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Savatage - Handful of Rain CD (album) cover

HANDFUL OF RAIN

Savatage

 

Progressive Metal

3.78 | 69 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Marc Baum
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After the death of Criss Oliva by the hands of a drunk driver, it was indeed questionable who would be able to match such a masterful guitarist. Fortunately, Alex Skolnick had left Testament to focus on other things, and decided to record the album and do a tour with Savatage. Jon Oliva, overly distraught at the untimely death of his brother, did not sing on this album. But the highly able Zach Steven's did, and he did it justice.

This was the second post-Criss Oliva Savatage album I had found. I bought The Wake Of Magellan, and kind of liked it, so I decided to try something else out. I didn't even notice it had Alex Skolnick from one of my favorite thrash metal bands Testament in it, so I went in expecting something like the other album. But as I've come to find with Savatage albums, even up to their latest release Poets and Madmen, they keep updating their sound.

I will rarely even point out guitar solos and lead work when I run over the songs, because all the songs have them and they are melodic and tastefully done. Alex Skolnick is very masterful at his guitar, and you can really tell he's shifting from metal to a more jazz feel when you listen to this album. He knows exactly when to cut in and cut out, and exactly what his solos should sound like.

This album starts out with a very fast song, "Taunting Cobras". In fact, thanks to Alex's playing I almost thought this was a Testament song until the singing kicked in. After that is the title track, "Handful of Rain". This freatures a great accoustic intro with singing over it, and then it goes into a heavy riff with more great singing, showing how Zach can shift from lower singing to this great yelling type of singing.

Next you get what is hailed by most people to be the best song off the album, "Chance". This is like their one big rock opera type song on this album, and they pull it off flawlessly. There is even the first canon-passage on a Savatage album on it that becomes more and more dramatic. Skolnick plays a lead that fits so well here, it's incredible. And he pulls off this pinch harmonic squeal coupled with a whammy bar that just dives right into the riff part of the song so well.

After this is "Stare into the Sun". It's this little track that starts out as some sort of bluesy or jazzy guitar sound with just a pace keeping drum beat. The guitar fills are short and sweet, and the rhythm part later is a wah pedal with muted strings - giving that good "chucka chucka" sound. Fits really well. And after that is another good track entitled "Castles Burning", which features more great guitar and vocals, and some piano overlayed that really seals the deal. Then later it goes into an accoustic arpeggio that sounds really sweet with vocals over it.

Then you get to "Visions", which is instrumental and is pretty short but effective. It takes a strong passage of Chance and it flues into a ballad song called "Watching You Fall". The lyrics are the real attention getter here. There's no snippet of text I can give you, you just need to read them all and listen to the song to understand.

Then comes the track "Nothing Going On" that I like the first six seconds of because you hear them talking in the studio followed by Alex doing this awesome run followed by a pinch harmonic. Then I get bored with it quickly. It's heavy, but a bit mindlessly so in my opinion. There is an awesome guitar fade in part mid-song with the solo (hear the amp crank up, and guitar slide in... and random quick licks). Plus some shredding.

The next on the album, "Symmetry" has an memorable chorus that might stay in your head for a long time, after you've heard it. It's in my book one of the more overlooked gems in the catalogue of the band. Zak Stevens gives a strong vocal performance on here.

The final "Alone you Breath" is dedicated to Criss Oliva and goes beyond words. There is a singing duet between Zak Stevens and Jon Oliva in a bridge chorus that is part-wise out-taken from Believe and is nothing less than heart-wrenching. I don't want to name Savatage beeing a ballad-group, but their ballads are mostly the crowning highlights on all of their albums since Gutter Ballet, and AYB is not an exception. This is the tribute and funeral song to one of the greatest and most underrated guitarist who ever walked the earth. Before I start to shiver about this amazing piece of music I end this review with saying that this is the true highlight on the album.

So really, for an album that came about right after such a horrible tragedy and in a time of such uncertainty, it is quite amazing. And it is definitely worth a purchase, because it is without doubt a breath of fresh air for Savatage, as it contains more of a jazzy feel (thanks mostly to Alex Skolnick) than their earlier and later stuff, but it still sounds like the same old Savatage simultaneously. Extra note: Jon Oliva wrote the complete record on his own, he even has arrenged the instrumental parts. Respect!

album rating: 8.5/10 points = 84 % 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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