This record is a Savatage masterpiece. Written after the tragic death of legendary guitarist Criss Oliva this album is flowing with emotion. The three songs that are standout here are Chance, Symmetry, and Alone You Breathe. These are some of the best songs Savatage have ever done and they are so powerful and moving they almost make you cry about Criss Oliva. Once you hear this album you will be hooked. All of the songs rock and Alex Skolnick does not dissapoint on guitar. I feel he captures Criss’ style very well. Bottom line if your a Savatage fan your collection cant be complete without Handful of Rain, it is the ultimate tribute to Criss Oliva.
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I’m a rather large Savatage fan, especially the albums Hall of the Mountain King and Dead Winter Dead… But Handful of Rain has to be my favorite After the VERY unfortunate death of Criss Oliva (brother to Jon Oliva), Alex Skolnick was brought in to do the guitar work… And I must say it is amazing. It sounds just like Savatage, but you can still tell Alex’s Testament style riffing. Alex is one of my favorite guitarists of all time, so it was a treat to see that he played on this album.
The most notable tracks here are the title track “Handful of Rain” and number 4 “Stare Into The Sun”. They’re my two personal favorites anyway. Very heavy, ncie accoustic intro to the one, and you can kind of sense Alex’s jazz stylings come into play a bit (before he forms the Alex Skolnick Trio)…
But “Taunting Cobras”, “Chance”, “Castles Burning”, “Visions (Instrumental)”, and “Watching You Fall” plus “Alone You Breathe” are fantastic.
“Nothing Going On” and “Symmetry” are not bad, but they’re my two least favorite tracks from the album. Still, I listen to the whole thing every time, I never have the urge to skip tracks or anything.
Alex has some very good fills and less shredding moments than usual; but he keeps it alive and keeps the feel of this album very Savatage like. A very underrated album I feel; probably one of Savatage’s finest moments!
Still looking for the Live In Japan ‘94 album for this tour though… That would reign supreme!
In 1993, Savatage released their eighth studio album Edge of Thorns. Shortly after this release, Savatage guitarist Criss Oliva was killed in a car wreck. This shook the very foundation of Savatage for it was with his brother Jon Oliva that Criss had founded Savatage in the early ’80s. Before that tragic day, Criss and Jon had talked about what they would do if one of them did die. The conclusion that both came to was that Savatage was their dream and if one of them was lost, it would be best if the dream continued as, if for no other reason, a tribute to the fallen one.Jon Oliva, former vocalist and current keyboardist of the band, made the decision to continue Savatage to honor Criss. I’m glad Jon did this because to put an end to Savatage would have been to dishonor the hard work that he and Criss had put into building up this band.In many ways Handful of Rain, though under the Savatage name, was a Jon Oliva solo album. Jon co-wrote every track (along with long-time producer Paul O’Neill), played all piano and keyboard parts and played most of the drums, bass and rhythm guitar as well. Jon Oliva enlisted Alex Skolnick, formerly of Testament, to play lead guitar and Zak Stevens, as he had on Savatage’s previous release, sang lead vocals.The music is powerful, riveting and epic. Skolnick’s guitar work added a blues/thrash sound to Savatage — something that really hadn’t been done before Handful of Rain. Stevens’s vocals are powerful — he’s Geoff Tate (Queensryche) plus James Hetfield (Metallica). The songs are finely crafted and run from bluesy epics like the title track “Handful of Rain” to thrashy speedsters like “Taunting Cobras” to the “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like “Chance”.After tragedy, Savatage triumphs with a solid album that continues with the band’s unique brand of semi-progressive epic metal.
(…) [The] album was written following the death of Criss Oliva, who was replaced by Alex Skolnick, formerly of Testament. Skolnick provides the guitar solos and I think he does the rhythm guitar work as well, although some say it was done by Jon Oliva. For whatever reason, Jon is not credited as a band member, even though he co-wrote all of the songs and provides keyboard, bass, and drums (the bassist and drummer left shortly after the photo shoot).
Although I could not figure this out myself, many of the songs that seem to have wacko filler lyrics are actually short stories about heroes from many different time periods (“Chance” is supposedly about some Italian guy who saved rare paintings from Nazis). This was my first Savatage album, and it took my nearly 2 1/2 months to fully appreciate all of the songs. There is some really good stuff here, especially the title track and “Castles Burning.” Also “Symmetry” and “Watching You Fall” are great progressive rockers. The opening cut is a disappointment, especially considering the amazing openers that Savatage has had over their past three albums. Yet a great solo makes this pretty typical thrash song not as bad. “Chance” has been compared to by many as Savatage’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with different parts and operatic vocals. Yet even with some really good parts, it is not as enjoyable, because while I like Zak’s voice, he does not have the operatic quality that Mercury had. The album ends with “Alone You Breathe,” which is a fine tribute to Criss Oliva, I just wish that they had added a long guitar solo for a tribute as well. (Did anyone else notice that 1/3 of this song was almost exactly as “Believe” from “Streets?”)
Anyway, while not as monumental as many of their concept albums, “Handful of Rain” is still an important CD to own. Alex Skolnick is a very good addition, even though another even better guitarist in Al Pitrelli would replace him. Highly recommended for fans (…)
Always have felt that Savatage was truly an under appreciated metal band that never did get the recognition they deserved. Have seen them several times. Remember hanging out in a club’s parking lot with guitarist Criss Oliva(R.I.P.)after a show trading off Three Stooges lines, calling one another a knucklehead, grape head, etc. This was like a month or so before he was killed in a car crash. Glad to see the group decided to carry on. ‘Handful…’ debuts the former Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick and he appears to fit in rather well, I thought. The band’s recently-new vocalist Zach Stevens seems to do the same. What luck,huh? These guys STILL rock!Good tracks include the guitar ridden “Taunting Cobras”, “Nothin’ Going On”, the instrumental “Visions” and “Stare Into The Sun”. Wait a minute…what’s with all the melodic keyboard playing? I mean, that CAN be a great thing, but in Savatage? Okay,so they’re now changing. STILL a decent CD. Long live Savatage!!