After Jon Oliva stopped singing in Savatage the band somehow became less appealing to me. "Dead Winter Dead" and, indeed, "Wake of Magellan" were fine albums but I did miss something. With "Poets and Madmen", Savatage's latest album, Jon is back at the helm. His voice obviously makes the difference to me, because I find myself digging this new CD more than every other Savatage album since he retreated into the background.

(Private interpretation alert!) "Poets and Madmen" tells the story of a guilt-ridden press photographer who, after the asylum to which he gets committed is closed down, continued to live there. It's about his fears, his memories, his ways of coping with the atrocities he's seen (private interpretation end). The story is introduced from the perspective of a couple of youths who break into the abandoned asylum and discover the man there. All he does is steal a cigarette and then lock himself in a room from where they can see him but not reach him, or communicate with him.

So "Poets and Madmen", like many Savatage albums before it, is a concept album. They've done it before, most successfully with the classic "Streets - a Rock Opera". Of course it's a bit pompous, and there are moments where the storyline becomes more important than the melody. There is also a similarity with some of their earlier work, but as a whole it has to be said that they have pulled off another milestone of an album. Maybe I never gave the albums after "Gutter Ballet" the attention they deserved, but to me at least it seems this is their best album since "Streets". The story is OK, the songs are captivating and the production is absolute grade A. Jon Oliva is an excellent metal singer and I am glad he's back.

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Written March 2001


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