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Jon Oliva's Pain - 'Tage Mahal CD (album) cover


Jon Oliva's Pain

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5 stars This is as good as it gets folks!!! Although most people may know Jon Oliva from Savatage, this solo disc is possibly better than almost anything Savatage has ever released!!! Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the pre-1989 Savatage, when they were primarily a struggling metal band with terrible lyrics and very little taste (take a song like "She's In Love" for instance...a song about fellatio). By 1989 and the release of "Gutter Ballet", Savatage had finally started to show that there was something else going on behind the scenes, a need to explore the realms of melody and, dare I say!!!!

1990's "Streets", dubbed as a rock opera, was their crowning achievement at the time, and although you will never mistake Jon Oliva's gravelly screech for say Bruce Dickinson, there is emotion in Jon's voice that I rarely hear from any other musician. Unfortunately they followed this disc with another weak metal disc, then Jon's brother was killed in a car accident in 1993. At that time Jon took a step back, and although still part of the group, he took a back seat until the their first 21st century album "Poets And Madmen."

From what I can tell, the songs on 'Tage Mahal are all Savatage leftovers, which is fine with me because these are some of the better songs the band could have released. Jon did and he scored a perfect 5 star review in my books...this album is a mix of beautiful melodies, hard rocking guitars, and soaring choruses. If you're a fan of "Streets" or "Poets And Madmen", buy this!!

Report this review (#57207)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is Jon Oliva's first solo record. Jon of course was the vocalist and keyboard player for SAVATAGE for many years. In his own words he says "I wanted to visit many of my influences, everything from the BEATLES to BLACK SABBATH, QUEEN to DEEP PURPLE and beyond". He decided to record and play with the 4 band members that Zak Stevens (former SAVATAGE vocalist) had used for his own solo record. Jon also brought in long time SAVATAGE drummer Steve Wacholz for a couple of tracks. I've never been a fan of Jon's vocals, they are so raspy and course. It always takes me some time to get used to them.

"The Dark" opens with vocals and piano. The piano melodies continue through this whole song. It gets quite heavy and there are background vocals similar to what QUEEN did. "People Say-Gimme Some Hell" has a good beat and is a very catchy, uptempo song. "Guardian Of Forever" is one of my favourites as Jon's vocals are higher pitched. A dark, brooding and heavy soundscape appears as the guitars grind away.Things change drastically the rest of the way to a brighter and energetic sound. "Slipping Away" has some good, heavy riffing and the bass is great. The drummer is absolutely beating the hell out of his drum kit. Some scorching guitar to follow.

"Walk Alone" has reserved vocals with piano to open, this is contrasted throughout with the intense vocals and heavy soundscape. "The Nonsensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind" opens with some blistering guitar as the rough vocals, piano, backing vocals and drums follow. "No Escape" is a dark, heavy song with backing vocals. Scalding guitar solos follow. "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" is ok, while "All The Time" has a good driving beat and the vocals are better. "Nowhere To Run" has such meaningful lyrics and a catchy riff. Some great guitar and synth work in this one. "Pain" is my favourite. A heavy song with good vocals.The drum, bass melody with the guitar playing over the top is amazing. "Outside The Door" again has rough vocals and great guitar later. "Fly Away" is mellow with acoustic guitar and higher pitched vocals. Nice. It gets heavier later.

Highly recommended to SAVATAGE fans. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#118334)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars I bought this album because I'm a huge Savatage fan, and particularly a fan of Jon Olivia's vocals. However, since this album resembles neither Savatage's music nor Olivia's traditional vocal style, that led very little to me being able to appreciate this album. Furthermore, there's nothing progressive about this in the true meaning of the word, and there's nothing "prog" about this in the sense we have come to understand that that means. At the very most this can be called prog-related because of Olivia's association with Savatage.

The music is not very far removed from uninventive, bland, mainstream metal. It has a strong melodic edge to it and prominent use of the piano, but besides that it essentially isn't different than Metallica's Black Album. Aside from that, the songs aren't enjoyable. They're incredibly too long with too few variations throughout. The tracks all blend together sounding nearly the same, and the album is monotonous without a change in feel until the lighter closing number.

Vocally Jon Olivia has lost all his appeal. The defining high pitched shrieks of his seminal works with Savatage don't exist. His inexplicable ability to convey emotion has likewise vanished. His does the same thing on every song on the album and hardly resembles the singer he once was. In this case change was a very detrimental thing.

I don't think this album belongs on the site or in the collection of any fan. Prog fans will be disappointed, fans of mainstream metal will be disappointed. But most disappointed will be those diehard fans of Savatage and Olivia looking for some resemblance of that band's greatness. Only buy this if the thought of not having something two members of Savatage played on will leave you sleepless at night.

Report this review (#122973)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars Disappointing collection of songs...

After the ŋperpetual? Savatage's stop, Jon Oliva formed this band with the runaway musicians of the Zachary Stevens's band Circle II Circle... Their anger against the old Savatage's singer because money caused their departure of CIIC, and Jon Oliva recruited them to his own band, Jon Oliva's Pain... They are all competent musicians, and their work is good. Maybe the drums are a bit empty and unspectacular, and the Matt LaPorte playing is not always great, some solos (Guardian of Forever) are mediocre... But the level is all right anyway.

The songs are in the vein of Savatage... But without a clear direction. The collection of ideas Jon had for this album are all here. Outtakes from the last Savatage's albums, old Savatage's demos, ideas wich didn's fit in the marvellous american band... And Jon took all this bunch of leftovers and made this album, together with some new ideas. This fact made 'Tage Mahal being a bit dissoriented, diverse in style and quality... The good songs make this album worth, but the weak ones make the hearing not so pleasant.

But of course, I think the Savatage's fans will find some interesting things... Apart of Jon's voice, the lyrics of Pleople Say are a marvellous summary of the Savatage's career, The Non sensible Raving of the Lunatic Mind is clearly a leftover of the outstanding Poets & Madmen, Dr. Killdrums played in two songs, Nowhere to Run is a new version of an old demo from the Gutter Ballet sessions called Target... The album is a constant tribute to Savatage, but never reaching the great levels of this very missed band.

Best songs: People Say (powerful guitars, good bass lines and incredible lyrics...), Slipping Away (dinamic and funny track, with great choirs and different taste, in the contrary of almost all the rest of the songs...), The Non Sensible Raving of the Lunatic Mind (I love the Poets & Madmen's sound of this track...), Walk Alone (good track) and Fly Away (a ballad with the Savatage's trademark, despite the acoustic guitars in replacement of the classic pianos...)

Conclusion: if you are a Savatage's fan, I recommend you this album... This is just a tribute of this great band. But the album has its flaws, with some forgettable songs, and a sound not really well cohesionated. The later Maniacal Renderings is definitely a better album... But if you are a die hard fan of the symphonic metal style, maybe you will find 'Tage Mahal interesting. If you are not, then I recommend you to hear Savatage... This is the real memorable music Jon Oliva made. His Pain project ist just a good imitation, some kind of tribute band... And 'Tage Mahal is maybe its weakest efforth to date.

My rating: ***

Report this review (#169876)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This isn't a blues record...

No, this is thick, theatrical piano metal. The Dark starts off with a soft piano swagger that features Jon and his rough but lovable singing. It then proceeds to stomp everything. And that classically inspired solo rips quite well. The song punches and slams with the best of them, and does a great job of rekindling all that was good with Savatage. Not the most complex of songs, but the piano breaks and musical diversity within the single track is quite satisfying. Then there is the 'Tage tribute song Gimmie Some Hell. The lyrics are rather neat in their nostalgia verses. The solos clipped are even from old Criss solos. Quite an interesting premise. Not to mention the song has some nice thick metal in the symphonic vein.

Guardian of Forever is next with some Gothic metal that is quite enjoyable, if a bit plain. Jon's vocals are always top notch, and the playing never slouches. Those dark piano lines are a nice touch. Slipping Away kicks things into a more uptempo phrasing than before, with the band's classic style of bombastic metal with vocal harmonies that send shivers down your back.

Sometimes songs are carried on by the singing, alone. Walk Alone has such a terrific performance in that respect, even if the musical accompaniment is a bit lacking. The melodies are always strong, however. And that main chorus line is quite a stirring moment. The guitars dance vividly. Nonsensical Ravings is multifaceted in the best way, and has such a brilliant feel. Not to mention how the laughter is just haunting during the space twinged solo and keyboard runs. The lyrics are good, and the song has fantastic pacing. The singing Jon executes here, is emotional and theatrical in the greatest way. The album's main highlight. There are multiple segments, and main themes throughout.

No Escape brings things back to modern thick metal. Menacing and performed admirably. A brusque stab of pulsing metal. The Father follows and has a more symphonic driving to its core feel. The piano lines with the trotting guitar riffs are quite the fine pairing. The lyrics take a dip, and it seems a bit tame compared, but it skips along at a good pace. All The Time is more low key progressing metal with progressing arrangements.

In all the songs follow metal with the piano delegated to interlude fashion, but it adds a very nice level of depth to the overall sound, and some of the melodies are fantastic. Nowhere To Run has the most overt straight forward heavy metal atmosphere to it, at least until it drops out into a space metal jogging air. The song is cynical, and I like that, Jon has always been good at presenting an emotional performance.

The song composition takes a hit, and some of the songs lack real depth. Pain is your average metal tune. Not a highlight. It is strong and thick, and Jon screams well, but it shows some tings. His voice isn't as strong as it used to be, and the band sometimes fluff their compositions with metal to make up for weak overall compositions. Outside The Door brings some needed swaggering rock back in. The vocals are still a bit weaker here than on other, more fleshed out albums. Fly away closes the album on a nice and almost indie rock sounding nostalgia trip that fits snugly at the end of all the powerful symphonic metal.

Some of the songs are not so deep, and there are times when the songs' main melodies aren't so strong. Not to mention there are not too many progressive moments, here. But, the songs punch hard, they are diverse, they have excellent performing, and some of the melodies are absolutely beautiful.

Best Song - Nonsensical Ravings

Worst Song - Pain

**** Weak Stars

Report this review (#178981)
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "'Tage Mahal" is the debut full-length studio album by US heavy/power metal act Jon Olivaīs Pain. The album was released through Steamhammer Records in October 2004. After touring in support of "Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)", Jon Oliva stepped down as the frontman for Savatage. The years of Life on the road had taken their toll on the frontmanīs voice (which was worn) and label pressure of selling albums had led to Jon Oliva developing a nasty alcohol and drug addiction. He remained associated with the band as composer and occasional keyboard/piano player but his main interest in those days was preparing a broadway musical and preparing the early foundation for Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Paul OīNeal. He shortly returned as a frontman on the self-titled 1994 Doctor Butcher album but it wasnīt until 2003 when he founded Jon Olivaīs Pain, that he would finally return as a frontman in a metal act again.

The music on "'Tage Mahal" is traditional heavy metal/US power metal which really isnīt surprising considering Jon Olivaīs past achivements. Itīs kind of a continuation of the late eighties Savatage sound albeit with more keyboards and piano. The material are generally very well written and performed (Jonīs powerful rusty vocal delivery is as impressive as ever) and the album also features a well sounding production, which boosts the material. The vers/chorus based song structures are slightly generic in nature but the sophistication of the arrangements save the day every time. The album features both heavy tracks, more theatric tracks, a few faster paced tracks and quite a few power ballad type tracks.

"'Tage Mahal" is what I would characterize as good craftmanship from a seasoned singer and composer. Itīs not an album thatīll surprise you or challenge you if you are already familiar with the back catalogue of Jon Oliva, but if you are a fan of that, "'Tage Mahal" is definitely a worthy purchase. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1300324)
Posted Monday, November 3, 2014 | Review Permalink

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