The term Rock Opera gets bandied around a lot these days. It seems every concept album gets labelled as a rock opera. Of course a rock opera has a central storyline. However, what is often ignored or not understood is that a rock opera has a certain sound. Sure, that sound varies, but it’s distinctly identifiable because the imagery should be strong and engaging, and you should feel the urge to rip off your shirt, jump onto a stage and belt out the choruses to a packed theatre. Some notable examples are Tommy
by The Who, The Wall
by Pink Floyd, and this album The Wake of Magellan
On an interesting side note: I once saw the Coheed and Cambria albums described as Auditory Graphic Novels. That’s both clever and insanely retarded at the same time.
The Wake Of Magellan
is a very unique rock opera, in that it is composed around to songs that were not only written before the album’s concept was conceived of, but are about two topics that are only similar in the broadest sense. In the hands of most bands, this kind of incongruity could result in a mishmash of an album; a ham-fisted portrayal of something that required a delicate touch.
At its essence, it is a story of longing, finality, and justice (or lack thereof), told through the eyes of an aged Spanish sailor, who claims to be a direct descendent of the great Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan.
However, its scope, the epic nature of its story, prevent me from fully explaining both the central storylines, as well as accurately transcribing even an excerpt of the grand poem that engulfs each set of lyrics inside the albums covers. Indeed, the songs tell less than half the story, with a common pastime of mine is to play each respective song when I reach it, pausing at the end to read the next section of poem, and so on. Only this way, I feel, can you fully absorb this ingenious storyline.
This album is a rock opera in every sense of the word. The stunning vocals of Zachary Stevens range from intense, harsh cries to breathy whispers. The music is pulse-racing heavy metal that blends into a softer, keyboard driven ballad, which transforms into a catchy chorus number.
When listening to this album, it is not hard to imagine it being played out on stage. Indeed, it is difficult to keep the imagination from springing alight, conjuring up men on the beach, broken hourglasses, and ferocious storms. Certain songs, namely Welcome
, The Morning Sun
never fail to raise the hairs on my neck. There is a primeval force at work here, the kind of empathy that only the best musicians can create.
The music itself is timeless. Reaching back into Baroque and Medieval times to bring forth elements which mix seamlessly with styles found in modern heavy metal, Jon Oliva and his team of talented artists weave an engaging story into life. The soothing intro The Ocean
is offset by the pounding rhythm of Blackjack Guillotine
and the catchy guitar riffs of Complaint In The System
Granted, this is a long album, at 71mins (including bonus material), but I feel every minute is important. No song seems to drag, and the epic nature of the concept befits the length. I must add, however, that this is a heavy metal album. There is no variation into jazz, funk, hip-hop or electronica. Despite expanding upon the classical base, there is nothing but balls out metal that is softened occasionally.
Savatage, however, have never been stale, clichéd or mediocre. This album, like so many others, will hold the attention of both old fans and new listeners. It is a wonderful album, sticking within its genre, yet expanding outwards. It truly is a rock opera, and I defy you to avoid standing in the middle of your room, shouting out the lyrics, arms outstretched, and generally making an arse of yourself. And remember, if people walk in on you, just ignore them. Be secure in the knowledge you are making an arse of yourself to one of the best rock operas ever composed. That is the metal way