John Oliva's Pain
4/2/2010 - Review by: Eric Compton
I can remember one strange moment in my life where I simultaneously purchased John Denver's "Greatest Hits" on the same day as Pantera's "Reinventing The Steel" release. I purchased both with one fell swoop of the debit card and the music store clerk thought I had lost my marbles. Looking back on that day and the strange combination of Americana and hardcore metal flowing out of my speakers...well it sort of brings me to Jon Oliva's new release "Festival".
Oliva has created so many abstract projects since his departure from 'Tage in 1992. Since then we've seen some Floridian dead ahead metal with Doctor Butcher, some symphonic events with the first Jon Oliva's Pain album "'Taje Majal" and an almost return to the Hall with sophomore effort "Maniacal Renderings". I don't know where the mindset is these days with the legendary vocalist but for me personally he is just all over the place, almost the Devin Townsend of power-prog if you will.
I did not care for the last record "Global Warming" and its ELO/Styx influenced metal hybrid. New release "Festival" follows the same footsteps. The album was produced in Florida with famed knob turner Tom Morris. The group also picked up an extra guitarist with Tom McDyne, adding just a small amount of dynamics to the previous five-piece. The group also picked up a new record deal after the crash-boom of SPV Steamhammer's financial downfall. The band land on what will probably be their best marriage, AFM Records.
Oliva's Pain mixes in two really great songs into the batch this go around. I love the pounding hooves of "Death Rides A Black Horse" with its rambunctious keys, thick groove and Rothney's Geezer-like bass lines. The lyrics give plenty of dark visual imagery and honestly this may be the best song Oliva has collaborated on since Savatage. The equally impressive "Living On The Edge" is probably the most metallic of the bunch, a speedy gallop with huge gang chorus portions and Oliva's madman screech. From there...well its just all over the place. "Lies" and the title track showcases some of the present day happenings with the W.A.S.P and Alice Cooper camp with a thick wallop, strained vocals, extremely loose and almost jazzy skins and an almost hollow-tuned production value. It wouldn't a Jon Oliva album without tons of piano and keys throughout, dominating wimpy noodle tracks like "Now" (almost Elton John) and the Queen-like "Afterglow". The album has two solid cuts, two average at best selections and the rest is your 70s hybrid of Styx, Queen and the occasional Elton John/Billy Joel moment.
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