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Savatage - Gutter Ballet CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.00 | 191 ratings

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5 stars A long time before bands such as Therion or Apocalyptica made their groundbreaking symphonic or opera metal masterpieces, a long time before symphonic gothic metal bands such as Nightwish got into mainstream, a long time before bands such as Metallica would try to collaborate with big orchestras and a long time before epic metal all star bands such as Aina, Ayreon or Avantasia made their appearances, there was a young American band that decided to get away from their power and thrash metal roots and chose the hard path to follow instead of recreating an album in the key of their infamous "Hall Of The Mountain King" record that got amazing critics and is considered nowadays as a cult album. The mentioned bands are all something like the intellectual babies of Savatage in one way or the other. This young band decided to try the courageous attempt to fusion heavy metal music with symphonic approaches. They didn't take the radical step to create an entire symphonic metal album and also put a few more traditional American power metal tracks on the record, but the most important and longest tracks on the record went into a rather new direction. It's somewhat a transitional album as the band headed for more operatic sounds on the later records and later founded the infamous Trans-Siberian Orchestra to conquer the world with their new interpretation of classical music.

It all started here when Savatage released "Gutter Ballet" which is one of the band's strongest or even their best record but without a doubt their most important concerning their maturity and climax of creativity. The album starts with a very atmospheric and angry power metal song called "Of Rage And War" that leads us on a wrong path and let us expect another strong heavy power metal record. There are a few more songs of that kind on the record like the powerful "She's In Love" for example.

But the title track already leaves us stunning. A beautifully emotional and yet peaceful piano interlude let us guess and expect what might come after the first minute of the song. Finally, we realize in the most stunning way that piano melodies, decent violins, melodic guitars, powerful drums and pumping bass guitars got into a pumping fusion in this unique and experimental track. Over all those instruments thrones the powerful and perfectly imperfect voice of Jon Oliva. There is nothing kitsch or artificial about this track as there are no backing choirs, no female guest singers, no national state orchestra with one hundred musicians and more. This song is about true emotions and is overwhelming in emotions without being overwhelming in instruments. The ballad "When The Crowds Are Gone" goes even further and the sound is mostly reduced to a haunting piano melody and Oliva's unique voice before some melodic guitars finally get in and dominate the song. There is so much power and true emotion in this quiet track that it might honestly make cry any one that has a weakness for great rock ballads. "Summer's Rain" and the bonus track "Thorazine Shuffle" slightly go in the same direction and has very honest and interesting lyrics why the music is a little bit less memorable. The soft and touching instrumentals underline softly the symphonic direction of this album.

The band is already able to vary with its symphonic influences. "Hounds" and "The Unholy" sounds very dark and atmospheric and have something truly majestic in their sound. Another true highlight is the fairly underrated "Mentally Yours" that combines the anger and power of the band's older works with the intellectual majesty on the new horizon. The band only uses the instrumental efforts to underline the atmosphere of an epic story while the powerful vocals and sharp riffs don't lose any of their power.

This diversified and highly professional and intellectual album is more than an experiment; it's the birth of a new genre or at least a major milestone and influence for the future of metal music. With their first try, Savatage are already able to create ten or eleven mesmerizing and unforgettable anthems. There's not a single weak song on this record, not a single filler and even though every song sounds different and concentrates on a different feeling, story or musical expression, there is a clear guiding line on this epic record and the high quality of every song makes this album sound very coherent instead of just being a collection of great tracks. Back then, this record was easily the record of the year and while other metal bands disappointed towards the end of the last millennium, Savatage emerged and showed how one could be able to change and prosper without getting unfaithful towards its own past. It's a pity that this band has never truly gained further attention as this album might easily please to rock music maniacs and fans of classical music. This record is a great milestone in the still young history of metal music and it happens quite often that I listen intensively to this inspiring record from time to time that has not lost anything of its initial magic.

Originally published on on March 9th of the year 2011.

kluseba | 5/5 |


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