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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Album Review: Jon Oliva's Pain release fantastic new album, “Festival”

As a rock/metal music reviewer, I write for the Tampa division of  Here is a sample of one of my recent album reviews.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic“Festival” is a terrific new recording from Jon Oliva's Pain (JOP), released today, February 19th worldwide. This Clearwater, Florida band has set a date of April 24th to celebrate their new release and kick off their support tour, at the local Bourbon Street Club in New Port Richey. Tickets are available for purchase online at the Bourbon Street Club. 

“Festival” is ten tracks, packed with energy, texture, fine songwriting and stellar musicianship. Jon's vocals remain as evil as ever. Guitars are focal, down-tuned in novel ways to create mysterious effects, evoking the dark madness of a twisted carnival atmosphere. Keyboards are used judiciously to enhance those effects.

The album opens with the track “Lies,” with a look back to the early days of Savatage when money was swindled from the band. It was written, in large part, years ago by Jon and his late brother, Criss. It alludes to the theme of a madman's festival, with the synthesizer giving touches of sick carnival sounds, offset by charging twin guitars and Jon's voice, full of devious energy. “The Evil Within” looms with dark rhythms of bass, down-tuned guitar, and thundering drumming. Jon's voice is given a wild echoing effect, riding over top of a terrific spaced-out synthesizer.

Tempo changes also provide rich variety. Crashing guitars are complemented by simple arrangements, as in the complex“Afterglow” where piano, dulcimer, and acoustic guitars accompany clean, honest vocals in its beginning. Soon, tension builds to pained vocals with thick orchestration. “Looking For Nothing” is a softer acoustic number, having layered harmonies reminiscent of the Beatles, Strawberry Fields era. Lyrically, “Winter Haven” takes a quiet look back upon a difficult journey and ahead with hope for the future. “Now” gives us tender piano and vocals, in a compelling and honest ballad about missing a loved one while on tour. As the piece grows, violins and weeping guitars sweetly accompany the unadorned vocals. So, while “Festival” follows a theme of madness, there is space for quiet introspection, a nice textural contrast.

The gems of the album include “Death Rides a Black Horse” and the title track. The composition of the former was inspired by the motto of the platoon of Jon's nephew, a soldier in Afghanistan. Masterful keyboards set an ominous tone across a pounding rhythm. Twin guitar solos twist and whine. The instrumentation is complex, using everything from snares to brass. The title song begins with crowd noises at a carnival. Jon is a divine madman, inviting them and us into his strange world of tortured souls, while the keys and guitars, darkly tuned to an open A-minor chord, whirl into a frenzy. The intrigue of his lunacy is tempting in this piece and the entire album – an exceptional recording.

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Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this review.