Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

2001 – Part 2.2: Savatage – Poets And Madmen

I grew up with “Gutter Ballet” and “Streets”. I owned those albums and I played em like I owned em.


My cousin Mega, was also a fan. He’s older than me by 4 years and had more cash, so he had “Hall Of The Mountain King”, “Edge Of Thorns”, “Handful Of Rain”, “The Wake Of Magellan” and “Dead Winter Dead”. Of course, my trusty TDK tapes didn’t fail me in copying those albums, until the time came when I had the dollars to buy em myself.

From a vocal style point of view, I didn’t mind Jon Oliva or Zachary Stevens. Both offered different styles. But I was heaps bummed when Criss Oliva died in a head on car crash with a drunk driver. His guitar playing was and still is, inspirational. His work on the “Gutter Ballet” album is up there for me.

“Poets and Madmen” was hard to get in Australia. Released in 2001, there wasn’t a lot of brick and mortar shops looking to import Savatage and zero distributors to release it locally. So studio album number 11 remained elusive. It didn’t help matters that Atlantic Records dropped them and their German label was still seen as an “IMPORT” label in Australia. But Mega was always resourceful and he got it, albeit a few years later. He called to tell me about it, but by then, I also had a copy of it, via AudioGalaxy.

The album had a last minute concept added, inspired by the career and death of South African photographer Kevin Carter, who committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, a few months after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his “The Vulture and the Little Girl” photo, of a frail famine stricken child, who had collapsed on the ground with a vulture in the background, waiting. This photo also caused an uproar about the ethics of photographers.

Is the shot more important than the welfare of a child?

“Stay With Me Awhile”

The outro lead break by Al Pitrelli (who actually left the band to join Megadeth) reminds me of “Empty Rooms” from Gary Moore.

“There In The Silence”

An 80’s like synth lead kicks off the song, before a foot stomping groove kicks in.

The lead break here from Chris Caffery is guitar hero worthy


The symphonic elements to kick off the song are excellent.

Then it goes into an Iron Maiden like riff while Oliva delivers a schizophrenic King Diamond like vocal.

And the lead breaks are excellent. The first part of the main solo and the outro is Al Pitrelli and the others are Caffery.

“Morphine Child”

One of my favourite riffs. Its foot stomping, head banging heavy metal. It reminds me of classic Savatage, even “Handful Of Rain” is in this song.

The main solo is Al Pitrelli and its one of those special album songs which has the multi-layered counterpoint vocals.

They sort of go something like this.

There is a bunch of voices repeating one word, another group of voices repeating a different melody, another group of voices doing something else and another group doing something different and blended in they all seem to work.

They started this kind of counterpoint vocal arrangement with “Chance” on the “Edge Of Thorns” album, when Zachary Stevens was the singer. In order to pull it off for this album, three other singers came in.

“The Rumour”

The main solo is Al Pitrelli. I had to mention it.


It’s a haunting piano riff and vocal kicks it off, before the metal comes. The lead break from Caffery has some massive sweeps happening,

“Back To A Reason”

The first two minutes and twenty seconds is country rock awesomeness as a piano like Free Bird. Then it changes like Jekyll and Hyde, similar to “New York City, Don’t Mean Nothing”. And if there is a fault of the album is that all of the songs move between these kind of moods all too regularly.

The by-product of Savatage existing is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And that project had just started to play to a lot of people, so clearly the inspiration for Savatage was not there while Oliva and O’Neill started to focus on TSO.

And with this album, Savatage signed off.


The State Of Heavy Metal

There it is again. Heavy metal. It doesn’t matter how many times the labels tried to kill it, mainstream it or commercialize it, Heavy Metal has remained consistent from when it began. Whenever pop music becomes pretentious, heavy metal rises up as an alternative answer.

What does the term “heavy metal” mean?

Black Sabbath started something in 1969 in the UK. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin started something on the hard rock front. In the U.S you had Kiss, Styx, Ted Nugent, Journey. In Australia, you had a pub rock band called AC/DC. Progressive Rock became a force to be reckoned with on the backs of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes.

By the mid Seventies, disco, punk and new wave became the darlings of the scene and heavy metal and all forms of rock went underground again, waiting for the day to rise again.

Then came the New Wave of British Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1983. At the same time, hard rock, glam metal and speed metal roared out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco scene. Think Motley Crue, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

When heavy metal and hard rock drops off the mainstream scene, it is never gone for long. Heavy Metal is the answer to all things corrupt. It is the soundtrack.

Typically most metal fans come from working-class homes or changed family dynamics. According to a recent study, all us metal heads must have low self-esteem, because that is why we listen to metal music.

The mainstream always ignored metal music, seeing it as too dumb. Of course, when a band breaks through, the mainstream are the first group of media outlets to jump on the wagon. Remember Metallica. Ignored by the mainstream completely. The only mainstream press they got was the sad and tragic death of Cliff Burton. Then the Black album comes out and it is undeniable. It’s a juggernaut and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

So here is the list of the current state of heavy metal.


Rush – enough said. Move on.

AC/DC – enough said times two.


Iron Maiden – they need another great album like “Brave New World” soon or they will be playing to smaller and smaller audiences with each tour.

Metallica – they need to start making better decisions and they need to release new music. Look at their decision-making process. A project with Lou Reed (RIP) that just didn’t connect with the fan bases of each party involved and an $18 million dud of a movie. In relation to new music, they can only go back to the same market place year after year before the fans get burned on it.

Megadeth – Dave Mustaine said on “The Metal Show” that his top five Megadeth albums are “Countdown To Extinction”, “Rust In Peace”, “Peace Sells”, “So Far So Good So What” and “Killing Is My Business”. He needs to have a current album in that Top 5.

Slayer – are finished in relation to new music without Jeff Hanneman. He was the main songwriter in Slayer, full stop. To hear Kerry King saying that if the Jeff Hanneman music in the archives is not good, it will be not used is a load of B.S. Who made Kerry King the gatekeeper?

Judas Priest – is not Judas Priest anymore. It’s all about the dollars.

Black Sabbath – is all about the last paycheck. Anyone remember the recent album? Name me the whole track list without Googling it. I bet if i asked you to name me the whole track list on “Paranoid” or “Heaven And Hell” I would get an answer.

Pantera – lets hope that no one is stupid enough to reform Pantera with a “guitarist” paying tribute to Dimebag. Stick to your guns Vinnie. Pantera died completely when Dimebag died.


Led Zeppelin is still big business in the market place. That is what the mighty Zep has become. A Corporate entity.

Pink Floyd are on hiatus however Roger Waters is still doing the rounds. He is the real deal anyway.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same market places year after year since 2008. The fans are getting burnt on this grab for cash as no new music has been forthcoming expect for the song “Sex”. The movie and the farewell tour are constantly dropped to the public.

Deep Purple should call it a day. They are out of ideas and inspiration.

Styx, Journey, Toto and Night Ranger are shadows of their former selves, doing enough to make a living in the current music business, but out of touch of what the music business fans want from their artists today. Which is a direct line, a connection.


Machine Head is the leader in this group. In Robb Flynn, they have a work horse of epic proportions who has the grit to see things through.

Trivium are real contenders. Say what you will about them, one thing is clear; they are not afraid to try new shit out and take risks.

METAL (all styles)

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch lead this group. They are ticking all the boxes. They have the sales on the board and both are part of the public conversation.

Bullet For My Valentine – have a great album in them. Can they write it?

Stone Sour – should have released one album instead of two.

Sevendust – I love them and the new album was a welcomed return to form.

Disturbed – The Device album had the same impact as the last Disturbed album. Do they still have a place in the Metal world?

Heartist – could be the next big thing or they could crash and burn with their next album as now they have a record label A&R department in their house.

ROCK (all styles)

Shinedown are the new ROCK GODS. Volbeat are not that far behind with Black Veil Brides and Skillet as decent contenders.

Eve To Adam – released a great rock album but no one has heard it.

Buckcherry – veterans of the scene and play to a niche.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – took too long to release a good album. If you are going to take 4 years between releases, you need to release a great album.

Airbourne – fill the AC/DC void when AC/DC is on hiatus.

Alter Bridge – are an experienced team that deliver consistently.

One Less Reason – great music, great songs however if people buy a physical product from them, they need to deliver.

10 Years – a great fan funded release in 2012. Now they need to make some hard decisions. Do they go the fan funded route again or do they seek to get a deal or something entirely different.


Digital Summer – they run their band as a company that puts money back into the band and they still hold down jobs that gives them money for living.

Burnside – released a great album that no one has heard.

Vaudeville – another band that released a great album.


The Night Flight Orchestra – If you haven’t heard “Internal Affairs” from 2012 you need to. TNFO is made up of melodic death metal bands playing classic rock and metal.


Tool – it’s going to be an event when the new Tool album comes out. Is it too late? Time will tell.

Coheed and Cambria – can’t do nothing wrong currently. Excellent double releases, plus great fan perks.

Dream Theater – are doing their best to maintain the success they achieved 10 years ago. Need a great album otherwise it’s bye bye.

TesseracT, Protest The Hero and Periphery are the new leaders of Progressive Music.

Today I Caught The Plague, Sound of Contact, Op Shop, Scale The Summit and Lizzard are rookies to take notice off.


Killswitch Engage are firing on all guns.

In Flames need to bring out new music.

All That Remains needs to head back to the studio.

The rest of the bands in this movement need a re-think.


Within Temptation – enough said


Lamb of God – they are angry and they are pissed off. A bullshit murder trial and banned in a South East Asian country by ignorant pricks.


One final mention; “Du, Du Hast, Du Hast mish a fraud.” Rammstein has a dicka, so let’s get together, what is the problem?