Section 2 - The Albums
City Beneath The Surface EP
Q: Can I get this on CD?
A: The EP was never reissued or reprinted and has been long out of print. Occasionally it can be found at record dealers and usually cost upwards of $200. However there have been several bootleg versions released, before you spend the money make sure itís an original!
Q: How can I tell if it a bootleg or the real deal?
A: The original Par records release of the EP contains a record jacket with rounded corners on the top. The bootleg is a square jacket.
Q: Is it true that there is a limited number of Yellow vinyls?
A: Yes, a limited amount of the 1000 original EP's were printed on Yellow vinyl. These are practically impossible to find.
Q: Is there more than one cover for this album?
A: The album when first released featured a drawing of a ship with an old womanís face on it. The band was not to pleased with this cover and it was eventually changed to the now familiar "sewer children" cover for the Combat reissue.
Q: Wasnít this released as a combined CD with The Dungeons Are Calling?
A: One of the first CDs released of Sirens was combined with DAC and featured a cover that combined the two covers.
Q: Is it true that this was recently reissued as a picture disc LP?
A: The picture disc, which contains the artwork of the original cover printed on the LP itself is a bootleg. Approximately 500 of these were made.
The Dungeons Are Calling EP
There is a CD only release of the two albums combined (Combat 88561-8227-2) that has the killer children and skull with baster covers combined as two horizontal stripes.
Q: What exactly is on the cover of this album?
A: The album cover is a picture of a human scull with a homemade syringe. The cover is in reference to the title track of the album, which contrary to popular belief is not about Hell or torture. The song is about the horrors of drug use. The song used many metaphors, which have been sometimes misunderstood.
Power Of The Night
Q: what other bands and albums has Max Norman Produced?
A: Max Norman gained fame by producing Ozzy Osbourneís 1980 album "Blizzard Of Ozz" and 1981ís "Diary Of a Madman." Max later on produced Megadeth's legendary 1992 release "Countdown To Extinction."
Q: Whatís the deal with the cover?
A: The cover is a metal fist smashing through glass, referring to the lyric from the title track "raise the fist of the metal child." The artist who did the cover had done the special effects for the Friday the 13th movie series.
Q: Why does this album have a "Parental Advisory" warning on it?
A: This record was not originally pressed with a warning, but was slapped with it on later pressings. The record company had problems with the lyrical content and sexual metaphors on songs like "Hard For Love" and "Skull Session." Another reason: In the days of Tipper Gore and the Parents' Music Resource Center, it was "cool" to have an album labeled with a parental warning :-)
Q: Is it true that Jon Oliva played some of the bass tracks on this album?
A: Both Jon and Criss fixed some of Keithís mistakes on this album.
Q: What is 'Power Of The Night' about?
A: According to Jon Oliva, 'Power Of The Night' is about the following: "There's a power that comes from the heavens. It is not evil or good. It enters your soul at a specific time in your life. It is at this time that you start to understand your purpose. Now you must deal with it. There are no villains. There are no heroes. There is just you and the power. You can use the power for good or evil. That choice you must make on your own. If you choose the right one, things will work out. If you choose the wrong one, things could become treacherous. The power I speak of is the power of the night."
Fight For The Rock
Q: Why are there two cover songs on this album?
A: The original piano that Badfinger had used to record their hit song Day after Day was in the studio where Savatage was recording. Jon began to tinker with piano and played that song on the piano, so it was decided to record their own version of the song. Legend has it that "Wishing Well" by Bad Company was the president of Atlanticís favorite song, so it was recorded as well.
Q: Why do the guys look so "glam" on this record?
A: Savatage and the record company wanted to have pictures of the band on this album to make up for the fact that none of their releases prior to that had any photographs of the band. The band hired one of their friends to do the photo work for the album. The pictures seemed like a good idea at the time, a friendlier look to accompany the more friendly songs of the album. The band appreciated these pictures as much as they like that album it self!
Q: Why is this album so commercial?
A: Label pressures. Jon Oliva had been retained to write material for other artists on the label, such as Jon Waite and other pop-rockers. Later, the label turned around and demanded Savatage record the material themselves. In a show of youthful naivete, the band agreed. Not only did it destroy them in the press, it nearly destroyed the band and sent Jon into his early alcohol and drug problems. It's not a BAD album by any measure, but it's certainly not the ultra-hard-rocking 'Tage we're all used to.
Q: If it's so commercial, why does it say "EXPLICIT LYRICS-PARENTAL ADVISORY"?
A: Once again, image. There isn't a nasty word anywhere on the disc. Lots of people don't seem to like this album. I dunno, I rather like it. If it's any consolation, the band hasn't played anything live off the album since 1989, except for using the opening to 'The Edge of Midnight' as a prerecorded intro to their 1992 Streets live show. Also, even on the FFTR tour, they only played a few songs off the disc - "Hyde", "The Edge of Midnight" and a couple of others.
To quote Jon Oliva, Minneapolis, MN 10/15/94:
"I've never been fond of that album.
WE'VE never been fond of that album."
Hall Of The Mountain King
Q: Whatís the deal with 'Prelude To Madness'???
A: Prelude to Madness is actually a movement called Hall of The Mountain King from Romantic Era composer Griegís Peer Gynt Suite. Paul came up with idea of recording this song knowing that Savatage was talented enough to pull off a very powerful version of it.
Q: Who is Ray Gillian?
A: Actually spelled Ray Gillen, he was the singer of the group Badlands that featured Ozzy Osbourneís ex-guitarist Jake E Lee. Paul knew Ray and brought him to sing on vocal duet at the end of "Strange Wings." The powerful section was actually recorded in only one take! Prior to Badlands, Ray sang briefly with Black Sabbath on their "Seventh Star" tour and worked on the Phenomenon II soundtrack with Glen Hughes. Ray died tragically of complications due to AIDS in 1993. Some of Rayís last recording can be found on a CD called Sun Red Sun witch also features Chris Caffery one track as well.
Q: Was HOTMK Savatage's most successful album?
A: At the time, yes. However, Savatage's sales have more or less consistently climbed with each album, even to this day, and some old albums even have seen their sales pick up as new fans have discovered the band.. As far as promoting popular interest, an argument could be made that every disc since HOTMK has garnered them yet more attention and new fans. No Savatage album has ever gone gold, though Trans-Siberian Orchestra's first disc, however, just did (Oct. 1997). Savatage albums always pay for themselves, though.
A: Jon Oliva said, "'Of Rage And War' is the band's humorist view of what the political world is all about. Perhaps it's also our frustrated opinion of how it all fits together, which people are top notch, which people are pulling the strings. You shouldn't try to find a whole lot of hidden meaning because first and foremost it simply is an ultra-heavy Savatage song with extremely aggressive guitar parts. The lyrics and music, in that respect, enhance each other very well. It is of course terrifying to have to live with the thought that somewhere in this world a lunatic needs only to touch the wrong button in order to turn the entire world into an inferno, but at the same time there's nothing you can do about it. Look at the number of countries that possess nuclear weapons today. The only thing you can do personally is channel your feelings of helplessness into anger, then find an outlet for them. In that respect, "Of Rage And War" of course is an excellent song."
Q: What is "Gutter Ballet" about"?
A: Jon Oliva said, "The title song 'Gutter Ballet' deals with the contemporary reality in the streets of every major city. The song is more or less the opposite of "Of Rage And War", both musically and lyrically speaking. The musical aspect seems obvious to me. After the brutal power of "Of Rage And War", the quiet piano intro surprises you. And, as the problem of "Of Rage And War" is evident, there's nothing you can do about it. It's not touchable. The probems out on the streets, on the other hand, are; you see them in front of you daily. It's especially about how unfriendly the streets can be, how confusing and how violent. But on the other hand, the streets can also be very beautiful, cosy and moving. The lyrics come forth from the mind of someone walking through a major city. Whether it is New York, Detroit or Chicago really doesn't matter. While writing the piano intro, I was thinking of a sunrise above a skyline of skyscrapers. Very peaceful. Until the city comes to life, and that's where the rest of the band comes in. Purposely this was done very abruptly, because all of a sudden the city changes into a madhouse."
Q: What is "Temptation Revelation" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "For the most part, this song was written by me. Inside my head, I had a vision of myself up on a mountain in the Scottish Highlands or a similar environment. The song begins very peacefully with piano and cello, but Criss' guitar work makes it more andventurous along the way. Everyone is entitled to think whatever they want while listening to this song, but I worked it out keeping the idea of such a stately view in mind. In any case, it gave Criss an opportunity to play a completely different kind of solo than he normally does. It's more modest, more the kind of thing you'd expect from for example Michael Schenker. He's not such a bad guitarist, that brother of mine..."
Q: What is "When The Crowds Are Gone" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "It's my favorite song on the album, and also the song that took the biggest effort to write, because it's a very personal piece. It's the life story of a musician who has been trying to become successful all his life. In vain, of course and so finally he breaks down. How, that's not the main issue, because this can happen in many different ways. Suicide, an overdose of drugs... I've seen it happen around me, so I know what I'm talking about. And that goes for our producer, Paul O'Neill, who helped me write the lyrics, as well. He also knew musicians who went down because of the lack of success. The musician that this song is about spent his whole life composing one song, that was meant to be his absolute masterpiece. Finally, he completes the song, but then he's too old himself to accomplish anything with it. He's past the height of his glory. Then finally when the song gets airplay, it is too late, because it is at his own funeral. The way it's written, it is of course purely imaginative, but the reasons to write the lyrics the way they were, unfortunately are very true. It has cost me a lot to sing this song. Because it was so personal, and because I wanted it to carry the right emotion, vocally. Listen to the end of the song, then you'll understand what I'm talking about."
Q: What is "Silk And Steel" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "It's an acoustic piece by Criss. He has always wanted to do something like this, but up until now the rest of the band didn't let him, either because there was no time left or because it didn't fit in. This, for example, could never have been on our first record. It reminds me of Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page could have done something similar on 'Led Zeppelin III'. Just like in "Temptation Revelation" Criss proves that his style is a lot more diverse than most people realize."
Q: What is "She's In Love" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "This is the first song on the B-side, which obviously is the heavy side of this album. The lyrics are very sarcastic and are totally the opposite of what people would expect looking at the title. It certainly is not a love song. On the contrary, the lyrics are purely sexual, almost mean maybe. The main character is a woman who isn't in love with a specific person, but with a certain part of that person's body, and the fact that she is partial to taking that body part into her mouth. It obviously is not about any particular woman, but about a certain group of women that really deserve being made fun of. We all know who we mean here. The lyrics absolutely aren't perverse or anti-woman. It's just a funny story about things that happen in this world.
Q: What is "Hounds" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "With 'Hounds' we arrive at what I'd call pure fantasy. Behind the lyrics to this song there is no deeper meaning...it has entirely been made up by me. In my spare time I love to write horror stories and the lyrics are based upon such a story. It's about a crazy professor who is experimenting with hunting dogs. Of course, things get completely out of hand and the dogs turn into murderous monsters. First they devour the professor and then start hunting for more human flesh and blood. To stay in tune with the American horror movies, I gave the story an open ending so no one knows whether the dogs are dead or still alive. Who knows, maybe it will be continued sometime."
Q: What is "The Unholy" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "'The Unholy' is also based upon such a short horror story written by me. Pure fiction also. The subject is the origin of evil. One day, thousands of years ago, evil must have settled itself within humanity and that's what the song is all about. It's about the way evil came to earth, along with the arrival of extraterrestrial beings from another universe. I had the title in mind for a long time and it was about time to write some lyrics to go along with it."
Q: What is "Mentally Yours" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "'Mentally Yours', 'Summer's Rain' and 'Thorazine Shuffle' together form a trilogy. It is true that the story that runs through these three songs is fiction, but this time it is based upon facts. It's a pity, but in America these things occur too often. It's a story about Timmy. In 'Mentally Yours' he's still a little boy. His father left and his mother and him drive each other completely insane because they can't live with each other. Timmy has a difficult childhood and eventually he runs away from home with his girlfriend. But he's so twisted, that he often beats her up. He torches the cat...to sum it up he's totally insane, sadistic and sick."
Q: What is "Summer's Rain" about?
A: Jon Oliva said, "'Summer's Rain' gets deeper into the relationship between Timmy and his girlfriend from 'Mentally Yours'. Timmy already is twisted, but when he finds out that she's cheating on him he totally loses control. In the end, she leaves him and Timmy ends up in a mental institution. Like I said, this is all fiction, but these things happen all the time here in the States. By the way, the title of this song is not 'Stand Alone.' The record company made a mistake and put the wrong title on some tapes."
Q: What is 'Thorazine Shuffle' about?
A: It was inspired by Jon Oliva's involuntary vacation at a detox center in Minnesota to sober up in the months before entering the studio to record Gutter Ballet. "The Unholy" and "Hounds" were written about the same time. Jon Oliva said, "Timmy is in an institution and Thorazine is the drug that is given to him to keep him quiet. They're giving him huge dosages and he starts hallucinating. His hallucinations form the major part of the lyrics. And until his dying day Timmy will have to stay in the institution, being the insane person he is thanks to his unhappy childhood. I think we'll be linking those three songs together live as well. They belong together, and it gives me the opportunity to give a short explanation."
Q: Is it true there are several unreleased tracks from Gutter Ballet?
A: Sort of. Jon and Criss Oliva (prior to the rest of the band arriving in New York City for the recording sessions) produced several demos before entering the studio, which included two versions of Thorazine Shuffle (one with slightly different music and lyrics, the other with VASTLY different lyrics and including a prominent cello accent in the opening bars), an early version of The Unholy with different lyrics (and no gang vocals at the end) then known as "Gates Of Hell", as well as seven other tracks that have never been released. One song, 'Stranger In The Dark', had its ending solo lifted to become the end of "Larry Elbows", a Streets track which was itself discarded. That same song snippet then became the end verse/solo to "Follow Me" on the Edge Of Thorns album. The other tracks were called (as best they can be deduced): "Pray to the Lord" or "Before I Hang", "Target", "Livin' On The Edge Of Time", "Metalhead" and "Rap". There was also an instrumental amongst the demos. One more track, titled "You'll Never Know", supposedly exists but has not surfaced on any known bootleg.
Q: If "Silk And Steel" was recorded during the GB sessions in February-July 1989, why does the actual CD say "Silk & Steel 12/17/88"?
A: That date is a birthday, not a recording date--apparently for Paul O'Neill's niece.
Q: Why aren't the lyrics for "The Unholy" printed in the Gutter Ballet CD liner notes, when every other track is?
A: At the time, producer Paul O'Neill wasn't particularly fond of those lyrics, and zapped them from the liner notes.
Q: Is it true Savatage had some troubles when they tried to record live shows on the GB tour?
A: Savatage took the Westwood One live truck with them on the Gutter Ballet tour but nothing ever went right, according to the band. One venue in CA *CAUGHT FIRE* during their show, so they only got like, 4 tracks recorded. Other mishaps plagued the shows and the recordings as well.
Q: Is it true that one of the songs on Gutter Ballet traces its roots to a non-studio track originally played on tour in 1985?
A: True. A song Savatage played on tour in 1985 titled "No More Saturday Nights" had its end raped and used as the fast solo part during the song "Mentally Yours" on the Gutter Ballet album.
Q: What was the working title of the 'Gutter Ballet' album?
A: "Temptation Revelation" and later "Hounds of Zaroff." It was a Steve Wacholz idea that made most people ask, "Huh?!" Jon and Criss wrote "Gutter Ballet" literally at the last minute in the studio as they were searching for an album title, since using an instrumental song as the title of the album seemed silly. Said Jon Oliva, 'Gutter Ballet' was written very late in the recording process. We were doing overdubs in the studio, finishing up the album. I had gone to see 'Phantom of the Opera' one night, and walked back into the studio at 3:00 a.m. I wrote the song on the patio, and when I finished it, I played it for the band. They loved it, so we decided to do it. If I had written it two weeks later, it would never have been on the album."
Q: Is Streets really Joní story?
A: Although Streets appears to be autobiographical, its is a work of fiction. Seeing that Jon struggled with many of the same problems as DT, his lyrics seem all too real at many points. Streets was never meant be an autobiography though. In fact, it was written in 1979 and stored in a drawer at Paul O'Neill's home until Criss Oliva found it and suggested it be Savatage's next album. Incidentally, Jon's favorite Savatage tune of all time isn't "Somewhere In Time" or "Believe" as has long been thought. It's "Tonight He Grins Again."
Q: Is it true that Paul wrote the entire story and music prior to meeting Savatage.
A: Although Paul began work on the basic storyline years before Streets was recorded, the album was the joint work of Jon, Paul and Criss. There has been much dispute over the years of how Streets actually came to be. Paul presented the idea to Savatage, and they loved it. So in 1990-91 the band wrote the album based on Paulís story line. Contrary to popular belief, Paul did not write all the lyrics. Songs such as Tonight He Grins Again, Agony and Ecstasy and If I Go Away are songs that Jon wrote the words and most of the music too.
Q: Is it true that Jon played the drums on some songs?
A: Jon played the drums and Criss played the bass on Jesus Saves and Can You Hear Me Now. Both songs were recorded after Steve and Johnny had already gone back home to Florida. Jesus Saves was an alternate version of the song DT Jesus. The record company didnít like the song (which appears in its original version on From the Gutter to The Stage) so the banded rewrote the song with a metal edge. CYHMN Criss at the very end of the session, but Jon loved it so much it was recorded even though half the band wasnít available.
Q: Are there really lots of left over songs from the sessions?
A: Yes but most likely the public will never hear them! The album was originally intended to be a double album, but Atlantic didnít like the idea, so it was trimmed down to 17 songs. The album was then going to have spoken tracks in-between all the songs but that was scrapped also. The final version scrapped the 17th song "Larry Elbows" and erased all the spoken tracks except for the intro to Jesus Saves. The cover had the story explained in it to make up for the lost spoken tracks. Atlantic somehow over the years managed to loose the master tapes to Streets so the left over songs truly are lost. The other tracks are "Stay", which involves the otherwise unknown character of Duke; "Desiree", "Tonight I Would Be King", "Sanctuary" (itself a rework of the Gutter Ballet outtake "Target"), and "Beyond Broadway. All that remains is a couple of cassettes of the master tapes, which are not very good quality. However you have heard some of these songs, you just donít know it! Many of the riffs from these songs showed up on Edge Of Thorns. So the combined fact that there are no quality recordings of the lost songs and the fact that most of the riffs have already been used make it very unlikely that they will ever be released to the public!
Another interesting detail about the album is that "Jesus Saves" was originally written as a midtempo song, not the rocker it became on the finished album. The versions heard on the Japanese DWD and the Euro greatest hits CD (the rehearsal and the "original" final take, respectively) are derived from the Streets sessions, prior to the label requesting the band rewrite it so the album would have a harder edge to it. Another early Streets demo which has made the rounds, entitled "Screwed Up", was an early attempt at what ultimately became "Tonight He Grins Again."
Q: Who speaking in the beginning of Jesus Saves?
A: Jon Oliva did the spoken intro.
Q: Why did Jon quit after the tour?
A: At the end of the tour Jon had been screaming for the better part of tens years night after night. His voice started to go, so he needed to rest his voice lest he loose it forever! Stepping aside and not touring offered him the flexibility to do more writing and development of projects such as the Romanovs Musical and the Dr Butcher record.
Q: Is it true that several tracks on Gutter Ballet and Streets were played by Jon and Criss Oliva alone?
A: Yes. The band had already departed from the studio when "Gutter Ballet", "Jesus Saves" and "Can You Hear Me Now" were written. Jon played drums, piano and did the vocals; Criss did all guitars and bass. Additionally, "All That I Bleed" from the EOT disc was written in the studio.
Q: What is the children's choir singing at the beginning of "Streets"?
A: It is an excerpt from Mozart's Magic Flute, entitled "Seid Uns Zum Zweiten Mal Willkommen", which is also coincidentally the first line that is sung. It is from the second act.
Edge Of Thorns
Q: How did Zak get the job?
A: Zak was hired based on an audition with Paul OíNeil and Criss Oliva and his performance on the Wicked Witch demos.
Q: Why do the drums on this album sound different then on the others?
A: On this album Steve decided to use electronic drums. Although most of the drum kits sounds authentic, you can hear the difference in the toms.
Q: Did Jon play drums on this album as well?
A: Yes. Jon played the drums on He Carves His Stone and Degrees of Sanity. Both songs were recorded after Steve had left the studio. Seeing that Jon is a quite capable drummer it was easier to have Jon play rather than have Steve travel back to the Studio.
Q: Why does the guitar sound funny on the beginning of Degrees Of Sanity?
A: The beginning part isnít a guitar at all! Criss used an Indian stringed instrument call the Sitar on the intro for this track.
Q: Why did Steve leave after the album and not play on the tour?
A: At this point Steve was running several businesses on the side and decide to go with those seeing as they made more money than drumming for Savatage did. Steve agreed to do the first video and press shots for the album but that was it. Steve brought in his friend Andy James to play on the tour. During the subsequent tour Andy changed a lot of the drums parts around, angering many of the band members. Had the tour continued it is likely that Andy would have been fired.
Q: Are there any unreleased tracks from the Edge Of Thorns recording sessions?
A: There is at least one, and as many as four have been virtually confirmed to exist. A very different alternate take of the title track was recorded and lives in the Atlantic vaults. Also, versions of Forever After, Damien and Sleep with Jon on vocals are supposed to exist.
Q: Who is the woman in the front cover artwork? Who did the artwork? Who is the face in the trees?
A: The woman in the picture is Dawn Oliva, Criss Oliva's wife. Gary Smith, who also did the front and back covers for HOTMK, the front cover for GB, the back cover for Streets, and all of Criss Oliva's airbrushed guitars painted the cover. The face in the trees is supposed to be Jon Oliva, though producer Paul O'Neill disputes that despite its publication in a Criss Oliva interview from 1993. The cover is supposed to represent good (the woman) vs. evil (the face in the trees). According to Criss Oliva in a 1993 interview, "The girl is surrounded by fear and innocence. But the face in the trees is evil. Everything around her is evil. It's about good and evil. The songs on the CD reflect this, too."
Q: Are the two bonus tracks on the Japanese release of EOT (also on the European "Best Of" collection) - 'Forever After' and 'Shotgun Innocence' - any good?
A: Yes. Both are quite good, as good as anything on the domestic release.
Q: What is 'Skraggy's Tomb' about?
A: Skraggy's Tomb is about alcoholism -- crawling into a bottle.
Q: What is 'He Carves His Stone' about?
A: It is about carving your own epitaph into a tombstone.
Q: What is 'Damien' about?
A: Damien tells the story of a rich man leaving Grand Central Station that bumps into a poor street kid, gets into a limo, and turns around to look one more time at the child.
Q: What is 'Conversation Piece' about?
A: Conversation Piece is about a guy in love with a girl who is far worse off than he, and answering the question "when is it too late to save someone?"