You will hear a lot of people going on and on about how Savatage write the best ballads around, and how deeply emotional their music is. You will often hear about Oliva’s tragic death and all the band’s misfortunes over the years .You will also hear that many people started listening to heavy metal because of this band, whose sound is, 1991 onwards, quite accessible, thanks among others to their symphonic arrangements. You will rarely hear about the time this band was a guitar-driven power metal act with excellent riffs and strong vocals, courtesy of Criss and Jon Oliva respectively.
This is Savatage in “Sirens”, their debut album. It draws influences by such classic metal acts as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden (Paul di’ Anno years) combined with the heaviness Black Sabbath signify, and while drummer Steve Wacholz as well as bass player Keith Collins side step in favor of the Oliva brothers, the fact that Jon Oliva has a very distinctive, harsh yet melodic, voice and that Criss Oliva used to have a trademark sound since day one (let’s all have in mind that this man later rejected an offer from Dave Mustaine to become Megadeth’s lead guitarist), explains why Savatage’s strong personality is present even in this record. Highlights are quite easy to spot ; the now classic title track, constant part of their live shows;”Holocaust”, which includes the best riffs in the record; ”I believe” which starts with a haunting acoustic part, then breaks into a galloping riff and a staccato chorus that is pretty memorable; and finally there is “Out in the streets” a semi-ballad with a really catchy, lighter in mood, chorus. The rest of the record, even though it sees the band perform a well-executed brand of power metal, is in fact nothing special, and as a result the record drags towards the middle, where Savatage may sound very enthusiastic, but are in fact betrayed by their lack of experience.
“Sirens” may sound dated today, compared to the band’s latter achievements, but it managed to introduce the group and all its talents to the metal world. Mainly the Oliva brothers, as well as their craving for darker, raw power metal, which could occasionally be enriched with fragile, sentimental melodies, especially during slower parts. Nevertheless, it didn’t do much more than imply that the band’s best days were ahead of them.