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Jon Oliva's Pain – Festival Award winner

Jon Oliva's Pain
Festival
by Erika Wallberg at 26 February 2010, 1:02 PM


SAVATAGE mastermind Jon Oliva releases the fourth album with JON OLIVA'S PAIN, titled "Festival". The headlines aren't nearly as massive as they should be, at least if I can have something to say about it. This is one of the releases I'm looking forward to the most this year and one thing you always can count on when Jon puts his heart and mind into something is that the quality will be extremely high. First release under the monicker JON OLIVA'S PAIN "Tage Mahal" seemed very anonymous to start with but grew more and more after each listening and still does, there's still new things to discover on that album, still after 6 years. "Maniacal Renderings" struck like a lightning from a clear sky, this album was absolutely more direct, in your face and a very nice mix between the sound and feeling of classic SAVATAGE album "Hall Of The Mountain King" era but still with a touch of the trademark from the second chapter of SAVATAGE; all those massive vocal arrangements from "Chance", Morphine Child, "The Hourglass" and a few more. "Global Warning" didn't hit me as hard even if that third album from JON OLIVA'S PAIN includes some of my favorite songs of all times, "Firefly" and "Walk Upon The Water".

This fourth release, "Festival" has parts of the more laid back and melancholic feeling from "Tage Mahal" but also the rawness from "Maniacal Renderings" and a touch of the "Global Warning" sound, that little more polished production. Everything taken a step further though and the production and sound of "Festival" is the best ever and allows all instruments to shine fully. Of course the album sounds a lot like SAVATAGE, that's inevitable when Jon is involved. But also, this album too features Criss Oliva riffs and re-making of old SAVATAGE songs that never made it to the albums they were written for.

The record is kicked of with a track called "Lies" which reminds a lot of the "Gutter Ballet"/"Streets" era, a fast and rocking track with a really mean chorus line. Jon sounds amazing and Matt LaPorte nurses and feeds Criss' heritage well. "Death Rides A Black Horse" is a very dark and heavy track and doesn't really sound like anything JON OLIVA'S PAIN has done before. It has a really nice drive to it and despite its heavy and gloomy nature it is really groovy and could absolutely be a new live-favorite.

Third song is title track "Festival". I didn't like it at all to start with. It has a very theater-like, musical-feeling to it and references as W.A.S.P's "The Crimson Idol" or THE WHO's Rock opera "Tommy" comes to mind. For every spin of the album though the track gets better and better and playing it loud the feeling of being at the Tivoli from hell gets very real, those kind of dis-harmonic carnival-type keyboard melodies lurking in the back really sends cold shivers down the spine. "Afterglow" starts off with a very heavy riff, right in the BLACK SABBATH (DIO era) to change into one of those heartfelt acoustic ballads Jon do so well. For a while at least, the bridge twists back towards the heavy first riff and continues to develop into a very heavy chorus line which is the heavy opening riff, on top of that there's a typical SAVATAGE arrangement with the multiple voices. It's hard to decide if the first version with Jon bleating "Afterglow" and the choir sings the text part or as it is the second time, when it's the other way around. But the track isn't over with that, the last part is a very free instrumental part, with a classic SAVATAGE riff to start with which changes into Jazz and then back again. Perhaps not my favorite part of the album but it's great they do it since it's outside the mold. It sure made me go "what the fuck is this" at least.

"Living On The Edge Of Time" is another SAVATAGE oozing tune with a really fast Criss influenced riff. The bad thing is that the riff feels a little stressed and with that it looses a little of the heaviness and dynamic groove that's normal for this band. Even if it's a mean song with a quite dramatic title the chorus is really happy and catchy. "Looking For Nothing" reduces the tempo drastically. It's one of those ballads that also are common on a record signed by Jon Oliva. It's a very beautiful piece but not as spectacular and special as it can be. "The Evil Within" takes the listener back to the heavy sound again. And again the (DIO-era) BLACK SABBATH riffs can be recognized. The verse is aggressive and speedy, a real tongue-twister to sing to then turn over into a mid-tempo chorus line which gets extremely heavy and suggestive. The last part of the song has a more loose structure, a bridge with similarities to the intro of "Hounds" and a touch of "Mob Rules" and ebbs out in a really cool passage of solos and heavy riffs. It feels a little strange that the song ends with that though. A natural thing would have been to end with another chorus line. But why stick to the ordinary? Even with its plus 5 minutes the song feels very short. This song is my absolute favorite of the album!

"Winter Heaven" starts off neat and soft and parallels can be drawn to the "Tage Mahal" album. Even if the orchestral part of the song is very nice it feels long, it takes a little too long for the song to start. But this one too has sort of an odd arrangement, which makes the song really exciting. The ending is very heavy and I'm sure this is a track that will sound absolutely amazing live. "I Fear You" is more similar to the "Maniacal Renderings" sound and style, perhaps even a little heavier and darker. "Now" ends the album and is a very soft acoustic ballad with strings and piano. I would really love to hear this one live, performed at an acoustic set. A beautiful song definitely, but not one of the strongest of the album.

The thing with this album that differs the most from the ones before is that the structuring of the songs has moved back a few decades. There's a lot in the production that feels very primitive, naked and frail. Very much like the mastodons of the 70's, like BLACK SABBATH and QUEEN with the free endings of the songs, with one part at the start, another in the middle and a third to end the song. Of course it's cool with free creativity but on occasion songs like this can feel divided but then when the chorus lines are as strong as they are on this album, especially in these "free" songs they feel kind of cut short when the choruses don't come back. These are just minor things to point out. JON OLIVA'S PAIN has absolutely managed to create an amazing album, which sticks to the standard and sound of their previous releases, as well as the heritage of SAVATAGE but still takes a step in a completely new direction.

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Lies
  2. Death Rides A Black Horse
  3. Festival
  4. Afterglow
  5. Living On The Edge
  6. Looking For Nothing
  7. The Evil Within
  8. Winter Haven
  9. I Fear You
  10. Now
Lineup:
Jon Oliva - Vocals, Keyboards
Matt LaPorte - Guitar
Tom McDyne - Guitar
Kevin Rothney - Bass
Chris Kinder - Drums
Record Label: AFM Records
     


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Edited 14 November 2019
 

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