Spotlight on Savatage

From: Metal Edge 10/90

By: Marina Zogbi

Title: "Spotlight on Savatage"

Transcribed and HTMLized by: Tracy Wrona

     "We're a very versatile band; it's one of the things we pride ourselves on," says Savatage singer/keyboard player, Jon Oliva. The ten year-old band's heavy yet progressive metal has never been easy to pigeonhole; its flexibilty is well-documented on its fifth and most recent LP, Gutter Ballet. The mastermind behind the band's dramatic songs, Jon was inspired to write the LP's epic-sounding title track and its two instrumentals ("Temptation Revelation" and "Silk and Steel") after experiencing the play, Phantom Of The Opera. "I was into that theatrical vibe," he admits. In keeping with that spirit, the LP's two sides are labeled "Act I" ("the hard rock experimental side") and "Act II" ("the metal side"). "Of Rage And War," Act I's lone cruncher and opening track, is Jon's protest against nuclear arms build-up. It features strong language for which "We got a warning sticker," sighs the man who's motivated to write by "nightmares, newspapers, TV, whatever influences my day."

     Proof of Savatage's versatility is its ability to tour with many diverse bands. After a month of European support dates with King Diamond, Jon and the boys toured U.S. clubs with Testament and Nuclear Assault from mid-March to early May and are currently headlining their own tour, with Marc Ferrari's Cold Sweat supporting (see Concert Calendar). "We can turn around and tour with Skid Row or Bon Jovi just as easily," says Jon, "because we have enough variety of material where we can either heavy the set or lighten can't really label us."

     Gutter Ballet marks the debut of second guitarist Chris Caffery, who officially joined Jon, guitarist (and brother) Criss Oliva, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Steve "Doc" Wacholz after their previous tour for the Hall Of the Mountain King LP. According to Jon, the band had wanted to add another member at the time, but "couldn't, due to business reasons...We hired [Chris] to play offstage until we got our business stuff straightened out, then we just added him 'cause he's a lovely chap and he's got great toys." The New Jersey-born Chris has played in Dirty Looks, Heaven and Big Mouth, among other outfits. His reason for joining Savatage? "He's always liked the band," says Jon. "He said he couldn't let anyone else have that spot but him."

     A definite Headbangers Ball stand-out, the video for "Gutter Ballet" featured Savatage playing amidst the rubble of New York's infamous "Alphabet City." Next up: a clip fot the ballad, "When The Crowds Are Gone." "We're thinking about doing a rock opera," says Jon, "a heavy metal rock opera, like a Tommy of the '90s, all about the existence of life in a place like Alphabet City." An ambitious project but definitely not beyond the range of this unconventional band.