Discovered by chance between some Ozzy LP's I had borrowed from a friend back in 1991, Gutter Ballet from Savatage
made a great impact. I had never heard anything quite like it and was at once captivated by Jon Oliva's powerful and gritty, yet still extremely emotional voice and Criss Oliva's heavenly guitar playing. One listen to Gutter Ballet and I was hooked, a couple more was all it took to make me fall in love with Savatage
. A relationship that has developed and never faltered ever since.
With simple means the band is able to create a unique sound and they hold their own style through the album. Gutter Ballet is the most diverse of all the Savatage
albums. Each song is unique in its own way and different from the one before. You just don't know what to expect at any time. The album includes such diverse elements as a classic song that mixes piano with heavy metal in the most convincing way, a beautiful acoustic guitar solo, an angry teeth-grinding anti-war metal track, a classic instrumental guitar and piano piece that is the perfect marriage of symphony and metal, a speed metal attack with lusty undertones, an epic haunting 6+ minute horror story, a mid-tempo insanity filled visit to the rehab clinic, a song of lost love with a touching poignant feel, a melodic monster that rises from the depths of hell, a trip into the mind of the mentally insane, and a time and space defying power ballad that can only be labelled masterpiece. Yes, I'm sure that you will find something here to like. If you already know the album I guess you know which song is which... :) If not, I kinda envy you that you still have this piece of music to discover. The songs are so different from each other and each add another part to this massive album. To some it may seem disjointed at first, but to me the album feels complete and put together just the way it should be.
Jon Oliva's all encompassing, expressive voice mixed with Criss Oliva's mindblowing and inventive guitar playing, Steve Wacholz' skillfull and flawless drumming and Johnny Lee middleton's groovy bass playing creates something very unique and while the production at times make the sound seem very fragile it never breaks, the songwriting is a great part of what keeps the album fresh and alive. Chris Caffery
(Guitar) is also featured in the booklet, but he did not actually play on the album, but played rythm guitar on the following tour. Wish I was there...
The album opens hard and relentless with Of rage and war
. A song filled with anger and excellent guitar playing that carries the entire song from start to end. This song is worth listening to just for the "Son of a bitch"
line. The title track is a classic and the song that captured my attention at once. The structure of the song and the way it builds all the time is fantastic. If you don't know Savatage
, then one listen to this song should help you decide whether you will like them or not. Listening to the guitarwork on the two instrumentals is actually moving and I feel the need to bring forward the 3 B's "Beauty Beyond Belief"! Criss Oliva is a man who literally speaks through his guitar.
When the crowds are gone
is this album's crowning achievement. A divine masterpiece that is also very moving, because it feels so real. One of Jon Oliva's trademarks has always been his ability to give himself away completely to a song. It feels like he opens a door to his innermost places and out comes this incredible raw and emotional singing that surges through you in a chilling way. Starting out slowly with just Jon and his piano the song builds through mesmerizing guitar parts and increasingsly intense singing to a final heartbreaking climax where everything comes together and forms one of these timeless magical moments in music. The wonderful and enchanting guitar melody in the background of this part gives the song the final push into the land of immortality. The epilogue is very fitting and gives the song a beautiful conclusion.
She's in love
is a straight forward song about a girl's fascination with a specific body part. It's hard, fast and has a great perverse glint in the eye. The song gets even better when heard live on the "She's in love" bootleg. You have to hear Jon's ad-libs on this one. Damn this guy is funny. A simple but very enjoyable song.
is another classic track. I love the different phases the song goes through. Starting out slowly the song picks up speed and power with an incredible melodic guitar and Jon's raw voice, where I cannot help but sing (scream) along. Just listen to the way he sings "...native land"
. The magic continues right up to the powerful ending with all it's awesome guitar solos, shredding included.
opens with a brilliant guitar melody and shoots toward heaven with a trademark Oliva scream along with yet another vituoso guitar solo before the actual singing begins. The outstanding guitar carries much of this song. Apparantly the lyrics were too intense for the booklet as they are nowhere to be found.
has the most brilliant innocent piano intro you can imagine. While the intro musically is quite innocent the song soon descends into heaviness (both musically and lyrically). Though the monotone chorus is a little overused the rest of the song is excellent with some fantastic shredding by Criss. Lyrically the song is interesting too. So live your life, deal with it and don't end up like little Timmy...
is also one of my favorites. Beautiful emotional singing accompanied by equally beautiful guitar playing. During the final moments of Summer's rain the keyboard gives the song a chilling magical feeling by using the same melody as the guitar plays in the final part of When the crowds are gone
. This may sound weird as the passage is only there for a few seconds while the song is fading out, but I absolutely love the ending of this song. The inspiring lyrics add another layer.
Being based on personal experience Thorazine shuffle
has its own special vibe. The heavy guitar melody is really great and Jon has a strong presence right from the atmospheric intro. Being a bonus track on the CD version of the album it is also one of the least stand-out tracks on the album. Still the guitar is the song's saving grace.
As you may have noticed I cannot say enough good things about the guitar playing. It's mesmerizing, vituoso and perfect in its own special way. Criss Oliva has been my favorite guitarist ever since I first listened to him and I have not found anyone yet with the ability to bring out so much emotion with just a few strings on a guitar. He had a special touch that I have missed ever since he passed away in 1993. His legacy will forever live on though and Gutter Ballet is a fine example of his skill.
If you haven't listened to Savatage
before then this is a great way to discover them. They are a very special band and Gutter Ballet is a timeless classic in my collection.
Written by Steen
Friday, October 3, 2003Show all reviews by SteenRatingsSteen: 9.5/10
Members: 8.83/10 - Average of 3 ratings.Member ratings
You are so right Steen.
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