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Savatage - Handful of Rain CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.82 | 100 ratings

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4 stars Handful of Rain is the first Savatage release after the death of Criss Oliva, and as might be expected of a piece recorded hot on the heels of such a tragedy it's rather overshadowed by it.

The supposed lineup of Zak Stevens, Alex Skolnick, Johnny Lee Middleton and Steve Wacholz that is promoted as appearing on the album does not tell the whole story; in fact, Wacholz was so shaken by Criss' death that he left the band entirely and didn't take part in the recording process, and whilst Johnny Lee would stick around he was far too upset to face going into the studio to play Savatage music so soon.

As a result, much of the album ended up resting on the shoulders of Jon Oliva, who at this point in time wasn't even supposed to be a full member of the band, having worked on Edge of Thorns solely as a co-producer and guest musician. With Jon doing most of the instruments and composing most of the music (along with a brief snippet cowritten with Criss and several tracks cowritten with Paul O'Neill, who was coproducing), all that was left was for a fresh-out-of-Testament Skolnick to come in to do the guitar solos and Zak to get coaxed back into the studio to deliver the vocals.

These difficult circumstances are reflected in the final product; it's a bit more of a muddled production and less strong and distinctive than preceding Savatage albums, since the production process seems to have been mostly undertaken by Jon and Paul as part of the grieving process. You're effectively listening to Jon step into the main songwriter role solo, whereas previously he'd been largely contributing to songs in collaboration with Criss, and it's to Jon's credit that the album ends up sounding as good as it does, but it's no classic and very much a transitional piece.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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