Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Initial Impressions: Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King

Savatage is not nearly as well-known as the band that they later became. It's a shame. Savatage began as a traditional metal band but began adding progressive elements more and more, eventually becoming a full-fledged progressive metal band around the time that Queensryche and Fates Warning were around and predating Dream Theater. The band has always had a flair for the dramatic and also began incorporating more and more symphonic elements to their music. On their 1994 album, a song appeared called "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" and took the band in a different direction. They became Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

But this album came way before all of that, when they were just beginning to become the progressive metal Savatage.

This was the band's first commercially successful album. The title track was made into a video (a very cheesy one featuring a dwarf stealing treasure from the lair of a sleeping giant) which was aired on MTV. There was also a video made for "24 Hours Ago". The album was much more complex than the earlier works of the band which were more straightforward traditional metal. The arrangements were more intricate and the band often incorporated classical music elements. In particular, the track "Prelude to Madness" which leads into "Hall of the Mountain King" is an arrangement of the classical piece "In the Hall of the Mountain King" as well as featuring a partial arrangement of "Mars, the Bringer of War".

This was the album that pushed Savatage in the progressive metal direction, but it would be a little while before they perfected the sound. This album mostly features traditional heavy metal songs with the occasional complex arrangement or progressive structure. The vocals are mostly delivered in a high-pitched, harsher tone.

This is probably the band's most well-known and best album. A couple of albums later, they would start doing rock operas. Then, guitarist Criss Oliva (brother of vocalist Jon Oliva), died in a car accident and the band was never the same. This album came at a much brighter time for Savatage.

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