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Savatage - Dead Winter Dead CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.82 | 154 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars With a high sense of dramatic flair, instrumental proficiency, and song variety, Savatage's Dead Winter Dead is a great prog-metal experience from the '90's. It shows it's age with some ham-fisted keyboard sounds, abundance of hard rock guitar soloing, and gruff machismo vocals, but the overall experience is solid and pulled off very well, especially given its ambition.

Dead Winter Dead is a tale of the human experience during civil unrest and war; the plot is basically Oscar-bait, but the music will appeal strongly to prog metal fans who love the raw sound of the genre's infancy. Oliva and company create a thick, heavy, melodic, and dynamic sound. Part blues, part refined metal, and part faux-symphony, this album has a little bit of everything, and while I can't say that it does any one thing exceptionally well, the total package comes together for a unique and rewarding experience.

The highlights have got to be the song writing and and instrumental work. The writing is unapologetically conceptual, so don't expect many big hooks or choruses to get stuck in your head. This is an album driven by narrative, but not weighted down by it. This creates the impressions of a story without the explicitness heard on many other concept albums - a big plus for me. The songs are short, punchy, and highly varied. The playing gets the job done, especially the guitar work, which is voluminous, heavy, and filled with solo moments.

The music is dated, but it doesn't matter because when it works, it works big time. The opening and suite ("Overture" through "Starlight"), as well as the third-act suite ("Memory" through "One Child") strike me as the strongest moments. The keyboard heavy treatments of classical works, and especially the Christmas song are gimmicky, and stick-out obnoxiously in an otherwise solid song lineup. An unfortunate crossover with Oliva's Transiberian Railroad project that hams up an otherwise prog experience! The overall tone is somewhat dark, brooding, threatening, but also optimistic. There's a sensitive streak of hope that shimmers beneath the metal riffing and melodies of Dead Winter Dead that is compelling.

This album is a strong 3.5, and highly recommended for rock fans who enjoy some sensitivity in their metal, and especially for prog metal fans who want to hear an early success story that shows us that a flurry of guitar shredding alone doesn't necessarily make a great album - it takes a touch of class, too.

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

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |


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