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Savatage Handful of Rain album cover
3.82 | 130 ratings | 11 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1994

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Taunting Cobras (3:21)
2. Handful of Rain (5:00)
3. Chance (7:48)
4. Stare into the Sun (4:42)
5. Castles Burning (4:38)
6. Visions (1:25)
7. Watching You Fall (5:20)
8. Nothing's Going On (4:07)
9. Symmetry (5:03)
10. Alone You Breathe (7:29)

Total Time 48:53

Bonus track on 1998 reissue:
11. Alone You Breathe (acoustic version) (4:38)

Bonus tracks on 2002 reissue:
11. Chance (radio edit) (4:50)
12. Alone You Breathe (acoustic) (4:38)

Line-up / Musicians

- Zachary Stevens / vocals
- Jon Oliva / guitar, piano, keyboards, bass, drums
- Alex Skolnick / guitar solos
- Johnny Lee Middleton / bass (credited but actually did not perform)
- Steve Wacholz / e-drums (credited but actually did not perform)

- Paul O'Neill / rhythm guitar, keyboards, producer

Releases information

Artwork: Gary Smith

CD Atlantic ‎- 82660-2 (1994, US)
CD Steamhammer ‎- SPV 085-18022 (1998, Europe) With a bonus track
CD SPV GmbH ‎- SPV 076-74552 CD (2002, Germany) With 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy SAVATAGE Handful of Rain Music

SAVATAGE Handful of Rain ratings distribution

(130 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SAVATAGE Handful of Rain reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by semismart
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.


"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.


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

Review by The Crow
4 stars The first Savatage's album without Criss Oliva, and he is missed... But it's still a great album, but not a masterpiece in my opinion. In this time, Savatage was on the verge of breaking, but the strong personality of Jon Oliva made possible the continuation of the band. And this is obviously a transition album before the upcoming succesful lineup and their two fantastic conceptual works "Dead Winter Dead" and "The Wake Of Magellan".

Although he doesn't appear in the credits, Jon Oliva played in this record piano, keyboards, all the drums and the rythm and acoustic guitars... Participating too in the composition and the production. Who can deny that he is the Savatage's soul along with the producer and lirycist Paul O'Neil? After the passing of Criss Oliva, Jon took the controls of the band, and he started to develope the most symphonic Savatage's face, as we can hear in songs like the incredible Chance (with an unique choir's work...) and the beautiful ballad Alone You Breathe, being this last one a song writed by Jon Oliva in the honour of his dead brother with a lot of references to old songs like Believe and A Little Too Far.

But in this record we can hear too the influence of a great guitarrist: Alex Skolnick, ex-Testament. Songs like Taunting Cobras and Nothing's Going On are pure trash metal, in a Testament style played with rage by Alex. But we can't forget that Alex Skolnick he is a jazz guitar player too, as we can see in their future band Alex Skolnick's Trio, in a very jazz fussion style. Songs like Watching You Fall, Stare Into The Sun and the classic Hanfdul of Rain, are developed in an original and catchy bluesy-jazzy style, wich makes this album very variated and rich.

Very good album, but less than the Savatage's conceptual masterpieces. But songs like Chance, Alone You Breathe and Handful of Rain should be heared by everyone... Don't miss it!!!

Review by Marc Baum
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

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars It's hard to imagine how difficult this album must have been to make after the death of Criss Oliva by a drunk driver. Former TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick takes Criss' place.

The first song "Taunting Cobras" is a little over the top for my tastes, it just doesn't seem to work. "Handful Of Rain" makes up for it though. Opening with gentle vocals and acoustic guitar, it changes after a minute to a heavy, powerful song until towards the end of the song it goes back to the opening melody. "Chance" is all over the place, and includes some orchestral arrangements. Lots of tempo shifts and the vocal arrangements towards the end of the song are pretty cool. Good song."Stare Into The Sun" is another good tune with great guitar, and reserved vocals for the most part.

"Castles Burning" is another highlight for me, especially the fantastic guitar melodies. "Visions" is an orchestral sounding instrumental. "Watching You Fall" is all about the lyrics. "Nothing Going On" is great ! A straight forward, hell bent for leather rocker. The guitarist closes this song down. "Symmetry" is another great song with some smoking guitar. "Alone you breathe" is the final song and is dedicated to Criss Oliva. This song is heart breaking to say the least and features a lot of beautiful piano.

Overall I find this record a little inconsistant, but there is enough good material to recommend it.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars Excellent record, one more time Savatage proves that is among the best bands ever After tragedy struck, putting a shadow on the success of "Edge of Thorns", the question arose on evreybody's lips- would Savatage be able to continue without lead guitarist and songwriter Criss Oliva? The answear is yes and quite good i might say. So this is the first Savatage's album without Criss Oliva, still a great album, but not a masterpiece. What we have here is very intristing, the creativity of the band is still at the highest level so the album deserves a full 4 stars in my view. The replace for Criss Oliva is another great guitar player ex Testament Alex Skolnik. He did a great job here and integreat very well in band's music. Sometimes the music is heavier than on previous one, but the prog arangements are still there. Savatage always had strong ideas, that let them dream to a place in the history of music. Every track is superb, well played, Zachery Stevens shines on every piece, not to mention the others and specially Jon Oliva who is now the only man who compose the entire Savatage music. Forte tracks to me are Handful Of Rain, Chance,Stare Into The Sun and the last one Alone you breath. 4 stars and recommended.
Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars Rock solid '90's prog-metal, complete with forward thinking songwriting which distances it from its mainstream peers, along and enough heavy-metal crunch to satisfy my need for cheesy bombast within the genre. While overall a fun listen, Handful of Rain is a far cry from being anything other than artistic heavy-metal, with just enough ambition to make it a little bit prog.

The album opens with what is probably its weakest song, "Taunting Cobras" (awesome title, though!). This is Handful of Rain at its most banal: big, fat, crunchy chugging over iconic sounding metal lyrics. Not bad, certainly, but hardly remarkable. The next four songs are all good, with "Change" standing out as this album's finest example of artistic songwriting. In each of these songs there are examples of straight-forward, enjoyable metal, nuanced with ambitious songwriting and structures. Another powerful highlight is the intense "Nothing Going On", which strikes a relentless momentum with its guitar riffing and solos. There are few songs which feel contrived, and even fewer that sound like sing-along anthems; these are complex and serious-sounding tunes, fortunetly spread across this consistant album.

However, the instrumental performances lack the virtuosity to fully complement the songwriting, so the end effect feels somewhat unfinished. Skolnick's guitar is smokey and soulful, and while effective doesn't deliver anything memorable. The rest of the band is merely up to expectations. Zach Steven's vocals stand out though, thanks to a flavorful, gruff, intense delivery. Lyrical content is actually pretty smart, and the emotional strength of the songs, such as the heavy-metal farewell "Alone You Breathe", occasionally hit home. I found Savatage's Edge of Thorns a more entertaining listen overall though.

All in all a fun, if somewhat light-weight, prog-metal release. Still, listerners who can appreciate anacronistic fun in a heavy-metal style will find a lot to like with Handful of Rain.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Handful Of Rain" is the 8th full-length studio album by US, Florida based heavy/power metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in August 1994. Thereīs been one lineup change since the release of "Edge Of Thorns (1993)" as guitarist/composer Criss Oliva died in a tragic car accident (involving a drunk driver behind the wheel of the other car) in October 1993. Older brother and lead vocalist Jon Oliva had already jumped ship before the recording sessions for "Edge Of Thorns (1993)" (he was replaced by Zachary Stevens), so "Handful Of Rain" is the first Savatage release not to feature at least one of the Oliva brothers in the lineup (although Jon remained the primary composer along with producer Paul OīNeill, and also performs session piano on the album). Criss Oliva is replaced here by former Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick.

So how does Savatage sound with none of the two Oliva brothers in the lineup? Well it sounds unmistakably like Savatage. While Skolnick could never replace Criss Oliva (no one could have...), he is a very capable guitarist and his contributions to the album suits the compositions perfectly. As far as the material goes, there hasnīt been much change since "Edge Of Thorns (1993)". The tracks maybe lean a bit more toward musical territory and they are maybe slightly less heavy tracks than on the predessecor, but itīs details, and overall "Handful Of Rain" is through and through the sound of Savatage.

As the case has been on the last couple of albums, the material on "Handful Of Rain" is relatively diverse, and there are both really heavy tracks like "Taunting Cobras" and "Nothing's Going On" and more epic (though still heavy tracks) like the title track and "Castles Burning", featured on the album. There are also more progressive oriented tracks on the album like "Chance", which is definitely one of the most progressive tracks in the bandīs discography, heavily influenced by musicals and featuring a multi harmony counterpoint vocal section (not completely unlike what you hear on some Queen songs). The closing "Alone You Breathe" deserves a mention too. Itīs a slow building power ballad type track, which in itīs long coda uses lyric lines from "When The Crowds Are Gone" (off "Gutter Ballet (1989)") and "Believe" (off "Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)"). As Frank Zappa would have put it: "Conceptual Continuity".

Overall the quality of the material is high throughout, and all tracks are instantly catchy and memorable. I would have prefered a few more rockers instead of the many epic tracks, but on the other hand itīs hard not to be impressed by how skillfully executed and well written the material is, and then it matters less that the really hard rocking and faster paced tracks are relatively few. "Handful Of Rain" features a powerful and well sounding production too, and upon conclusion itīs yet another high quality release by the band. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Handful of Rain is the first Savatage release after the death of Criss Oliva, and as might be expected of a piece recorded hot on the heels of such a tragedy it's rather overshadowed by it.

The supposed lineup of Zak Stevens, Alex Skolnick, Johnny Lee Middleton and Steve Wacholz that is promoted as appearing on the album does not tell the whole story; in fact, Wacholz was so shaken by Criss' death that he left the band entirely and didn't take part in the recording process, and whilst Johnny Lee would stick around he was far too upset to face going into the studio to play Savatage music so soon.

As a result, much of the album ended up resting on the shoulders of Jon Oliva, who at this point in time wasn't even supposed to be a full member of the band, having worked on Edge of Thorns solely as a co-producer and guest musician. With Jon doing most of the instruments and composing most of the music (along with a brief snippet cowritten with Criss and several tracks cowritten with Paul O'Neill, who was coproducing), all that was left was for a fresh-out-of-Testament Skolnick to come in to do the guitar solos and Zak to get coaxed back into the studio to deliver the vocals.

These difficult circumstances are reflected in the final product; it's a bit more of a muddled production and less strong and distinctive than preceding Savatage albums, since the production process seems to have been mostly undertaken by Jon and Paul as part of the grieving process. You're effectively listening to Jon step into the main songwriter role solo, whereas previously he'd been largely contributing to songs in collaboration with Criss, and it's to Jon's credit that the album ends up sounding as good as it does, but it's no classic and very much a transitional piece.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Released in 1994, 'Handful of Rain' was Savatage's first studio recording after the tragic death of guitarist and founding member Criss Oliva. Replaced by Alex Skolnick of Testament fame, this album catches the essence of Savatage's sound, but being released in the mid-90's, a time when most met ... (read more)

Report this review (#1781664) | Posted by martindavey87 | Wednesday, September 13, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Band: Savatage Album: Handful of Rain (1994) Genre: Power-Progressive Metal Line-up: Jon Oliva (Keyboards/Bass/Drums/Guitars); Alex Skolnick (Guitars); Zak Stevens (Vocals) Grading Scale: 0 - F; 1-5 - D(+/-); 6-10 - C(+/-); 11-15 - B(+/-); 16-20 - A(+/-) Most notable song: ... (read more)

Report this review (#66980) | Posted by | Thursday, January 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Wow! A great album by this group from the USA. Savatage plays so called "dramatic" metal with a progressive touch, which very appeals to me the moment I got this CD. Great guitar solo's, a keyboard/piano here and there and a great vocalist awaits you! Practically every song on this album is great, ... (read more)

Report this review (#27470) | Posted by Tommiokoman | Wednesday, February 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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