savatage tso solo projects

the dungeons are calling review by jim gordon
1983 was an exciting year in metal. Metallica released Kill 'Em All, a thrash classic. Iron Maiden had recently changed its frontman, and released 2 classic metal albums with him (not that Paul Di'Anno was a slouch). The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in stride, and its effects were being felt in the states. Of course, one of the most important musical events of 1983 was the release of Sirens, by Savatage. During the same sessions which produced Sirens, Savatage also recorded an EP, The Dungeons Are Calling, which was released the following year, and eventually was re-released on CD with 2 bonus tracks in the Nineties by Metal Blade. This album may not have the same lyrical depth as Gutter Ballet, Streets, or any of the other albums to follow, but it makes up for that with sheer intensity. In my opinion, The Dungeons Are Calling is Savatage's heaviest album, and is one of my favorites.
1. the dungeons are calling - 4:53
This track's opening is a great mood establisher, with the sounds of dripping water and Criss Oliva's reverbed acoustic guitar meshing well with the antiquated-sounding synths and Jon Oliva's soft vocals. The song erupts into an incredibly brutal 3 note riff, with painful power chords thrown in at vocal breaks. The solo is a classic speedy one, and the keyboards during the solo break are the icing on the cake. The lyrics speak of brutality, and the loss of sanity that prolonged exposure to said brutality can bring. I don't know where these dungeons are (L.A. county jailhouse???!), but they sound like a place I'd rather not be hanging around. A really good song overall, with some great bass-playing by Keith Collins.
2. by the grace of the witch - 3:13
A slow distortion-filled fade-in leads into the song's main body. No keyboards in this medium pace burner. What stands out is the chorus, which makes me want to sing along. In fact, despite the strangely fantasy/apocalyptic-based lyrics, this album has a more sing-along quality to it in general than other Savatage albums. This song basically conjures up (for me) the image of a torch-filled cave, with a young, good-looking witch seducing the listener.
3. visions - 3:01
This song doesn't wait for the listener; it cuts right into a super-fast & heavy riff, with Jon Oliva basically describing Hell, and bad people becoming the Devil's servants. Not much else to say, except that it's a cool song.
4. midas kinght - 4:21
A semi-clean guitar riff somewhat reminiscent of "Don't Fear the Reaper" opens up this song, which is rife with fantasy-type lyrics, and for some reason, makes me want to play video games. Doc Killdrums gets to show off on the cymbals in this song, and Jon Oliva gets in some good screams.
5. city beneath the surface - 5:49
When Savatage was still Avatar, the City Beneath the Surface EP apparently gained them a good deal of attention. It's no wonder after listening to this song off of the "Dungeons" EP. The song is very symmetrical, beginning with a synth intro, which melts into a slow-paced, Black Sabbathesque heavy riff. Suddenly the song jumps into the fast, descending main riff. The solo break is pretty cool. Finally, the song returns to the slow riff, and then to the synthesizers, which fade out the song. This song in general is so aggressive that it is pure fun. It makes me feel almost manic with its power. The song itself is another dissertation on life in Hell, and its many perqs (haha). In general, a great head-banger.
6. the whip - 3:27
I don't know why, but this song makes me think of kids hanging out in a basement in the 70's, smoking pot and just jamming out. Unlike the other songs, there isn't the same reverby, larger than life sound. Instead, this tale of S&M fun sounds like it was recorded in my Uncle Steve's old room on the top floor of my grandmother's house, or for that matter, any carpeted bedroom. The main riff itself is pure fun, and Keith Collins' thunkety-sounding bass is great. The lyrics are completely demented- I like 'em! The homey feel of this song is relaxing after the frenzy of "City", even though the riff is still fast and heavy. Another good one.
7. fighting for your love - 3:20
This song became "Crying For Your Love" on Fight For the Rock. I guess the 'Tage got more sensitive by that album, or something like that. This is one of the bonus tracks, and you can tell that it was meant to just be a demo, as the production isn't spectacular. Not much to say here, except that it was better done on Fight For The Rock. A ballady kind of song, with a little pep to it.
8. sirens (live) - 3:21
To close out the reissue, this live version of Sirens shows Savatage at work on the road, in Germany. Jon sounds kind of drunk during this song, but that doesn't stop him from putting on a good show. I assume he gets the crowd to sing when he asks them to, but the soundman didn't pick up the crowd. Jon gets in some good screams and grunts. The best part is the end, when Jon starts yelling, "Hello, Deutschland! You ARE METAL! You ARE METAL!" Classic.
conclusion
In my opinion, the reissue of "The Dungeons Are Calling" is a classic worth getting, especially since it shows Savatage at their heaviest.