|Review: Savatage - Poets and Madmen|
|Poets and Madmen|
Year released: 2001
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: January 3, 2011
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:Poets and Madmen
So here we have the last album to be released under the Savatage name; after this it was all Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Circle II Circle and Jon Oliva's Pain, though Poets And Madmen, released back in 2001, still exhibited much of the classic Savatage sound, straddling the boundaries between the band's earlier material and their closing symphonic period. It did see the return of Jon Oliva in the vocalist role, which is interesting considering some of the more ambitious stuff here (which Zak Stevens would have nailed). Regardless, this is an essential release from one of metal's most outstanding contributors, and a must have for fans of the band.
Though many disliked the stylistic turn Savatage took after Handful of Rain, Poets And Madmen fits in more with their first few records than their later ones, but the symphonic keys and Broadway-esque dramatics are here in abundance. In a nutshell, it sounds like Gutter Ballet crossed with Dead Winter Dead, borrowing a couple of riffs here and there from Power Of The Night. With a big, boisterous production, the album kicks off with six near perfect tracks, all among the best the band ever produced. Jon spits his venom over some seriously catchy melodies, insightful Paul O'Neill lyrics, and Chris Caffery's badass riffs. "Stay With Me A While" is an unlikely opener, all piano and reflection, but it works to lead us into the album's truly great numbers, such as the epic "Commissar" (which has a nifty Power Metal feel), the hyped-up "Drive", the synth-led "There In The Silence", and of course, the mighty centerpiece of this record, the godly "Morphine Child". Ten minutes of untainted sophistication, this is by far my favorite Savatage song, just beating "Chance" due to its amazing vocal sections and heroic riff-work. Tender, haunting, and severely euphoric, this is Jon's greatest achievement, stuck purely in the TSO brand of Oliva/O'Neill magic. The final counterpoint section is the best example of this I have ever heard, and if there's a reason to give this album a shot, it is this song.
Naturally, the album takes a dip after such rapture, with "The Rumor" being one of the band's weakest tracks, and "Man In The Mirror" starting too slow. But things pick up with "Surrender", a mini-Savatage epic that sums their sound up nicely; "Awaken", which is basically the little brother of "Mentally Yours" from Gutter Ballet, and the closing ballad "Back To A Reason", which is this album's "Believe". Actually, this is among Jon's finest ballads, very poignant and realistic.
I've said this before: you can find something superlative with every Savatage release. But if this really is the last recording we'll get under the Savatage name, Poets And Madmen is a hell of a good way to end their near indefatigable reign.
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