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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A defining change of direction

Savatage - Gutter Ballet
Five of five stars

This album is a conundrum for me. Being an early Savatage purist, I find Gutter Ballet is at once a complete change of direction into a decidedly more progressive (and in my opinion, overly melodramatic) sound, yet still one of my favorites in the band’s 25-year catalog.

Savatage’s first five albums, minus the more pop-driven Fight for the Rock, to me define that classic Savatage sound that the band has almost completely abandoned in the 21st century. This album is the first stepping stone on the way down that path.

I remember purchasing Gutter Ballet on cassette in 1989, popping it into my Walkman (R.I.P.) and walking around my local shopping mall with the familiar sound of Savatage echoing in my head as the opening track, “Of Rage and War,” played. Sounded like a solid, classic Savatage tune, not too far at all removed from 1987’s Hall of the Mountain King.

It was the title track that woke me up to the fact that this band had matured immensely. So dynamic, so powerful and melodic; heavy on the piano. Too bad it would eventually morph into the melodramatic and self-important monstrosity known as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. As it stands on this album, though, the virgin outing of this new sound is incredible and highly recommended. For TSO fans and Savatage fans alike.