“Return To Wacken” by Savatage

Artist: Savatage
Title: “Return To Wacken”
Label: Ear Music
Release Date: 6/30/2015
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 4/5

It’s been far too long since the Metal world has had new music from the great Savatage and their last recorded work together was on “Poets and Madmen” which hit us hard back in 2001 care of Nuclear Blast Records. Since that time, Savatage has been on a bit of a lengthy hiatus while numerous members focused their creative energies on the holiday touring juggernaut known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra while others continued on into projects of their own. Now in celebration of the bands return to the live stage for the Wacken Open Air Festival, a rather sound compilation of some of the bands classics has been issued and for the foreseeable future this is as close to “new” as we shall get from the legendary band. My notes on the release come from my relatively long association with their material (since 1988 if memory serves me correctly) and a deep knowledge of their back catalog. I didn’t have a copy of my own and was listening to a digital stream of it online. As a collection, this serves up well as a grouping of very necessary tracks for the listeners who might not be all that up on the bands historic game. Let’s consider this to be “Savatage Primer” since its all expected numbers as opposed to any sort of deep tracks. Perhaps if this was a double CD edition but alas this is only a single disc.

The collection bypasses material from “Sirens”, “Dungeons Are Calling”, “Power Of The Night”, “Fight For The Rock” and “Poets And Madman” albums which is a shame since there a quite a few notable tracks on these releases, yes even on “Fight For The Rock” is left off despite what some might think about that one. Despite the omission of the 2001 album we got a pretty solid assortment of must have tunes from the bands catalog. Albums featured on this are “Hall Of The Mountain King”, “Gutter Ballet”, “Streets”, “Handful Of Rain”, “Edge Of Thorns”, “Wake Of Magellan” and “Dead Winter Dead”. The band members performing across this body of work are Jon Oliva, Cris Oliva, Johnny Lee Middleton, Chris Caffery, Steve Wacholz (Dr. Killdrums), Al Pitrelli, Zak Stevens and Jeff Plate. All of these albums had production work and key songwriting from Paul O’Neill, the main man behind the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For those wondering why I’ve decided to toss this particular review together for your attention, I should say that I began this as a slightly therapeutic exercise because you see, Savatage recently reunited for a full closing stage performance at the Wacken Open Air festival and then Trans-Siberian Orchestra did the same thing on the opposing stage. This was only a couple of days ago and there are scores of fan filmed videos on YouTube.com that will make you rooted to the ground – yeah it was that powerful and I am hoping against hope that we fans who weren’t able to participate get to own this on CD and DVD/Blu-ray soon. Perhaps a larger scale reunion will come from this but who knows if that is even a possibility even though I think it would be well-received. The question remains do you need this CD if you are a long time supporter of the band and the quick answer is “no” even though this is a solid compilation. This is more for the newbies as nothing you haven’t heard or owned for years is to be found on this one. Though I had no problem with the included tracks on the whole I had to chuckle at two of the most glaring omissions which come care of the “Dead Winter Dead” album’s “Not What You See” and the iconic “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (the latter one being the tune that would lead us to the TSO). If you are a completist though and keeping a well-stocked collection then you might want to order if for that purpose.

Track Listing:
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Gutter Ballet
3. Believe
4. Chance
5. Edge Of Thorns
6. The Wake Of Magellan
7. Dead Winter Dead
8. The Hourglass
9. Tonight He Grins Again
10. Prelude To Madness
11. When The Crowds Are Gone

Official Website: http://www.savatage.com

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