|Review: Jon Oliva's Pain - Festival|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2010
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: March 29, 2010
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Rated 4/5 (80%) (22 Votes)
If you were never a fan of Jon Oliva's first band, Savatage, or think that they "sold out" when they signed to Atlantic Records for 1985's Power of the Night, you can stop reading. Jon Oliva's Pain's Festival is not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoyed Power's Heavy Metal riffs amidst the sea of glam bands that the U.S. was awash in back in the mid 80s or, better yet, experienced the majestic Hall of the Mountain King, you should continue on.
I must admit, Hall of the Mountain King was the last Savatage album I really got into and I lost touch with Savatage after Streets: A Rock Opera. I had never heard anything by Jon Oliva's Pain, and considering that Trans-Siberian Orchestra featured prominently in Oliva's musical endeavors, even as his participation in Savatage waned, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Festival landed on my desk. What I found was a mix of major label Savatage with all the good and bad that implies. There's plenty of the hard edged, U.S. Metal that drove Power of the Night and Hall of the Mountain King, replete with Oliva's signature rough vocal screaming. The band that Oliva has surrounded himself with is a dead ringer for his previous band. There's also quite a bit of slower material, a la Fight for the Rock or Streets, with Oliva showing both his classical and Beatles influences.
Festival kicks off with three tracks of straight up metal, from "Lies" through the title track, "Festival." "Lies" is the best of the bunch, deftly mixing vocal melodies with subtle guitar solos throughout the song, creating an instantly catchy and singable opener. Track 4, "Afterglow," starts with acoustic guitars and strings (I told you Oliva likes the Beatles) before building to a crushing chorus. We're back into the fast, aggressive material with "Living on the Edge." Festival proceeds to see-saw back and forth between harder and softer songs all the way until the end. There isn't much noteworthy with the exception of "Winter Haven," a wonderfully written song that lulls you into thinking it's just another ballad with its lilting guitar solos over acoustic rhythms. Oliva's clear singing sounds quite different from the gruff style he normally employs. The song builds in intensity, getting darker and more aggressive and giving the listener a fantastic emotional roller coaster ride. Too bad Festival ends with the formulaic rocker "I Fear You" and the limp ballad, "Now."
All in all, Festival reminds me a great deal of mid-period Savatage, and that's a good thing. There are some missteps to be sure, but that was true back then, as well. There is a bit too much slower material and some of the harder stuff is pedestrian, but the good stuff is REALLY good, enough to make this a worthwhile pickup. Savatage fans should get a lot out of this, but, as always, your mileage may vary.
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