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Oliva - Raise The Curtain

AFM Records - July 2, 2013

Review by Edwin van Hoof

Oliva - Raise The Curtain (2013)Oliva, huh?

I chuckled when the new Jon Oliva record was revealed, explaining this is the first solo effort from the charismatic fronter of Savatage. "Not just a Jon Oliva's Pain album or a Doctor Butcher CD?" echoed in my head. What can be so different that this is his first solo CD?

"Raise The Curtain" differs day and night from all which the metal legend has recorded in the past. Not only does Jon embark onto uncommon ground, he also pays tribute to the music that influenced him as a writer and performer.

"Raise The Curtain" to me sounds as a recital, which fast forwards "When The Crowds Are Gone," from the legendary "Gutter Ballet" CD. In the back of my head this CD musically and lyrically proceeds onwards using that particular song as a benchmark for this endeavor. Prejudice perhaps...

Fact is that the album is a stronghold of ideas Oliva was not able to inflict into any of his previous releases. The variety is diverse and wide; the dynamics are totally outside of the classical box of thoughts Jon tends to open, without alienating fans and friends. Presented here is a homage to music in general, a monument of his love for metal and not in the least; a tribute to his brother Criss.

"Can't Get Away" for instance, hints typical Beatles harmonies and structures, "Ten Years" even makes a side step towards big band swing of the roaring 40's. "Father Time" brings back memories of 70's rock dinosaurs like Kansas and Yes. The keyboards propels it forward with a middle Eastern harmony, pasting the music solid and dense.

The vast majority however reveals Jon's classical craftsmanship, as well as it features the last of his brother's music recorded before his tragic death 20 years ago this year. We get warped back into the roaring eighties when The Mountain King and his brother ruled the stages, delivering the finest and most powerful metal on a daily bases. "Big Brother" is as classic as it can be. It shines bright as polished metal in sunlight, shimmers fiercely. It has the typical and slightly neurotic Oliva howls, the frustrated undertone, the charisma radiating through your house. "Soul Chaser" and "Stalker" are right up the "Streets" alley again, as where "I Know" revives the darkest and grimmest in his personality. The highly emotional "Soldierm" and bonus track "The Truth" both are ballads reminiscent to the best his band(s) recorded, as well as they could have been featured on any of the T.S.O albums. Drop dead gorgeous, powerful and driven songs with a grin and a tear, deep felt emotion.

Overall "Raise The Curtain" has that typical linger, the withheld power and mesmerizing humidity, like casting shadows on a sunny day. It radiates creativity. "Raise The Curtain" unrolled when tragedy struck Jon once again with the passing of his guitar player Matt LaPorte (2011). It warped the gentle giant back 20 years in time, when he lost his brother to a car crash. Jon decided to press play this time, turning the downward spiral upwards, steer away from the past to focus on the present and his future.

The result is astonishing, renewing, fresh and even. But still very, very... Jon Oliva!

Solo that is, I stand corrected...

88 / 100