Review by Daniel for Savatage - Edge of Thorns (1993)
Well what do you know!? I do actually like a Savatage record after all! It turns out that if you drag the microphone away from Jon Oliva & his overly theatrical banshee shrieking & then strip back some of the symphonic schmaltz in the arrangements that you're left with a more than decent heavy metal album, particularly when you insert the very capable Zachary Stevens & his more traditionally impressive hard rock voice. The influence of Jon Oliva isn't completely removed here as his voluntary step back from the band in order to concentrate on overcoming his demons didn't see him being able to completely separate himself from his lifelong passion & here we see him making a good fist of the song-writing, production & keyboard duties. I was genuinely surprised to find that the consistent use of Jon's piano within the context of a heavy metal record has actually worked to add colour rather than diminishing the impact of the heavy guitars.
Guitar virtuoso Criss Oliva is unsurprisingly in fine form & "Edge Of Thorns" would prove to be a fitting swan song for him with his untimely death in a car accident only just around the corner. The arrangements may not be as complex as they were on the previous couple of albums but there's more of a progressive edge to this material than we'd heard from a Savatage record in the past, so much so in fact that I'd be tempted to give "Edge Of Thorns" a dual subgenre tag. Tracks like "Labyrinths", "Degrees Of Sanity", Conversation Piece" & "Miles Away" have a glistening shine to them that would see them fitting more than comfortably on a Queensryche record. On the other hand, Savatage haven't completely been able to let go of their penchant for commercial hard rock & there are a few moments that remind me a fair bit of Skid Row which isn't as bad as it might sound as I don't mind a bit of Sebastian Bach & co. at times.
Unfortunately though, "Edge of Thorns" has left a bit of its potential in the tank due to the inclusion of a couple of very cheesy ballads, the worst of which (the God-awful "All That I Bleed") sees my score dropping by a half star which is disappointing given the impressive strength of highlights like the title track, "Degrees Of Sanity" & my personal favourite "Conversation Piece". Still.... credit where it's due & this is easily the best Savatage record I've heard to date.
For fans of Quuensryche, Virgin Steele & Crimson Glory.