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Savatage - Edge of Thorns CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.02 | 157 ratings

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5 stars Band: Savatage Album: Edge of Thorns (1993) Genre: Power-Progressive Metal

Line-up: Jon Oliva (Keyboards); Criss Oliva (Guitars); Steve Wacholz (Drums); Johnny Lee Middleton (Bass); Zak Stevens (Vocals)

Grading Scale: 0 - F; 1-5 - D(+/-); 6-10 - C(+/-); 11-15 - B(+/-); 16-20 - A(+/-)

Most notable song: "All That I Bleed" - 20(A+) Other outstanding tracks: "Sleep" - 19(A); "Labyrinths" - 18(A); "Exit Music" - 18(A); "Conversation Piece" - 18(A); "Degrees of Sanity" - 18(A)

Songs Rating - 17.31(A-) Skill/Creativity Rating - 18.63(A) Overall Rating - 17.97(A-)

Synopsis: Savatage's album "Edge of Thorns" follows up the incredibly deep and emotional effort of "Streets" with a more straight-up heavy metal approach, but maintains a progressive edge. The sound is stripped down a little, though it is still more polished and mature. They take away all the symphonic sounds in favor of a head on guitar assault featuring Criss Oliva. They also feature new vocalist Zak Stevens, who's smoother more melodic delivery fits the new polished and mature sound well, but this is not the end of Jon Oliva, who still writes the music and plays keyboards. This album was intended to put Criss on the map as one of the best guitarist out there, and it may have worked if not for the tragic accident involving a drunk-driver that killed Criss and severely injured his wife, Dawn. So, as it turns out this was Criss's final offering to this world gone astray, and what a magical performance it is. The perfect way to go out. This album is recommended to anyone who is a fan of heavy metal, progressive metal, power metal, or if you just love to here some killer guitar. If that's what you are in for, then I a sure you - "Edge of Thorns" will not disappoint you.

Song by Song Break Down:

1. Edge of Thorns - 17(A-) - I'm really not sure what this song is about, but it seems to me that, like the title track on "Streets" it serves as an intro to the album to the album. Regardless, it's a sweet song. With great arrangements, and is also Savatage's biggest radio hit (Top 100 billboard in 1993). The song starts with an almost haunting piano line, then the guitars smash in as the piano continues, then they go into a great riff and new vocalist, Zak Stevens, starts with his smooth, and clear delivery. After the 2nd verse/chorus Criss goes into a sweet riff, which leads into a solo. After which, the song is driven forward by a strong bass line (as Oliva continues to solo) and then they go back into the song with a 3rd chorus, following which we end with the same piano line as we started. A great rocker and awesome album opener.

2. He Carves His Stone - 16(A-) - This song is about a guy who is carving his own epitaph into his tombstone, and I believe it serves as a metaphor about our lives. We all carve our own stone through our actions and the way we treat other people. These are the things that will affect what is put on our tombstone. Meanwhile, Criss is carving his stone with some great guitar work on this song, and it almost seems ironic a song like this is on his final album. Towards the end, Zak shows us that he can really wail, and Criss just carves away with some intense guitars as it ends, it's awesome.

3. Lights Out - 15(B+) - This song is about a racecar junkie who doesn't know when to stop. He eventually lose control and it's "lights out" for him. Again, I see this as a metaphor for our lives. If we don't slow down, if we try to live to fast, all about the here and the now, we will lose control of our lives, and it will be "lights out". Some more great guitars here as we see more irony, as this song is about a guy who loses his life in a car accident. 4. Skraggy's Tomb - 16(A-) - This is a song about alcoholism, and how it all seems like fun and games at first, but soon "livin' on the action" will take you down. When that happens then you "crawl into the bottle" and hide away from life in bars and liquor stores. This song shows us the danger of a life like this. There is more great guitar work at the end of a great song.

5. Labyrinths - 18(A) - A beautiful instrumental featuring Jon and Criss Oliva. Starts with the piano alone, and a sense of innocence, then Criss weaves his guitar through the piano beautifully in a remarkable show of grace and mastery of his instrument. Eventually, the guitars takeover, and that sense of innocence is lost entirely. Remarkable emotion displayed here. 6. Follow Me - 17(A-) - This is a song about somebody who once had a dream, and could have made a difference, but now has given up, and just wastes away in front of the TV. The shows us he lives in his own mind and creates his own world where he can be what he wants, they give him the chance to turn things around when the say "follow me" but the song doesn't really explain if he excepts the offer or not. There are really those who have given up on there dreams and now waste their lives away, living for nothing but the next episode of their favorite TV series, and I sickens me to see people like this, and Savatage too, apparently.

7. Exit Music - 18(A) - Beautiful piano piece that achieves a whole new level of emotional depth. Savatage treads water most metal bands don't dare swim through, and it's a testament to their true musicianship. They are not afraid to do the undoable.

8. Degrees of Sanity - 18(A) - Again I'm not sure of the meaning of this song, though it seems to be about circumstances that are out of our control, and how sometimes these things can push our "degrees of sanity", but we must be patience and know that while it is out of our hands, it's in the hands of a higher power, that knows what's best for us, and we just have to cope with our situation. It's a great song, with a sweet intro played on the sitar, which provides a unique sound.

9. Conversation Piece - 18(A) - This song is about a guy who is so in love with a girl, who makes bad decisions, and can't see how these decisions are hurting her. He is so in love with her he can't let go, and still believes he can help her. Now, he doesn't literally cut up pieces of him self, but this symbolizes that he is willing and desperate to do anything to try and save her, but she is too far-gone. I relate to this well, I exactly how it feels to care for a girl so much and see how she is hurting herself, but she just wont see it, and wont except your help. In the end we must remember that they are people, free to do as they please, and we just have to let go, and all we can do it pray for them.

10. All That I Bleed - 20(A+) - Absolutely incredible. Emotional, beautiful, brilliant. Savatage approaches a difficult topic, and produces a masterpiece. Also a song I relate to so well. In this song, a girl is trying to hide her feelings of her former boyfriend. Everyday "her face puts on its best disguise" is she goes about her day. I believe we have all been through this phase after a heartbreak, and we do our best to hide the hurt inside, but no matter how well we do, our heart will always tell the truth, and our feeling s will show through. This is the most difficult emotion to capture both musically and lyrically, but Savatage captures both perfectly. Opening with piano, and then Zak sings with a very melodic touch - beautifully - then after the 2nd verse/chorus, there's a short piano solo the a build up on the guitar. Following this, Zak belts out the next part with pure emotion. There is also an incredibly emotional guitar solo, which sums the whole thing up as Zak repeats the last part of the song and all fades to the piano again. I know of no other song that creates such an emotional explosion.

11. Damien - 16(A-) - A nice rocker following the ballad. Their song is about a rich man who sees a poor street kid and wonders about the boy. This song covers some of his thoughts. I find the name "Damien" an interesting choice as is it often used to refer to "the son of the devil", and they also say, "is the dark your father". So perhaps the name leads us to the conclusion that the rich man thought, or at least questioned that the boy was evil. I really don't know, that is just a guess. Either way, it's great song.

12. Miles Away - 17(A-) - This song is about a man who loves the night because it hides his sins, and he can dream up his own reality, but when the morning comes, he's "miles away". Some great lyrics for this song. This is one of those times when they say something simple, but put it so elegantly that it seems deeper then it is. There is also some more great guitar work, and more irony, as Criss is soon to be himself, "miles away" from this world.

13. Sleep - 19(A) - First off, contrary too popular belief, this is not an acoustic song. It is played on an electric guitar, set to a clean acoustic sound. This was done intentionally to give it an electric twang, yet acoustic feel. This is a very relaxing and peaceful song. The song is about a man who is worn out after a long life searching for his dreams, and now only wishes to rest. Again we come to irony in the fact that Criss spent along time chasing the dream of rock stardom, and I'm sure it was taking it's toll as it did on his brother, which is why Jon stepped down from vocals. Well, with this song we put Criss Oliva to "sleep", and he can now have his peace. RIP Criss - this world gone astray was never prepared for a talent as magical as yours.

Skills by Position Break Down:

Guitars - 20(A+) - Criss Oliva, in his final offering of axemanship before leaving this world, proves to be a true phenomenon. Powerful riffs/solos that ooze with emotion, this album was meant to prove to the world that Criss is one of the best guitar players out there, it unfortunately proved to be his swan song, or requiem, a testament to a career full of awe and wonder. Criss Oliva was a true guitar hero, and may his memory live on forever. Drums - 15(B+) - Steve Wacholz gets it done again, but again is over shadowed by the great performance of the Oliva's, as well as knew vocalist Zak Stevens and his remarkable talents. It's a good thing too. With the focus on them, you barely notice that Steve is playing electric drums. Keyboards - 20(A+) - Even though according to the press release of the album, Jon Olvia was not a member of the band, he was in all actuality still very much in the band. Still helping to write all the music, and playing keyboards, and even touring with the band. From the opening track Jon wow's us with his piano line, and he adds his touch off emotion here and there with his brilliant skills and mastery of the piano. Jon is truly a great musician. Bass - 18(A) - Johnny Lee Middleton forces us to notice him and his talents despite so much attention else where as he lays down the foundation for Criss's great guitar work, he does a great job, and like everyone else, he deserves more credit. Vocals - 19(A) - New singer Zak Stevens shows us what he can really do, and proves to be a great fit for the bands new more polished sound. However, he does not match the emotion of Jon's final performance on "Streets", though that isn't to say that Stevens lacks emotion. On the song "All That I Bleed" Zak delivers very emotionally, and will prove to become more passionate through his vocals in years to come. So, he passes the test and Zak Stevens becomes the new voice of Savatage.

Creativity Break Down: Music - 20(A+) - Savatage continues to expand musically with another diverse song set. However, the songs don't seem to be quiet as strong as the set on "Streets", but it's hard to compare a concept album to a non concept based album, so we wont fault them much for it. Lyrics - 20(A+) - Again Savatage proves to be majestic with their words. Not a concept album this time Savatage covers a broad range of topics this time around. They again prove to be able to make the ordinary seem deep and profound, capturing the purpose with every word. Arrangements - 18(A) - Arrangements are good, but after stripping it down a little and removing much of the symphonic sounds present on the last few albums, in favor of more emphasis on the guitars, a lot of emotion gets lost. Still, there is a lot of emotion on the album, and the arrangements fill their purpose.

| 5/5 |


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