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edge of thorns - press release

from Atlantic Records Press Release, April '93
by ???
transcribed by Gonzo the Silenced

Zachary Stevens - Vocals
Criss Oliva - Guitars
Johnny Lee Middleton - Bass
Steve "Doc" Wacholz - Drums

Born in Florida eleven years ago, Savatage have released five blistering collections (on Atlantic) to date, garnering worldwide legions of fanatical followers with their intense, explosive rock. With last year's departure of lead vocalist Jon Oliva, Savatage went through a wrenching change that would have ripped most bands to shreds.

Undaunted, the group used this opportunity to crank its sound to the next level. Edge of Thorns, Savatage's gripping new album, is living proof that this dynamic outfit was tested in the furnace of change and renewal and has come rout better and heavier for it.

"Jon's stepped aside to do other things," explains Savatage's new vocalist Zachary Stevens. "He just got to that point. Jon's still writing for other artists, and he's starting to write another rock opera."

As the new guy in a twelve-year-old band, Zak, who formerly fronted Boston's Wicked Witch, had his work cut out for him, especially following a vocalist as distinctive as Jon Oliva. The band knew the most important thing was to find a true successor to their long-time co-leader, rather than a mere replacement.

"I didn't want to replace Jon with a singer who tried to sound like him," Criss explains. "If Jon wasn't going to be singing, we had to make a total change, get something different. There's no question about that. Zak definitely doesn't sound like my brother. He sings the old stuff very well, but it's going to sound different."

Savatage was formed by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva and drummer Steve Wacholz a dozen years ago in Tampa, Florida. Originally called Avatar, they released one record under that name and got a lesson in the business of rock.

"We had all kinds of legal hassles, so we decided to change the name for the next album," Wacholz recalls. "We wanted to keep some of the name Avatar, so we kept the 'avata,'added an 's' and a 'g' and an 'e,' and there you have it - Savatage."

On the strength of of countless live shows and their first indie E.P., 1983's City Beneath the Surface, Savatage began creating a major buzz with metal fans in the South and beyond. By the release of their 1985 Atlantic debut, Power of the Night, the band had developed a worldwide following. 1986 saw Savatage release Fight for the Rock, and Kerrang! gave Savatage's 1987 release, Hall of the Mountain King, their highest rating, saying: "By rights, Savatage should now be firmly rooted amongst the biggest Heavy Metal bands in the world."

Their next album, Gutter Ballet, was named the metal record of the year by both The Hard Report and Concrete's Foundations, and the song "Of Rage and War" topped the metal charts in both CMJ and The Friday Morning Quarterback. The title track energised MTV's Headbanger's Ball for three staggering months. Savatage's last album, the 1991 rock opera Streets, earned the band a top ten metal radio hit with "Jesus Saves." Over time, they have developed from a raw, thrashing death metal to to one of the hardest progressive metal bands ever.

"Savatage started in the death metal scene and have moved on to bigger and better things," Zak explains. "Starting with Hall of the Mountain King, Savatage have been able to go in and pick up a chunk of every level of metal fan. This record will get another chunk. We want all the people who bought the very first albums to buy this record and like it too. With that goal in mind, we've put together elements of older songs plus a whole new thing, covering all the old ground and trying to add a little more . I think we've succeeded in that."

"Every song has a real life story behind it," Criss adds. "'Scraggy's Tomb' is about alcoholism, crawling into a bottle. 'He Carves his Stone' is about carving your own epitaph on your tombstone. 'Damien' tells the story of a big, fat, rich man that comes across this poor kid, and lets him know how life is. That one and 'Conversation Piece' are pretty strange."

Co-produced and co-written by Jon and Criss, Edge of Thorns was produced and co-written by long-time collaborator Paul O'Neill. The album boasts a leaner, meaner, guitar-driven sound, without taking away from the progressive edge that band has been honing since Hall of the Mountain King. "Degrees of Sanity," for example, gets an exotic sound from the riffs that Criss plays on the electric sitar, while open chords give many songs a dark feel. Clearly, Savatage have come a long way from thrash.

"The end result on Edge of Thorns was based totally on believability and passion," Zak asserts. "That's how one learns to perform in Savatage."