A monsterous masterpiece of an album. Edge of Thorns slays. Follow Me is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, having everything: mellow moments, powerful singing, and rippin’ solos. Its a shame bands cant write like this anymore. Criss Oliva, as many reviewers mentioned, shines on this record. Buy it now, its one of the finest releases in metal history.
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
Edge of Thorns is a concept album, with a lot of emotional depth. The lyrics cover such topics as shattered dreams (“Edge of Thorns”), self-mutilation (“He Carves His Stone”), and regrets of a lost love (“Conversation Piece”). The words would be meaningless if it weren’t for the emotional, melodic voice of Zachary Stevens. Criss Oliva helps drive the emotion home with his heavy riffs (“Lights Out”), fluid guitar solos (“Damien”), and soothing keyboard work (“Labyrinths”). The band’s greatest performance is the album’s title track, a theatrical, over the top production featuring a haunting piano introduction, followed by heavy guitars, and intense vocals. Keeping with their progressive style, Savatage experiments with a sitar on “Degrees of Sanity,” an instrument virtually unheard of in heavy metal. The album concludes with the band’s first acoustic ballad, “Sleep.” The song is about the death of main character of the album. Of course, that’s open for interpretation. On a sad note, following the release of Edge of Thorns, Criss Oliva died in a tragic car accident. Bottom Line: Edge of Thorns is a unique heavy metal “gem” that will challenge your view of what “metal” should sound like. It’s intense, powerful, and dramatic. I bought this album almost 10 years ago, because the cover was cool. Kind of silly huh? I’m glad I took the chance! Edge of Thorns exposed me to elements that I never thought would have worked in metal music. The combination of heavy guitars, piano, and operatic concepts helped me discover a new and fresh genre of music. Sure, the piano can be heard in plenty of power ballads, but Savatage took it to the next level, by combining it with faster, more powerful rock arrangements.
Edge of Thorns is unfortunately the final recording of the band’s co-founder and original guitarist Criss Oliva due to his untimely death (Oct 17, 1993). At the same time, it is the very first album with second vocalist Zak Stevens at the helm. Changing lead singers is not a very smart thing to do in general, but original vocalist Jon Oliva’s voice, after screaming virtually nonstop for a very long period from the Hall of the Mountain King tour to the Streets tour, had come to the point that it no longer contained the sheer power and delivery it once did. Jon was exhausted and he had to step down. It was by no means an easy decision to make, but besides his physical problems, Jon also blamed himself for the band’s inability to break through on American radio. He knew he would do whatever it would take to do for the good of Savatage, and so decided to part ways with the band and start working with Paul O’Neill on the Romanov musical.
Finding a good replacement for Jon Oliva wasn’t an easy task. Among the hundreds of demo tapes the band received, Criss and Jon decided to select Zachary Stevens, lead singer of Boston act called Wicked Witch. Zak’s voice is completely different to Jon’s; it is smooth, melodic and more accessible. The band wanted someone, as opposed to emulating Jon’s vocal style, who would bring something totally different to the fold. There is a great deal of conviction in Zak’s delivery and he has a very large vocal range. Zak also has the ability to layer himself easily and with this aspect he gave the main songwriters the opportunity to try using harmonies they had never used before. Zak has a great voice; his tone is smooth but he can also get up there in the register. It is again this aspect of his singing style that prevented Sava fans from constantly comparing him to Jon Oliva, because Zak’s voice had its own characteristics.
The addition of Zak also gave Jon the opportunity to work with a voice other than his own. Although Jon stepped down on Edge of Thorns, he only left as the singer of the band. He continued to compose songs, coach along Zak Stevens in the studio, and play keyboards, piano and even drums on songs like “He Carves His Stone” and “Degrees of Sanity”. Needless to say, his role in the creation of EOT was very integral and his writing was a key step in Sava’s new musical direction that would eventually lead the band to its DWD/TWOM days. Without Jon involved in the writing process, EOT wouldn’t be the masterpiece it now is, that’s for sure.
On this album, Savatage opted for a completely different record than its predecessor Streets. Streets is quite orchestra- and keyboard-based, while EOT sees the band going for a more guitar-driven sound. It puts Criss Oliva in the spotlight which is exactly what Jon wanted. Upon his departure from the band, he wanted EOT to give Criss the chance to step up a little and be more focal and central in the writing. He wanted EOT to be Criss’ album for sure, as Criss was planning to release a solo record when Jon first left. His intention was to do an instrumental record showcasing his talents, but with recruitment of Zak Stevens, Jon and Criss decided to utilise the sound of EOT as a medium to display how Criss’ guitar playing would shine. And it certainly did. EOT perhaps contains Criss’ finest moments as a musician. He was one of the guitar players who grew and matured from day to day and his playing was improving so rapidly. Although the Streets record remains an all-time favourite for me, I have to give it to Criss that he never played as prolifically before Edge of Thorns.
EOT was also the first album since Sava’s Sirens and The Dungeons Are Calling that they recorded in their hometown Florida. The band obviously wanted to be outside of the media centre, especially because of Jon’s absence, and have more space to grow without being under the microscope. As a result of this, they worked more comfortably and recorded EOT relatively quicker compared to the previous three discs produced by Paul O’Neill. The title track, also the band’s first radio hit, mainly written by Jon Oliva himself before being given to the rest of the band, proved to have everything a “radio friendly” song needed. It had the soft piano melody with Criss’ perfect, crunching, underlaying metal guitar part right underneath it. The image of the title track also has a great reference. O’Neill describes it, from a lyricist’s point of view, as a delightful thing to work around. He says, “It’s symbolic because the edge of thorns is the sharpest point, the point that cuts you, the point that keeps you away. But thorns tend to only surround things of incredible beauty. Politically it has so many meanings as well. Balancing something on the edge of a thorn is such a hard thing to do because it’s such a small point, but it’s the edge of a thorn that draws the drop of blood”.
I would love to describe each song on the record but this is impossible because of the limit of this review. At any rate, EOT is an incredible record. It’s a shame that Criss was taken from us so early, only a few months after the release of this album, but all of this is still done in his memory. His brother Jon has continued Savatage to keep his soul alive and we all know that he’s out there somewhere watching over us. Rest in peace, Criss. We love you.
This is hopefully gonna be the last album I get Savatage album I get. The band has made so many good albums, that’s it’s hard not to get another album. Ok, I’ll get Gutter Ballet, but, hopefully, that’s it. Singer Zak Stevens makes his debut, and although it’s hard to replace Jon Oliva, Zak does a great job. But Jo still recordes keyboards and writes for the band. So sad that this was Criss’s last album. Rest in peace, man. Here is a song by song review:1.Edge of Thorns-The big epic off the album. This song is great and has a killer solo. Nice piano riff. 5/52.He Carves His stone-Wonderful ballad. Really nice pipes by Zak. He’s like the american Bruce Dickinson. This has a good “Jesus Saves” like riff. 5/53.Lights Out-Very Van Halen-ish. It’s cool. Nice solo 4/54.Skraggy’s Tomb-Powerful rocker. Very eerie. Good lyrics about the demons of alcohol. Also good solo. 4/55.Labyrinths-Nice instrumental with exellent piano playing by Jon. Very good. 5/56.Follow Me-Another Epic, this time against couch potatoes. I always think im gonna end up like one. Good solo, once again. They’re all good. Good time change. 5/57.Exit Music-Incredible. Just piano. It’s like waking up in the sunrise and watching go up. Very moving. 5/58.Degrees of Sanity-Very good electric sitar playing by Criss. This is a great evil mid tempo rocker. Good singing. Doesn’t Zak rule on this album? Intresting Rythym change for the solo. Very eerie. 5/59.Conversation Piece-This is the best rocker on this album. Very disgusting concept. A man who loves a girl so much that he cuts of pieces of himself as offerings. Ok. But it’s cool. Very straightforward riff. I like the use of the clean guitar in the verse. 5/510.All That i Bleed-Ver moving. Perhaps the best ballad ever wrote. Starts out with piano and vocals, then the full band, then a mesmorizing solo, than back to normal. Excellent. 5/511.Damien-Very cool. This has a 1993 rock feel to the album. Very cool riff. 4/512.Miles Away-This is ok. But it frags on for a while. Good drumming, but that’s about it. Oh well. 3/513.Sleep-I heard they made a video for this. i would love to see it. This is just a guitar/vocals song. With good singing by Zak, and nice rythym by Criss, what could go wrong.The perfect 90’s album by Savatage. Right up there with Streets.
This album is something special. Most of you know that this was Criss Oliva’s last album before he died in a terrible car crash. He shines throughout the entire album. This was supposed to be an album to show off Oliva’s considerable skill, but that does not mean that any of the other band members or song writers hold back. Zak Stevens has been brought on as the lead vocalist, and while I love Jon Oliva’s vocals, Zak takes the Savatage sound to a whole different level. An earlier reviewer described Zak as a poor man’s Sebastian Bach, but that is far from true. He is more accurately described as a mix of the best parts of Geoff Tate and James Hetfield, but even that doesn’t do him justice. This man has incredible range and adds to each song almost as much as Criss does.
Speaking of the songs they are incredibly well written, with thought provoking lyrics for all of them; no filler in sight. “Edge of Thorns” has to be one of the greatest songs that Savatage has ever done, with great piano mixed in with the guitar and an extended solo by Criss; Zak is amazing too. The next three tracks aren’t as first-rate but are still really good; “Skraggy’s Tomb” is a thought-provoking song about alcoholism. “Labyrinths” serves as an excellent intro for “Follow Me.” This is also a pretty powerful song, again with great vocals and stunning guitar by Criss. The lyrics are debated but I see them about a person who joins a cult, never seeing the folly of his decision. “Degrees of Sanity” (very) successfully incorperates a sitar into the song, adding even more depth to Savatage’s sound, you have to hear it to understand how magnificent this song is. “Conversation Piece” is about self-mutilation, with a pounding riff. “All That I Bleed” is a slow, forgettable ballad and “Damien” is good, but is nowhere near the level of the previously mentioned tracks. “Miles Away” left me confused after I heard it. It is a really good song, but is somewhat hard to describe. The closest that I can get is a mix of a power ballad with hard rock, similar to Ozzy Osbourne’s A.V.H. (another great song). It is still an unforgettable song. The album closes with the acoustic ballad “Sleep,” a nice ending to a great album.
Maybe I should take back what I said before about this being a “great” album, it is near perfection. This is one of the few albums where it is impossible for me to understand how anyone can not give this five stars. It is melodic, hard rock with amazing guitar work, but also has piano incorperated to add depth to the songs, you must hear it to believe it. It can be appreciated for just the music, perfect for after a hard day and you need to relax without thinking. Yet, it can also be respected because it is so deep, not in a bad way, but because the lyrics are so great, and it’s only $9.98, you can’t go wrong! As is the case with “Streets,” it is a shame that so few people will enjoy that feeling of ecstasy and satisfaction that comes after listening to this album. I’m babbling so I will end in saying this: do yourself a favor and pick this up, you will not regret it.