Back in 1983 an American band called Avatar made their first three-track EP, City Beneath the Surface. Soon after they were forced to change their name and guitarist Criss Oliva's girlfriend came up with Savatage
. Thus a legend was born. The same year they released their debut album Sirens, a Heavy Metal album filled with intensity and primal urges.
is a band that has developed a lot through their more than 20 years on the scene. I would say that Sirens shows them from their most "brutal caveman-like"-side, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The rawness and eagerness of the band appeals to me. Especially with the later, more polished albums it is interesting to go back and listen to this, where the band creates the foundation of their sound with simple means.
Guitar genius Criss Oliva is a big part of the special Savatage
sound. He is constantly engaged in the music in some way, be it a riff, a fill or a small twist on the melody lines. It never gets boring to listen to him play. He fuses his solos and riffs with a special emotion I have not found anywhere else. Along with his brother and lead singer Jon Oliva they make up the main songwriters and are the driving force behind the band. Jon Oliva's voice may take a little time to get used to, but once you discover the many layers his voice has you will never tire of listening to him sing. That is the case for me anyway. The rythm section is nice and tight with Keith Collins on bass playing a major part is several songs and drummer Steve Wacholz as the firm anchorman of the band.
I will comment on a few of my absolute favorites.
is the defining moment on the album. A very very cool riff lays the foundation on which Jon Oliva sings this horror story. The song is short, to the point and delivers a headbanging punch. I really love Criss Oliva's fills, which change with every second line and this song is the perfect excuse to bring out your air guitar. The song slows down for a quick breath of air before inventing what would later become a classic Savatage
trademark, the insane Oliva scream. The chimes add an extra layer to the sound, especially in the end where it feels as if they tease the guitar. Overall this is an inventive and insanely cool beginning to the album.
is a futuristic vision of hell on earth. The song has a good atmosphere due to the ominous riff next to Steve Wacholz' precise drumming and of course the air-raid siren. The highlight of the song is the guitar playing, which has lots of detail and changes with each chorus and of course Jon's wild singing.
After the thundering end of Holocaust
the story continues in I believe
where a quiet guitar section sets a different mood alltogether. Jon sings with raw emotion about leaving earth and suddenly the song picks up speed with a crazy and really brilliant guitar solo. The following section has a great drive, provided by the union of fast guitar riffs and drumming along with a tight bass section. A volcano-like scream leads into the third guitar solo of the song and its frenzied ending where Criss Oliva lets all systems go.
It's time to go back to Jon Oliva's slightly twisted reality in Twisted Little Sister
. With lyrics like "Sweet tasting sister, love what you do to my head"
and rhymes like "I tried suicide, little sister ride"
the sexual undertones, which pervade many early Savatage
songs, come to life in all their masochistic g(l)ory. I find the lyrics very inventive and funny and often think, "How the hell did he come up with that?". This is a pretty simple song made interesting by several twists along the way and it is a nice forerunner of She's In Love
from Gutter Ballet as well as Skull Session
from Power of The Night. The bass also plays a main part in the song which is nice to hear.
is another favorite. Jon Oliva's vocal performance is varied and he sounds like a madman through most of the song. He brings a whole other level of intensity to the song and you can easily picture the song in your mind. The amazing part with Jon's insane scream leads directly into a fantastic guitar solo is the absolute highlight of the song. A headbanging nod goes out to the great bass playing in this section too. Vocal performances like in this song is why I have always thought that Jon Oliva was the perfect singer for Savatage
. His voice is unique and he always gives himself 100%.
More basic, down to earth songs include the hard and fast Rage
and the heavy couple On the run
and Living for the Night
. Similar for the songs is that the guitarwork is amazing, but the songs lack that extra Savatage
touch to make them really special and I they don't keep my attention on repeated listens.
Out On The Streets
is the ballad of the album and it is also one of my least favorite Savatage
ballads. It just lacks that certain something which songs like In The Dream
, Summer's Rain
and When The Crowd Are Gone
have. Still Criss Oliva's emotional guitar soloing is worth the price of admission.
Anniversay Edition contains a beefed up sound as well as three bonus tracks, especially the acoustic guitar piece by Criss is cool. I lived with the original Sirens album for a long time and this new release is definitely still worth the purchase.
Sirens is not as innovative as later Savatage
albums, but it has the power, the rawness and the intensity to make a big impression. So if you have not heard it yet, then call this an excuse to check it out.
Written by Steen
Wednesday, August 10, 2005Show all reviews by SteenRatingsSteen: 7/10
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