Our top ten Savatage songs looks at the career of a long running heavy metal band who were first formed in 1979. The two founding members were brothers Jon and Criss Oliver. Jon was originally the drummer but was soon relieved of the duty by Steve Wacholz. Jon was then the vocalist and bassist whilst Criss was the lead guitarist. In 1981, they enlisted Keith Collins as bass player, leaving Jon to solely handle vocal duties.
Their first album Sirens was released in 1983. Their first major commercial success came in the form of their third album Fight For the Rock released in 1986 which, although critically panned, got to number 158 on the Billboard 200. They would continue to have a string of successful albums which also gained critical acclaim.
Tragedy struck the band in 1993 when Criss Oliva was killed in a car accident. Despite devastation of the loss of his brother and bandmate, Jon Oliva decided to continue the band in his memory. They would release four more albums before going on hiatus in 2002. During their time apart all of the band members were active with other projects. Savatage announced that they were getting back together in 2014. However, this reunion was short lived and they entered another hiatus in 2015. They have since remained inactive but are rumoured to be working on new material. Until that happens we will look at what their ten best songs are so far.
# 10 – The Wake of Magellan
Kicking off our top ten Savatage songs list is the title track of the band’s tenth album released in 1997. It was the second ever Savatage album to feature the same lineup as the previous record. It is also the last album to feature Zachary Stevens on vocals. It got to number twenty-six on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart in the US.
# 9 – Dead Winter Dead
Up next is the title track of the band’s ninth album released in 1995. This record is a concept album that is about a Serbian boy and a Muslim girl who fall in love during the Bosnian war. It was the first album to feature Chris Caffery as a full time member, he had been an occasional touring member since 1987.
# 8 – Handful of Rain
Next up we have another title track, this time off the eighth Savatage album released in 1994. This was the first album that the band recorded after the death of Criss Oliva who wrote two of the songs on the album before he died. It is the only album that Savatage recorded as a three piece, with Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick replacing Criss. It is also their first without bass player Johnny Lee Middleton since 1985. Drummer Steve Wacholz had also previously left. Instead of replacing them, John Oliva played the bass and drums himself.
# 7 – Edge of Thorns
Next we the title track from the band’s seventh album released in 1993. It is the first album to feature Zachary Stevens on vocals. This is their only ever charting single in American, where it reached number twenty-six on the Mainstream Rock Chart. It had a promo video which was filmed in a jungle and featured footage of several wildlife animals.
# 6 – Streets
Ending the first half of this list we have the partial track from the band’s sixth album Streets: A Rock Opera released in 1991. As the title would suggest, the album is a rock opera that deals with the story of a fictional musician called DT Jesus. The album took nearly a whole year to record and was the last album for some time to feature Jon Oliva as the lead vocalist.
# 5 – Gutter Ballet
Kicking off the second half of this list we have the title track from the band’s fifth album released in 1989. This album was a major turning point in Savatage’s career, as it saw them transition from a heavy metal sound to a more progressive one. This song was reportedly inspired by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. This song was recorded by just the Oliva brothers and producer Paul O’Neill. The song also had a promo video that became a staple of MTV’s “Headbangers Ball.”
# 4 – Hall of the Mountain King
This song is the title track of the band’s fourth album released in 1987. It was their first album to be produced by Paul O ‘Neill. Upon its release, it got to number 116 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It has received a couple of accolades retrospectively and is considered to be one of the greatest albums of the power metal genre.
# 3 – Fight for the Rock
At number three is title and opening track of the band’s third album released in 1986. It was the first album to feature Johnny Lee Middleton on bass. It is commonly regarded as the band’s worst album, with the band themselves not being fans of it. The reason for this is that they were apparently pressured into making the album, with several of the songs being tracks that Jon Oliva had written for other artists. It received a negative critical reception but was the first album in the band’s catalogue to chart commercially.
# 2 – Power of the Night
Just off the top spot is the title track of the band’s second album released in 1985. The album was produced by Max Norman who in 1992 would produce Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction. It was the last album to feature Keith Collins on bass. The Oliva brothers were not happy with his playing and even re-recorded some of it during the final mix. Soon after he was replaced by Johnny Lee Middleton.
# 1 – Sirens
Topping this list we have the opening title track of the band’s debut album released in 1983. The style of this album is much more rooted in traditional metal than a lot of the later albums which are generally more progressive in nature. Along with the ep The Dungeons are Calling, this album was recorded in just one day. The material on the ep was originally going to be on the album, but had to be separated from it due to the limited running time on Vinyl records. All of the songs were written just a week before the recording session and one day in the studio was all the band could afford.
Top 10 Savatage Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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