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Savatage - The Dungeons Are Calling CD (album) cover

THE DUNGEONS ARE CALLING

Savatage

 

Progressive Metal

3.05 | 25 ratings

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Marc Baum
Prog Reviewer
4 stars [Note: I will be reviewing the "Silver Edition" re-release which includes three bonus tracks]

This is a pretty great power metal mini album if you ask me. It's not nearly as important as "Sirens", or indeed any of their 80's output with the exception of oddity "Fight For the Rock". And it's pretty damn short, which is forgivable since it's an EP st00pid (he says to himself in a chiding tone).

It's not quite "All Killer, No Filler", but it's close. Opener "The Dungeons Are Calling" fades in with some charmingly cheesy effects before knocking the doors down with a chunky slice of riffage. Jon Oliva sounds positively demonic, and the band is as tight a unit as it ever got. Obviously one compares this to the other title tracks, often the best tracks on their respective albums, and unfortunately it can't top "Hall of the Mountain King", "Sirens", and horror of horrors, "Power of the Night" and "Gutter Ballet". But it does holds it's own.

Next up is one of my all time favourite Savatage songs, "By the Grace of the Witch". Blessed with some stellar axework, chugging bass, and walloping drums, you can tell it's a classic immediately. It's also a humourously confusing track for me. Although Jon is enunciating perfectly with no distortion, I always got the lyrics wrong, especially before I heard the title. I thought it was “Do you feel your passion/Embrace of the witch!” for the longest time. Curse the booklet for having no lyrics! Anyway, Jon Oliva is at his absolute finest here. Excellent high notes, some nice gruff growls, and also some good backing vocals by the rest of the group. Scarily catchy.

“Visions” is one of the most metal songs ever, with your standard ‘burn in hell’ imagery and crazed vocals. Also some brilliant solo’s. You don’t want this one to end. Interesting keyboard opening and big hot slab of m/metalm/ in “Midas Knight”. Song is a bit confusing (does the knight serve King Midas, is the Midas thing a metaphor? Maybe I should go read the lyrics eh?). One of my fav amongst many Criss Oliva solo runs. Next up, we get another keyboard lead in before another mid-tempo bruiser in “City Beneath the Surface”. This album is like a state of mind, and as such the track doesn’t stand out that much. Another powerful riff, another great performance. Great, great, great. What you expect from the Savs.

And then…uh, well, this is just junk. “The Whip” is just a cheesy S&M-themed number you might expect from Bitch or something. After the grimly serious castle rock of the rest of the stuff, this just feels limp. Because it is.

I believe there’s another track on the original release, but it’s absent here, so I’ll just hop over to the bonus tracks. These ones sound like they’re from earlier demo’s. The production is crap, but the songs are good. “Metalhead” is an interesting take on the usual anthem, lyrically and mostly because of the bands handling of it. Most bands would make this kind of thing a joyous or at least exuberant deal, but the Savs play it straight and make it a nice roiling anthem against conformity. “Before I Hang” retreads the ground of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, and it’s very nearly as dramatic. An impassioned slow burner. Excellent stuff. “Stranger in the Dark” closes the album strong, being just as hard, just as powerful, and perhaps a bit more sensitive than the other stuff.

This re-release is a rare case of the bonus tracks equaling the original cut.

Oh, and as an extra we get a hilarious little bonus rap. Some funky bass work, but lets focus on the hilarious delivery. It’s about a bloke who always borrows without returning and does all the other dudes drugs (bastard!). Weird sound effects too. I just don’t get why they had to stick 90 tracks of silence in here. You won’t fool anyone, and most are smart enough to just hit ‘back’ on track one and skip the hassle.

The Dungeons Are Calling is for the most part on a level with Sirens and a must-have for Sava-maniacs and any power metal fan on this planet! It's not prog yet, but early Savatage is still one of my metal-faves, so I give for this classic a high recommendation to any one who is insterested in something special in early power metal. If you know more recent Savatage material like Dead Winter Dead or The Wake of Magellan, don't hesitate to take a trip back to the beginning days of this awesome band. Sirens and The Dungeons Are Calling are both excellent start points.

rating: 8.5/10 points = 86 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Marc Baum | 4/5 |

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