|Classic Review: Savatage - Edge of Thorns|
|Edge of Thorns|
Label: Atlantic Records
Year released: 1993
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: March 26, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
for:Edge of Thorns
Rated 4.43/5 (88.5%) (40 Votes)
After the horror that was "Streets: A Rock Opera" I figured Savatage had shot their load, which was a shame, as I was a huge fan of both "Hall of the Mountain King" and "Gutter Ballet". Lo and behold, the Sava-dudes had more good stuff in them. "Edge of Thorns" was the seventh full-length for the ‘Tage, and it rules.
While "Mountain King" was straight ahead power metal, and "Gutter Ballet" pushed a more epic, symphonic sound, "Edge of Thorns" leavens these influences with a healthy dose of old-school blues. But wait, don’t back off just yet. Normally blues and metal have as much in common as priests and hookers (related yet officially separate), but here Savatage have taken metal, hard rock, prog-rock and theatrical music, and delta blues and created a unique and powerful sound. From the delicate piano intro on the title track and opener to the last note of "Sleep" this album breaks new ground and sets new standards.
The variety here is tremendous. There are blistering hard-rockers like "He Carves His Stone", "Lights Out" and the monstrous riff of "Skraggy’s Tomb". Moody pieces like the pounding title cut, "Degrees of Sanity", "Conversation Piece" or "Damien" The instrumentals "Labyrinths" and "Exit Music", and the album’s best song, the epic "Follow Me" that goes from acoustic and crooning to furious pounding steel riffs. Every song is a gem, with no fillers or throwaways, absolutely every damned song. Savatage created here an album with tremendous range, emotion and power.
The performances here are enough to bring tears to your eyes. New singer Zachary Stevens has a tremendous voice that I have always preferred over Jon Oliva’s, here was his first chance to show what he could do, and he blew the doors right off. He travels from smooth to jagged like it was nothing and hits the high notes with room to spare, awesome. Doc Wacholz is in his usual fine form here, as is bassist Johnny Lee Middleton. Jon Oliva provided the pianos and keys, as well as helping to produce, and the production is crystal clear.
The real star of "Edge of Thorns", however, is Criss Oliva and his guitar. Always a great player, here he surpassed all expectations and left critics choking on his dust. Rarely has a player so ruled an album, and rarely has an album been strong enough to shine even through such showmanship. His playing is simply incredible, but his solos and embellishments only enhance the music, never detract from it. On "Edge of Thorns" Criss gave the performance of his career, made all the more triumphant and bittersweet by his death that same year. We lost a great talent when Criss died, no question.
The booklet is very cool, with a great cover by Gary Smith and a very southern-gothic look to the band photos. The lyrics are included, and these are some of the best Savatage have produced.
In short, this is essential Savatage. If you like the band at all this CD needs to be in your collection, as it is arguably the best album they ever recorded. As an album it stands as a monument to a great musician who left it as his last work, but even without that "Edge of Thorns" is a superlative album with great songs and spectacular performances.
Standout Tracks: Every damn one.
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