|Review: Savatage - Streets: A Rock Opera|
|Streets: A Rock Opera|
Label: Atlantic Records
Year released: 1991
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: January 11, 2010
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:Streets: A Rock Opera
The mighty Savatage and their extensive back catalogue are rarely discussed with negativity. It is only their 1991 follow up to the much lauded Gutter Ballet that meets disapproval from the masses. The fact that so many metal heads shunned (and continue to shun) Streets: A Rock Opera is a crime rivaling that of the album's subject matter, and I can only presume the reason behind it is that most of the people who find the time to bash it have no time to actually listen to the damn thing. It is an essential chapter in the band's history, one that fans of narrative-driven Progressive Metal should not be without.
The story behind this concept album is unimportant – you can devour the synopsis in the sleeve notes – but what matters is the music itself. Jon Oliva reigns supreme on this album and his voice (which was sounding pretty damn tidy at this point), is the mouthpiece for the themes and changes that occur throughout. The much missed Criss Oliva leaves his mark on the heavier tracks, which manage to tip a head to their past whilst also nodding to their future. Streets is certainly not the band's heaviest attempt, but was their most melodic up until this point, and with this new-found attention paid to melody and composition, Savatage began showing the metal crowd that it was acceptable to bring outside influences to the table, especially from classical, pop, and symphonic schools. There are a lot of ballads on this thing (most likely the cause for such derision in the metal scene), but they are all well written and well sung, and while there are perhaps too many (the closing pair is a bit overpowering), they are still better than most attempted once-an-album by many of the Prog/Power Metal bands that cut their teeth practicing these songs in their bedrooms.
Once you have shoved the lyrical concept to the side, the music really opens its doors. From the atmospheric, snake-like charm of the opening track, the album twists and turns in a fit of moods that always manages to revert back to the dark path where it began. Tracks like the anthemic "Jesus Saves" or the vicious "Ghost in the Ruins" could have appeared on Gutter Ballet no problem; whereas some of the heavier songs such as "Agony and Ecstasy" are more aggressive than anything the band had attempted since Sirens. The Broadway influence is what really sets this thing apart, and though it may be grand and pompous (especially on "A Little Too Far" and "Believe"), it just works. It sets the band aside from anything that existed at the time, and most of the bands that followed suit. There is really everything here. It is true innovation that drives the album forward, pure musicianship that keeps it going.
Perhaps Streets is not as universal as works such as Operation: Mindcrime, but it is still one of the best concept albums out there, one that Symphonic Metal fanatics need to own. Is it Savatage at their finest moment? No. But what was? Handful of Rain? Not exactly. Edge of Thorns? In some opinions, maybe. You can't go wrong with any of their albums, but out of all of them, Streets is still their most special. It's a shame most metallers shy away from the sound of the piano. Otherwise, the band could have had a major hit on their hands.
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