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Savatage - Handful of Rain CD (album) cover

HANDFUL OF RAIN

Savatage

 

Progressive Metal

3.80 | 69 ratings

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semismart
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Ok, some people like this and some don't. That's obvious from the mixed reviews I've seen. I happen to be one of the former. Even with the mediocre opener "Taunting Cobras" I still think this is one of Savatage's best and worth 4 stars

This is a rebound album of sorts, with Savatage trying to regroup after the untimely death of guitar player, co-founder Criss Oliva in a 1993 car accident. Something like this has been a death knell for more than one band but brother John Oliva and company have persevered and have come up with one of their better releases.

Savatage formed in 1978, was originally known as Avatar. They were led by co- founders, brothers Jon (vocals) and Criss (guitar) Oliva. Renamed in 1983, Savatage then pursued a Judas Priest/Iron Maiden style of metal. Their original members included Steve "Doc" Wacholz (drums) and Keith Collins (bass). Johnny Lee Middleton, later replaced Collins at Bass. They bounced between basic metal and a more commercial sound before adding second guitarist, Chris Caffery, seemingly hitting their stride in 1990 with Gutter Ballet. The band exhibited a knack for concept albums, featuring a fusion of elaborate, hard rock melodies, theatric ballads, and dramatic, operatic concepts, a style they gravitated too and have been performing ever since.

Handful of Rain was the first album Savatage produced after Oliva's death. A new gutarist, former Testament member, Alex Skolnick, was recuited. With a lineup consisting of Skolnick, singer Zachary Stevens, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Steve Wacholz, Savatage produced an album that is not only melodic and operatic in nature but ambitious and completely engrossing. Jon Oliva, is listed as a co- producer and a keyboardist, but not as an actual member. The songs are dramatic, passionate and intense, but they're also quite melodic in fact, melody and aggression are equally balanced on this remarkable album. Not suprisingly, Savatage dedicated Handful of Rain to Criss Oliva's memory.

Highlights

"Handful of Rain" Starts out slowly, a little like Bob Seger's Turn the Page but quickly picks up steam. It's a grinding and bluesy song which after the ominously slow start assaults the listener with a tidal wave of sound. The lyrics are about alcohol and all the problems that come with it.

"Chance" it doesn't get any better than this. The fact that this and many of the songs were co-written by Jon Oliva and Paul Oneil helps explain why they sound like the music from Paul Oneil's future rock opera, Beethoven's last Night. This is a superlative song, with classical influences and broadway style vocals. It tells a story about a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania, who helps save tousands of Jews during World War II by helping them flee the country, against orders from his government.

"Visions" is a very nice piano/orchestral style instumental, an excellent light interlude in the dense music surrounding it.

"Alone You Breath" was written as a memorial for the departed Oliva. It is a wonderful song, also an Oliva Oneil collaboration reminiscent of the future Beethoven piece, recorded under the pseudonym, Trans Siberian Orchestra. Alone You Breath starts out slowly and has varying tempos throughout varying from a rock ballad to medium slow tempoed rock. Skolnick's guitar work really stands out on this excellent number.

Conclusion

Handful of Rain offers the listener a variety of songs: From thrashy metal to bluesy hard rock to "Broadway musical" rock. In many ways, this is Savatage's most versatile outing--it is certainly one of their most unique releases.

This is in my opinion, truly an overlooked and underrated Savatage album, right up there with the best they have done.

Similar Artists

Queensryche, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Royal Hunt, Rush, Shadow Gallery

semismart | 4/5 |

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