Album Reviews

Oliva – Raise The Curtain Review

olive raise the curtain cover

Released by: AFM Records

Release Date: July 2nd, 2013

Genre:Progressive Rock/Metal

Links: http://www.jonoliva.net

 

 Tracklist:

01. Raise The Curtain

02. Soul Chaser

03. Ten Years

04. Father Time

05. I Know

06. Big Brother

07. Armageddon

08. Soldier

09. Stalker

10. The Witch

11. Can’t Get Away

12. The Truth (bonus track)

 

Not to state the obvious, but songwriting is key in music. The inability to write songs that capture the listener is the #1 problem many bands have. Even bands that make good music aren’t necessarily the most adept at writing the perfect song. Hence the reason so many good bands get overlooked: the songs just aren’t as spectacular as others are able to craft. Sure, there are several great bands with outstanding songwriters/songs that still get overlooked, but that tends to be the sad state of the music business or the lack of good financial backing. There are so many great songwriters that instantly come to mind as I think about this topic. However, when I put the focus on the writing of great theatrical hard rock/metal songs there are two that pop into my mind at the top every time: Alice Cooper and Jon Oliva. Even just casual music listener will likely know Mr. Cooper, but only those savvy enough will know the magnificence of Jon Oliva’s abilities.

As founder, frontman, and musical creator of the legendary metal band Savatage (along with his late, great brother Criss) he created music that helped to mold me into the insane music fanatic I am today. I remember the first moment I heard “Hall of the Mountain King” on my local radio station’s Friday night metal show. Within 30 seconds of the song’s start I was hooked. The melding of classical and metal was something at the time that was pretty much limited to the guitar shredders like Yngwie, Tony MacAlpine, and people like that. For me, Savatage was the first band that actually did it, made it work, and did it without having to have a backing orchestra. The structures and riffs themselves layered into an orchestral sound and were astounding. Since that first exposure there has not been a time in my life that Savatage has not been one of the first bands I name drop when asked, “What music do you listen to?” I cannot think of one album from that band that I can’t find some enjoyment from. Even after the tragic loss of Criss and eventual departure of Jon from being in the band, they still maintained that same level of craft I grew up loving. That band did eventually disband, and for all intents and purposes are now called Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) and have become a holiday phenomenon worldwide’. It looks rather bleak that there will ever been any more ‘Tage music. Oliva has done some other stuff like Doctor Butcher and Pain, both of which are stellar bands putting out top notch music, but beyond the obvious vocal similarities, bear little resemblance to what Savatage is known for.

Now it’s 2013 and Jon is releasing his very first solo album. And very well could be the closest thing to Savatage-esque music we may ever hear. Raising the Curtain arose from the ashes of another tragic guitarist death in his life, that of longtime Pain guitarist Matt LaPorte. Convinced by a friend, and other members of his band, he commenced work on completing unfinished songs he had, as well as those of his friend Dan Fasciano. Once the work was done there were 11 tracks that were rooted in 70’s era prog, yet also had that wonderful sound I have loved for so long. I knew within 30 seconds of the album’s start I was going to enjoy it immensely (sounds familiar, huh?) Of course, at first I thought I had mistakenly popped in an old Yes album instead, but before long, once Jon’s voice kicked in, I knew I was about to embark on a listening pleasure I have quite honestly waited ages to hear again. Is it entirely easy to slide Raise the Curtain into the Savatage catalog? Of course not, as it wasn’t intended to be, but it is close enough for government work. Very clearly Oliva’s plan was to release an album that was from his heart, demonstrating not only his early influences, but his master craft songwriting abilities, and the emotion and passion that pours out of his voice and his performances. One of the highlights for me was the fact that there are parts that were unfinished pieces of music from Criss and Jon that he has finally been able to complete.

Sounding better than ever, Jon’s work on Raise the Curtain is a treat for fans and a catharsis of sorts for him. I absolutely love this album. Will every fan of any of his past bands love it? I believe they should, but some may feel otherwise since it’s not as consistently heavy as Pain tends to be, as well as the clear decision to root much of the music in the prog realm of bands like Yes and Genesis. As long as you go in expecting a mix of classic prog and hints of early Savatage, you should be as excited by this collection of music as I am. Thank you Jon for some more incredible music that will pleasure my ear holes for years to come.

 

 

Written by Chris Martin

Ratings    Chris    9/10

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