Review Summary: And so we end this chapter...And let the stage lights fade
Savatage always have been a distinctive and highly respected band. Since their debut Sirens, the fan base and critics became accustomed to the peculiar Oliva brothers style that combines the traditional Heavy Metal formula of the early 80's with intelligent and more progressive elements.
If their first releases, Sirens, The Dungeons Are Calling and Power of the Night were more heavy/power metal oriented, based upon the already established metal standards, Hall of the Mountain King and specially Gutter Ballet or Streets: A Rock Opera (let's forget the pitiful Fight for the Rock) were definitely more progressive mainly due to Jon Oliva increasing love for Broadway shows like The Phantom of the Opera. This progressive and more complex era built them an extremely solid world wide reputation which culminated with the acclaimed Streets: A Rock Opera, a concept album about the rise and fall of a fictional rock star character called DT Jesus. This would be the last Savatage album with Jon Oliva as lead singer until Poets and Madmen released on 2001.
Edge of Thorns is the first album to feature Zachary Stevens on vocals. Even if Zachary's performance sometimes misses Jon's unique emotional signature, his more technical and smooth range suites perfectly into Savatage more traditional and guitar-driven new songs.
This chemistry is perfectly achieved in the amazing title track, that starts with a mysteriously beautiful piano phrase followed by Criss Oliva's inspired epic riff and Zachary's melodic smooth vocals. Edge of Thorns still remains one of Savatage most remarkable compositions and a live favourite for many years.
After the opening song, the listener instantly perceives that this album was specially made for Criss. Stylish songs like He Carves His Stones, Lights Out, Skraggy's Tomb or Miles Away are all filled with impressive guitar lines flowing between delicate harmonies and elegant riffs, while the more powerful anthems Degrees of Sanity, Conversations Piece and Damien drive the album into denser grounds, making Edge of Thorns heavier than the previous rock opera adventure. However we still find the progressive touch of Gutter Ballet and Streets on All That I Bleed, Follow Me, Exit Music or in the brief instrumental Labyrinths, helping to build a smart bridge between their previous work and the new stylish approach, avoiding also monotonous fields. Lyrically, Edge of Thorns left the previous concept storytelling of Streets jumping into individual but still intelligent narratives delivering each song a very unique and distinctive identity.
Overall Edge of Thorns remains one of Savatage most memorable albums, a very solid piece of work based on smart songwriting, great musical performances and diverse ambiences that smoothly flow throughout the entire album. But sadly it's also Criss Oliva swan song, his tragic death just after its release make Edge of Thorns the last chapter of an amazingly talented young guitar player.
And here I am once again listening to Edge of Thorns, singing with a smile in my face:
“And so we end this chapter
And let the stage lights fade”
Edge of Thorns
Criss Oliva and Zachary Stevens performances
Smart, but sometimes too cerebral songwriting
Electronic drum set