Savatage – Sirens
When people think of Savatage a number of things go through their minds, but one of them most certainly is not their 1983 debut Sirens. Sure, Florida’s finest went on to create many masterpieces (almost all of their output could fall under that category), but generally, Sirens remains a lost item, one for digging out on cold winter days and soaking in its visceral, frozen atmosphere. Before Jon Oliva became the Mountain King, before Zak Stevens told us about the man who carves his stone, before the tragic death of axe-slinger extraordinaire Criss Oliva and before Paul O’Neill’s obsession with Christmas metal, there was this. And even if Savatage hadn’t gotten around to those things, it would still kick ass and take names.
With their debut full-length, Savatage began as they meant to go on. Despite their early incarnation as a band of shattering intensity, they still had a theatrical flair about them; one only has to listen to the doomsday bell incorporated into the album’s opening title cut to hear it. That element of their sound aside, Sirens does not share its DNA with the band’s later works, although there are motifs the band would rely on again down the road. For the most part, this is all about cutting riffs, searing solos, boisterous drums, and vocals that could shatter glass. In fact, Jon Oliva sounds more aggressive here than he would for a number of years (until the days of Doctor Butcher, perhaps).
We kick off with the sublime title track, and it’s all you need to know about Savatage from this era. It’s mid-paced, it’s ferocious, the vocals could tear your face in two, given the chance. It houses Criss’s finest riff on the album, and the first shrieks of terror from Jon. One of the band’s finest songs, it stands up, even today. Elsewhere, we have the twisting, turning “Holocaust”, which features yet another signature Sava-riff. The Oliva brothers had a wonderful way of writing material that sounded like no other band, and even one minute in, you know you’re listening to Savatage. “I Believe” is one of the album’s most progressive cuts, starting slow and mournful until finally bursting into a shattering display of double kicks and solos. “Rage” is an absolute killer, one of a handful of speed metal songs the band would pen. Songs like “Twisted Little Sister” and “On The Run” point to the more straight forward direction the band would follow into “Power Of The Night” and “Fight For The Rock”, while “Living For The Night” is another highlight, being made of the same violent material as the title track. Tender ballad “Out On The Streets” closes the album and introduces us to Jon’s more reflective side, something he would explore much further with subsequent releases.
In all, Sirens is a great place to start with the band. It contains all the hallmarks of their early sound, as well as providing a few surprises. More than anything, it heralded the arrival of one of metal’s most inventive and spellbinding bands. And even today, it shines in the darkness of the past, like a diamond.
Bruce’s rating 4.0 out of 5