekend is looking to be rather busy for me, so I will most likely finish that and have it posted sometime Monday afternoon.  After that, I will try to have a new post for each consecutive album completed by the following Monday, circumstances permitting.  Stay tuned!

Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Into: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2015, 01:15:17 PM »
Dark Master, that is one hell of an OP. I will be following.

A couple of questions for you. I apologize if this is too personal, but how old are you, and when/how did you become a Savatage fan?
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2015, 01:55:42 PM »
Thank you, and no, it's not too personal.  In fact, it is rather fitting that I start this thread with a bit of info on myself and how I got into the band.

I am 32, nearly 33.  I discovered Savatage and TSO back in the late 90's.  I had been hearing "Christmas Eve (Sarajavo 12/24)" on the radio every holiday season since around ' 95 or ' 96, but it was not until around 2001 (at which point I was getting into progressive metal like Dream Theater, Symphony X and Queensryche in a big way) that I finally bothered to check out in any depth the band(s) that had created what had by then become one of the most recognizable Christmas songs on the planet.  At that point, TSO's popularity was already starting to eclipse Savatage, so naturally I gravitated toward them first.  However, at that point two out of the three TSO records were Christmas albums.  Despite the fact that the song by which I had discovered them was a Christmas song, their Christmas albums at first bored me a quite a bit (I have since come to appreciate them rather more), and their sole non-holiday record, Beethoven's Last Night left me wanting more.  It was at that point that I decided to check out Savatage.

My first album by them was Hall of the Mountain King, largely because I love the original song by Edvard Grieg and wanted to hear the band that had made  "Christmas Eve (Sarajavo 12/24)" and  Beethoven's Last Night do a rendition of that tune.  After hearing BLN, it was nothing like I had imagined!  However, as a huge fan of 80's metal, I dug it a lot.  The album presented a sort of missing link between the metal I had grown up on (Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Ozzy, Dio, Iron Maiden, etc) and the newer prog-metal bands I was just getting into.  It had hard-hitting metal tracks like the title cut, but also elements of more progressive music like "Prelude to Madness".  I eventually worked my way through their entire discography, going back to Sirens and working my way forward.  When listening to their older stuff, I found it a little difficult to believe that this band was the same group of artists that had created TSO, ("Prelude to Madness" being the only immediate indication of any obvious connections).  It was not until I got around to hearing Gutter Ballet that I began to understand, and by the time I had reached Dead Winter Dead and The Wake of Magellan, I was overcome with awe at the dramatic changes the band had undergone, and all so successfully.

Unfortunately, I could not have discovered the band at a worse time!  Savatage played their last shows the following year in Europe, so I never got to see them live.  As the years went by, and TSO got bigger and bigger while Savatage disappeared into obscurity, I became increasingly bitter about the whole situation.  After around 2005, I had stopped listening to Savatage (and TSO) entirely.  I never even bothered with any of their side projects at that point in my life.  I did not revisit Savatage again until 2009.  I did revisit TSO in 2007, but that was only because I was working retail at the time and while we were allowed to play our own music, for the month of December, we could only play Christmas songs, so TSO was my fall back option  :lol .

Eventually, in 2009, I heard "Hall of the Mountain King" while a friend of mine was introducing me to the video game Brutal Legend (the song is in the game's soundtrack).  That finally prompted me to revisit Savatage, rediscover their entire discography anew, and remember how great the band was.  I also got caught up on the various side projects the band's members had been producing in the interim.  I even got over my bitterness toward TSO about the death of Savatage and started attending their concerts, and I have been going ever since.  Savatage rejoined my pantheon of "Greatest Bands Ever", and have since sat comfortably along side Dream Theater and Symphony X as part of my holy trinity of favourite metal bands.

But but most importantly, I began seeking out band member interviews.  At first, it was largely in the vain effort of looking for any sliver of hope that the band would reunite, but that rapidly changed as I became immersed in the band's history.  I sought out every source of information on Savatage to find out exactly what the hell happened in that band, since their birth in the early 80's to their ultimate demise over 20 years later.  In the process, I accumulated a vast knowledge of the history of Savatage, which, combined with my love of their music has given me something of a special relationship with the band.

Needless to say, my history with Savatage has been a bit of a rough one, and it wasn't until a couple years ago that I have finally come to accept they way things have played out on their stage.  It's been something of a bittersweet experience for me.  On the one hand, I love their music more then ever, but on the other hand, there are a lot of things that have happened to the band over the years that I felt could have, and perhaps should have, gone differently.  But I have ultimately reconciled myself with the band's current state, and become a devoted fan of TSO and JOP.  I enjoy the side projects of the other members as well, but for me, TSO and JOP are the two that come the closest to recapturing the magic that was Savatage.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2015, 04:23:43 PM by The Dark Master »

Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2015, 02:31:12 PM »
DM, I saw Savatage once, and you were 5 years old! :lol
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2015, 02:37:52 PM »
DM, I saw Savatage once, and you were 5 years old! :lol

I know, and I am rather jealous of you for that!   :lol  Although, then again, it sounds like you had caught Jon on one of his "off" nights.  I have seen a good deal of bootlegged material from that era, and Jon, while certainly talented, was wildly inconsistent back then.  Perhaps, if I had seen them under the same circumstances you did, I never would have become the Savatage fanatic I am today!

Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2015, 02:42:10 PM »
The sad part was I was really looking forward to seeing them. I never really crossed lines with them in the 80's for some reason.
They were a band that didn't really fit anywhere, and up until Hall, didn't really create any waves. I think they had some poor promotion. Never saw them in Circus, Hit Parader.  Even Kerrang that I remember. If you're a rock band and wanted to reach a kid in 1985, you needed to be in those mags.
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
Winger Theater Forums................or WTF.  ;D

Offline jjrock88

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2015, 03:16:41 PM »
This thread is almost on page 2 just from the intro lol

Dark Master really should write an official autobiography for the band; nobody is a bigger fan guaranteed.

I really think Savatage is "underrated". Just an awesome band

Offline wolfking

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2015, 04:12:40 PM »
Beast of a thread already.

Been a fan for about I'd say 15 years or so now to be honest.  I think I discovered them when I was 14 or 15 and never looked back.  Savatage would be top 5 I'd say.  Incredible, incredible band.

Offline Podaar

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2015, 06:46:00 PM »
Yes, yes, yes!

Now that that is out of the way, I'm off to read the OP now,  :lol

-----------------
[edit]

My first encounter with Savatage was when a national radio syndicate was allowed to come into my local market in the mid-eighties. ZROK Radio. It was like a revelation because they only played metal and it was heavy. Well, when HotMK was released, ZROK played "24 Hours Ago" about every three hours on the top of the hour. I was 25. I was completely floored!

You've got to understand that I was so completely bored with Ratt, Slaughter, Poison, Motley Crew, Warrant, and of course, :TAC: and their ilk that "24 Hours Ago" with its thunderous rhythm, incendiary guitar and especially its lyric, "We're tired of hearing the same ol' song." really struck a nerve with me. I ran out and bought the LP instantly. Within months, I had also hunted down Sirens, and Dungeons are Calling.

I'm quite excited to relive the discography. It's been a long time now.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2015, 07:10:32 PM by Podaar »

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2015, 08:46:00 PM »
Following and shit.

No time to read the OP atm.  Will do that over coffee tomorrow morning.
Can you imagine some alien race comes to a large nebula they've never seen before, and it just turns out it's the Federation's dumping ground for space-smile?
And TAC can suck it  :biggrin:, this is heavy in all the right places.  :tup

Offline jammindude

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2015, 09:01:42 PM »
I heard a bit of Savatage in the early days.   The local underground metal show (the UW had a show called "Brain Pain" that played everything that was too heavy for "Metal Shop").    I really liked Sirens, but liked other bands more, and I just forgot about Savatage for awhile.    A few years later, Hall of the Mountain King broke, and I had a buddy that told me I should check em out...they were on my queue, but somehow never got to "gotta have it now" status.    A couple years after that "When the Crowds are Gone" played on MTV and I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY.   I got Gutter Ballet that same week, but I wasn't that thrilled with the rest of the album.  (still feel that way about GB...3 or 4 stellar tracks, and a few "meh" ones as well)    But when I heard they were doing a rock opera next, I was pretty excited.    So I picked that album up, and I liked it a lot....but it still hadn't risen to "classic status" in my mind.       I had a different buddy that loved Edge of Thorns when it came out, but I didn't like they they had replaced Jon as a singer, so I dismissed the album.

Fast forward to about 1994.   I see Handful of Rain in a used bin and decide on a whim to pick it up for cheap. 

Suddenly, everything clicked.    I loved the album so much, and it made me go back and revisit the albums I already had (which were GB and Streets).   I still didn't think GB was all that, but Streets hit me really hard.    Suddenly, I had to have more.   I think my next purchases were Hall of the Mountain King and Edge of Thorns, followed by Power of the Night on vinyl.    Pretty much from 1994 on through 2000, Savatage was huge in my rotation list, and I managed to get my hands on every album.   

I'm sure I'll have more details with each release, but I'm really looking forward to this discussion.
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Offline bl5150

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2015, 10:41:38 PM »
Savatage is one of my all time favourite bands ....Gutter Ballet was #5 in my DTF Top 50 albums.  I have been a big fan since I picked up Gutter Ballet (on cassette  ::)) in 1989 aged 15 , around the same time I was getting into Crimson Glory and Queensryche.   Those really were the times for exciting new discoveries. I then worked my way back and followed intensely up to Edge of Thorns, after which my love for the new releases gradually faded.   Every album has songs I like but for me the real classic era is HoTMK through Edge of Thorns.

It's good to see so much discussion around the band at the moment and I commend The Dark Master on the thread and admire the passion for the band. I had assumed you were an old fogey (older actually :lol) like me who had perhaps even been into the band since Sirens was released  :lol  I actually have a Sirens blue vinyl stashed somewhere which is rather cool.

Following and shit.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2015, 12:38:17 AM by bl5150 »
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2015, 05:33:59 AM »
I will link to this thread from the Discography thread.  :tup
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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2015, 05:27:09 PM »
Very informative couple of posts DMS. Looking forward to the start and listen-thru beginning tomorrow.

Question... Are you going to also do the TSO albums as part of this?
Can you imagine some alien race comes to a large nebula they've never seen before, and it just turns out it's the Federation's dumping ground for space-smile?
And TAC can suck it  :biggrin:, this is heavy in all the right places.  :tup

Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2015, 08:07:47 PM »
Very informative couple of posts DMS. Looking forward to the start and listen-thru beginning tomorrow.

Question... Are you going to also do the TSO albums as part of this?

A while back when I was starting to consider doing a thread like this, I debated with myself over where my definition of "Savatage" should end.  Basically, there are three main options:

Savatage consists only of the albums released under that name.  In other words, the canonical Savatage discography as it stands today.

Savatage is any album made by the members of Savatage as a band.  This would include the TSO albums as well as the proper Savatage albums.

Savatage is basically Jon Oliva.  In addition to Savatage and TSO, this could also be extended to include Doctor Butcher, JOP, and Jon's solo album.

For the moment, I am going to focus exclusively on albums by Savatage proper.  However, there is something to be said that including some of the side projects by members of Savatage, especially those that chronologically overlap with Savatage, like Doctor Butcher and TSO, helps to add context to the Savatage story.

At the moment, I haven't made a definitive decision on that yet.  At any rate, though, the first side project of any significance, Doctor Butcher, was made after Edge of Thorns, which will be eight weeks into the future, so that gives me a bit of time to consider to what extent I will cover Savatage side projects.

TSO has a particular significance, partially because it includes the whole of Savatage as a band, partially because there is a good deal of stylistic overlap, partially because it was the outgrowth of a particular Savatage album/single, and most importantly because of the scale of the impact TSO made on the world of Savatage.  It's easy to discuss Savatage while overlooking something like Doctor Butcher.  It would be impossible to fully explain the history of Savatage without discussing TSO.  Even if I do not visit Jon's various other projects, I may ultimately decide that write-ups of the TSO albums are necessary.

Ultimately, I may decide what side projects to include or not based on the interest of those subscribing to the thread.  If people are up for it, I may be willing to delve into a sort of "Greater Savatage Discography".  That being said, I would certainly at least draw the line at projects that are clearly the brainchild of people other then Jon or Paul (so no Circle II Circle, Chris Caffery solo, or Machines of Grace).

Also, other then The Dungeons Are Calling, I was planning on only discussing full studio albums, and possibly the two Savatage live albums.  I don't really see the point in doing a write up for every single and EP, and I will certainly not be visiting the countless best-of compilations and boxed sets the band has released over the years.  I'm not a fan of best-ofs, and given the choice, I would much rather include the likes of the TSO or JOP albums then have to explain the likes of From the Gutter to the Stage or The Best and the Rest.   :P

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Re: The Savatage Discography - Introduction: Hi! Welcome to Hell!
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2015, 08:20:39 PM »
Yeah, I don't think people have done compilations or best-of's... I certainly didn't with Zeppelin.  However, and at least in my case, sometimes the live albums are significant enough to warrant a quick overview and opportunity to discuss.

As for TSO... your rationale makes a ton of sense.  Lots of time to decide.
Can you imagine some alien race comes to a large nebula they've never seen before, and it just turns out it's the Federation's dumping ground for space-smile?
And TAC can suck it  :biggrin:, this is heavy in all the right places.  :tup

Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2015, 03:59:53 PM »
   Part 1 – They heard the sirens sing...



Released   April 11, 1983 (US)
November 1, 1983 (UK)
Recorded   January 1983 at Morrisound Studios, Tampa Florida, USA
Genre   Heavy metal, speed metal, power metal
Length   35:51
Label   Par Records (US)
Music for Nations (UK)
Producer   Danny Johnson

Side one   
No.   Title   Writer(s)   Length   
1.   "Sirens"     Jon Oliva, Criss Oliva   3:43
2.   "Holocaust"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva   4:34
3.   "I Believe"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva   5:25
4.   "Rage"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva   2:42
Side two   
No.   Title   Writer(s)   Length   
5.   "On the Run"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva, Steve Wacholz   3:33
6.   "Twisted Little Sister"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva, Keith Collins   3:39
7.   "Living for the Night"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva   3:20
8.   "Scream Murder"     J. Oliva   3:50
9.   "Out on the Streets"     J. Oliva, C. Oliva   5:15

Line-up

Jon Oliva - Shrieks of Terror (vocals)
Criss Oliva - Metalaxe (guitars, backing vocals)
Keith Collins - The Bottom End (bass, backing vocals)
Steve Wacholz - Barbaric Cannons (drums, percussion)

Production

Danny Johnson - producer
Jim Morris - engineer
Mike Fuller - mastering
Terry Oakes - UK edition artwork, illustrations
Eddy Schreyer - re-mastering

   Trying to place an exact starting date for the beginnings of the band that would eventually become Savatage is a difficult prospect.  The band evolved out of the chaotic milieu of the early 80's Florida metal scene, from the leftovers of various bands that had come before.  Metropolis, Tower, Alien, Avatar; all of these obscure and mostly short-lived acts were predecessors to the band would go on to release such masterpieces as Gutter Ballet, Streets and Dead Winter Dead.  The rosters of these bands changed even more frequently then their names, and a full overview of the origins of Savatage would fill an article by themselves.  For the sake of getting to the interesting parts of the Savatage story – the music -, I will cut straight to the very essence of Savatage, the Oliva brothers, and chart their formative years that laid the basis of their first official record, Sirens.

   The Oliva family first moved to Florida in 1976, where the musically talented brothers Jon and Criss, both born in the Bronx in the early 1960's, would immerse themselves in the local metal scene.  Criss at first started out on bass, although once was his technical prowess on the strings was realized, he quickly made a name for himself on lead guitar.  His elder brother Jon, a completely self taught singer and multi-instrumentalist, wore a variety of hats in his various early bands, filling whatever niche was needed depending upon whomever he was playing with.  Throughout the multitude of bands and the lineups thereof in which the Olivas were involved, there was another individual who swiftly became a third soon-to-be permanent member.  Steve Wacholz, nicknamed “Dr. Killdrums” due to his rather aggressive style of playing, would in time round-out a three piece line-up with the Olivas that would play covers at their high school and local bars. 

   Numerous other band members would come and go, and even Wacholz would leave for a time, though he eventually found his way back to the band.  The band would take the name Avatar, after the main character from Ralph Bakshi's 1977 animated film Wizards.  By 1981 Wacholz, after brief stints in other bands, had become a permanent fixture of Avatar's line-up.  Throughout the course of that same year, the band became a four piece, joined by bass player Keith Collins.  This incarnation of Avatar featured Criss on lead guitar, Keith on bass and Doc on drums, with Jon performing lead vocals, and alternating between keyboards and rhythm guitar live.  In 1982, Avatar would record a three song EP, City Beneath the Surface, on PAR records, which would later become a valuable collectors item.  The EP sold well enough to leave PAR wanting more, and later that year the band went back into the studio, sifting though the considerable amount of demos of original songs Avatar had recorded over the years, before selecting 15 tracks suitable for a proper studio release.  While all 15 tracks were recoded, due to the limitations of vinyl and tape at the time, only the first nine were released on the band's debut record; the remaining six tracks would be released on a mini album a year later, which will be discussed next week.

   The night before Sirens was to go to press, the label called up the members of Avatar to inform them that their name was already claimed by another band, and they had to come up with a new one by the morning.  The Oliva brothers wrote out the name “Avatar” on a piece of paper to consider if there was some variation of it they could use for their new moniker.  One of the Olivas (Criss, I believe) thought it would look cool to use a Norse/Germanic sig rune (ᛋ, like the kind KISS used) at the beginning of the name.  Thus Avatar became “Savatar”.  The new name looked a lot like “savage”, which sounded metal enough, and so “savage” and “avatar” became “Savatage.”  Jon and Criss liked the new name, because the “Sava” part looked and sounded aggressive, while the “Tage” part implied something mystical and exotic (like the Taj Mahal).  Pleased with their new name, the band quickly informed the record label, Sirens went to press, and thus Savatage was born...

   The first Savatage album is a far cry from the lush, progressively leaning offerings for which they would later become much better known.  In 1983, the band was young and hungry, a ragtag group of 20-something young men just wanting to get out and play rock and roll as loud as they could.  Sirens is very much a product of it's time.  The album is pure early 80's metal, and harkens back to an age before terms like thrash, speed, death and black metal had become common vocabulary.  It's worth noting that the band's primary influences were much older then the NWOBHM sound that formed the basis of so many of Savatage's musical contemporaries.  Not that early Savatage is any less metal then the likes of early WASP, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Morgana LeFay, and others; far from it.  But there is something in the songwriting that clearly derives more from Black Sabbath and Deep Purple then Iron Maiden or Judas Priest.  Jon and Criss most likely absorbed elements of the NWOBHM sound through osmosis, while their central muses remained, in addition to Sabbath and Purple, the likes of UFO, Queen, and the Beatles.  As Jon Oliva once said, they just jumped on the heavy metal bandwagon because it was popular at the time.

   Of the band's main influences, it's Black Sabbath one hears the most on Sirens.  Jon Oliva has frequently cited Ozzy-era Sabbath as being his first introduction to truly heavy music, and the shadows of Iommi, Osbourne and co. are cast long over the record, particularly in it's more doomy moments.  That being said, the band is by no means a Sabbath clone, or a clone of any other band for that matter, even at this early of a stage in their careers.  Some of this uniqueness comes from the unique blend of old 70's songwriting inspiration with an early 80's metal sound, but a good portion of it is due to the rather unique musical personalities of the band members themselves.  Criss Oliva in particular shines as a bright light of originality, his reckless but incredibly precise solos ripping up the record from nearly the very beginning, as early as the middle of the first verse on the opening track!  While his shredding is ever present on the album's faster numbers, most notably “Scream Murder,” “Rage,” and the later sections of “I Believe,” Criss proves he's more then capable of subtlety, from the haunting intro of “Sirens” to his delicate acoustic work on “Out on the Streets”.  Collins' thumping bass sounds rather Butler-esque, but it has a certain aggression that is distinctly his own.  Likewise, Doc's drums blast  throughout the whole of the record, further helping to distance the band from their much older influences.

   But the real source of uniqueness here is Jon Oliva's vocals and songwriting.  His voice has a rather distinctive blend of Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Alice Cooper, yet while certainly owing something to his illustrious predecessors, Jon's voice belongs to no-one but him.  From his banshee shrieks in “Sirens” to significantly gentler moments in the album's closing ballad “Out On the Streets”, Jon proves that, even at such a young age, and lacking any classical training in singing, he possesses a respectable degree of versatility, if lacking somewhat in refinement.  His lack of formal training, in addition to a rather reckless lifestyle, would come back to haunt him less then a decade later, but for the moment, his screams and growls and croons wash the record over with a sense of personality that surely set them apart from their contemporaries.

   Songwriting wise, Jon, who was the band's primary lyricist at this time, is certainly cut from the same cloth as Cooper, Dio and Osbourne.  There is a definitely theme of fire and brimstone spirituality reminiscent of the afore mentioned singers present in many of the songs.  The songs also frequently dabble in exploring the criminal lives of society's miscreants in very Alice Cooper-esque lyricism, particularly in “On the Run” and “Scream Murder”.  Of course there are the obligatory 80's “sex, drugs and rock & roll” songs, and tracks like “Living for the Night,” “Out on the Streets,” and “Twister Little Sister” fill that niche (this last being the first song to appear on a Savatage record, though by no means the last, displaying Jon's somewhat amusing and somewhat disturbing fixation with  S&M sexual themes).  But Jon proves he was capable of embracing lyrical themes somewhat more lofty, such as the Dio-esque mythology based “Sirens” and the sci-fi flavoured “I Believe”.  There's even a bit of a social consciousness present here with “Holocaust” exploring the ever present Cold War fear of mutually assured destruction.

   A rather notable curiosity about this first Savatage record is that it had two distinct album covers.  The original, featuring a ship and ghost in a blue circle, was chosen by the record label, and is much disliked by the band and fans.  The more well known “sewer children” cover, taken from a kid's story book, appeared on reissues by Combat and Relativity somewhat later.

   So what is my final verdict on Savatage's debut?  Well, I can honestly say I enjoy it quite a bit.  Any fan of early 80's metal from those long ago days of innocence before sub-genres divided the metal scene into their respective niches will love the quality straight-forward, no-nonsense metal the Olivas and co. were able to deliver, even at such a stage of relative inexperience.  That being said, while the record does have some unique elements to it, I can't exactly say it's one of the best of it's time period.  There were other bands at the time making better first records of a similar style of metal, like WASP and early Queensryche.  At the very least, however, Savatage can be said to have made par for the course.  Sirens confidently stands shoulder to shoulder with first efforts by Fates Warning and Morgana LeFay, and the individual performances of the band-members, especially the Olivas, at least mark it out from most of their contemporaries.  Unlike, say, Fates Warning, who in their early days was practically Iron Maiden Jr., early Savatage is very clearly it's own beast.  It may have been a beast that was still very young and fresh from the womb, but even at such a young age, it already possessed a sense of individuality that would serve it well in the years to come.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 04:28:16 PM by The Dark Master »

Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2015, 04:04:37 PM »
I've actually never heard a lick of Sirens, but that will change tomorrow. And thank you for mentioning Alice Cooper. I'm probably DTF's biggest Alice fan and I can hear his influence clearly on the stuff that I have heard.
Especially on Believe.
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #20 on: August 10, 2015, 04:22:48 PM »
I've actually never heard a lick of Sirens, but that will change tomorrow. And thank you for mentioning Alice Cooper. I'm probably DTF's biggest Alice fan and I can hear his influence clearly on the stuff that I have heard.
Especially on Believe.

Yeah, anyone who is a fan of Alice Cooper (especially 86-91 Alice) or WASP would do well to check out early Savatage.   ;)

Offline wolfking

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #21 on: August 10, 2015, 05:04:45 PM »
This is a raw, heavy and very good metal album IMO.  Lots of good songs here.

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2015, 08:16:04 PM »
I think the Judas Priest influence can be heard rather prominently.   This is a good album.  I haven't heard it in awhile, but I agree with your assessment.

I heard the title track when it was still new on a local underground metal show called "Brain Pain" (out of the UW).   I remember loving it even back then.   It still stands out as probably the best song on the album.   The rest are good, even if they are a bit juvenile.
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Offline jjrock88

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #23 on: August 11, 2015, 12:15:49 AM »
This is a raw, heavy and very good metal album IMO.  Lots of good songs here.

Agreed.  I don't play it often, but it's solid.

BTW, these write-ups are fantastic.  Great job DM!

Offline Deathless

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #24 on: August 11, 2015, 07:05:48 AM »
I've never actually heard Sirens before, I've only listened to the Savatage albums that are available on their spotify page :lol

. Listening now!  :metal

Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #25 on: August 11, 2015, 07:11:12 AM »
Just listened to Sirens.
Interesting. I know if I had come across this in 1983, I would've been all over it. The vocals are fine, save for Out In The Streets.
Best song to me on first listen was I Believe. It's awesome.

You can tell that this band has a ton of potential.

Serioulsy though, there was no chatter about Savatage back then. I see J Dude heard them , but where I was..nope.
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #26 on: August 11, 2015, 07:23:53 AM »
Just listened to Sirens.
Interesting. I know if I had come across this in 1983, I would've been all over it. The vocals are fine, save for Out In The Streets.
Best song to me on first listen was I Believe. It's awesome.

You can tell that this band has a ton of potential.

Serioulsy though, there was no chatter about Savatage back then. I see J Dude heard them , but where I was..nope.

This. I never went back as far as Sirens until last night after reading the description. I quite enjoyed it and will have to buy it. I do have Fight For The Rock on vinyl but don't remember much about it - might only have played it once back in the day. It certainly didn't grab me but I'm holding off on going back to it until we get there.
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Offline bl5150

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #27 on: August 11, 2015, 07:40:45 AM »
FFTR is considered a dud by the band and the fans - DM will no doubt get into the reasons why it turned out as it did.
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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2015, 08:12:08 AM »
I actually never heard Sirens too. I'll check it out tomorrow.

Offline Podaar

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2015, 08:54:04 AM »
I loved the album “Sirens” back in the day although it doesn’t sound quite as good to my ears anymore. My tastes have changed, I suppose. Still it’s a solid rocker with some real good moments.

After HotMK was released I went digging for more Savatage and was only able to find cassettes of “Sirens” and “Dungeons are Calling”. I didn’t realize it at the time but the cassette of “Sirens” must have been an import because the cover had the gutter children on it. Until this thread I’d never seen the boat cover above.

The title track is awesome from beginning to end. I really enjoy the heavy rhythms and riffs of “Holocaust”, “On the Run”, and “Living for the Night”. I love the second half of “I Believe” especially the final solo.  :omg:

The Judas Priestish “Rage” doesn’t do much for me and I find “Scream Murder” kinda boring.

The lead guitar work for “Out On The Streets” is terrific and it’s fun to hear some of the grand drama of later Savatage represented in the rest of the song. It’s a bit raw though.

I used to really love “Twisted Little Sister” but I suspect that was just for the shock value of the lyrics. Now, not so much. Jon sounds like he never found a melody to sing.

I rarely listen to this album anymore but it’s usually enjoyable when I do.  :metal

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #30 on: August 11, 2015, 11:22:25 AM »
I'm 1/2 way thru at the moment, and totally get a NWOBHM vibe from this.  And some definite Sabbath influences ... Rage vs Paranoid as a short, balls-to-the-wall track?  "Juvenile" is an apt description... I was going to go with "pedestrian", but I'm sure the band themselves was very inspired at the time.

Very enjoyable... I liked it more than the previous attempts I've had with it.
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Offline The Dark Master

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2015, 11:28:08 AM »
I should probably clarify that I do hear a NWOBHM influence in a lot of early Savatage, but I have never heard them cite any NWOBHM bands as a major source of inspiration.  It's always much older acts, like the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Queen, ELP, UFO, and so on, who seem to have been the Olivas' main muses.  That why I feel much of the NWOBHM sound apparent in early Savatage was just picked up by the guys through osmosis given what was happening in the early metal scene around them.  That sound is certainly there, but it's on a less conscious and more instinctive level then the influences of the bands that really inspired them.

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2015, 12:54:17 PM »
Just listened to it for the firsts time. Very enjoyable. And I definetely detect some NWOBHM influences.
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Offline TAC

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #33 on: August 13, 2015, 01:57:46 PM »
All NWOBHM bands cite UFO and Deep Purple as influences.
would have thought the same thing but seeing the OP was TAC i immediately thought Maiden or DT related
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Offline jjrock88

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Re: The Savatage Discography - They heard the sirens sing...
« Reply #34 on: August 13, 2015, 02:01:07 PM »
All NWOBHM bands cite UFO and Deep Purple as influences.

It's strange how UFO is almost an unknown band within the mainstream.

And there is sounds of NWOBHM within early Savatage.  But like DM stated earlier, the way they progressed sound wise, it would appear to be completely different bands.