Savatage! The history of Savatage is a long and twisted tale. The tale includes dramatic changes in musical direction, collaborations with uber-producer/composer Paul O’Neill, concept albums, the semi-retirement of Jon Oliva, and the tragic death of Criss Oliva. The Savatage tale is also one of head-scratching commercial under-achievement, despite a high level of respect within the metal community. And the tale (believe it or not) also intertwines with that of the mega-successful Trans-Siberian Orchestra!
But at its very start, the Savatage tale was simply one of a Florida band that dwelled deep within the very beating heart of all things heavy metal…
(Note: Before changing their name to Savatage, the band was known as Avatar, and released a three-song EP called City Beneath The Surface on Par Records in ’82).
Savatage’s debut LP was Sirens (1983, Par Records). This was a fairly limited U.S. pressing (cover shown above). Some were pressed on blue vinyl. Subsequent re-releases (and there were many, by labels such as Roadrunner, Music For Nations, Combat, and Metal Blade) used a different cover (with some variations).
My Worthless Opinion: You couldn’t ask for a more competent debut than Savatage’s Sirens. Criss Oliva’s “metalaxe” riffing was positively demonic (check out Holocaust for a prime example) and Jon Oliva’s “shrieks of terror” brought the world a new unique voice in heavy metal. His highly emotive voice was brought to bear with tortured screams and ghastly howls. Jon could also toggle effortlessly between a clean voice and a hell-raising “metal” voice. Jon had tons of metal moves in his vocal arsenal, though I must say, I wish Jon had done a little more actual tuneful singing on the Sirens LP. That is, he didn’t really elevate the song’s choruses very much, which would have given them a much more dramatic payoff. Often, I can only really be sure that we have reached the song’s chorus because the song title is repeated a few times! (And truth be told, the lyrics aren’t always so great).
Needless to say, the Sirens LP is one of those great “more-metal-than-thou” albums of the early ‘80s. It gets by on overall attitude and the purity of its metal conviction, though it lacks any particularly legendary songs in my view. (Sirens is my fave of this lot.) Hey, the drummer’s nickname was “Dr. Killdrums”. Doesn’t that say it all right there? Gee, what should I listen to today? How about some Michael Buble? Oh, wait… what have we here? Dr. Killdrums? Hell yeah! THE MAN HAS HIS DOCTORATE IN KILLDRUMS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! My score: B+