US Power metal legends Savatage have this week digitally reissued their early work, and the big boss at HQ impishly charged me with reviewing Fight For The Rock…
I say impishly because, if you’re anything of a Savatage fan you’ll know that FFTR is universally reviled as the worst of the original Savatage albums. At the same time the band are also digitally reactivating classics like The Dungeons Are Calling and Hall Of The Mountain King – but he who must be obeyed wants Fight… so here we are.
You can understand why fans at the time were nonplussed by the more non-com friendly strains of this album. Savatage had been shaping nicely as one of the leaders of the nascent US power metal scene, combining Jon Oliva‘s remarkable voice and theatricality with his brother Criss‘ incendiary guitar playing with at times devastating results; the heavy metal of their debut Sirens or The Dungeons Are Calling is largely missing here, replaced by an AOR sensibility that finds tracks like Day After Day (a Badfinger cover that actually sounds like The Beatles forced through a Gene Simmons filter) and Out On The Street (The Beatles through a Cheap Trick filter) aiming straight for mainstream radio audiences. Thirty four years after the fact neither song actually sounds too bad, although you can see why people in denim cutoffs were so confused by this apparent volte face in 1986.
The Edge of Midnight is far more along the lines of what you’d expect from Savatage, building from a florid keyboard overture to become a neat, riff-heavy piece of hard rock theatre; and if the title track was a nice piece of eighties metal lite along the lines of Icon, it did still pack enough punch to satiate most fans, as did the proto hair metal of She’s Only Rock n’Roll which fused a good time Great White kinda vibe to Criss Oliva’s more metallic guitar vibe with pleasing results.
Wisdom received down the years since the album’s release suggests Fight For The Rock was an album more or less forced on the band, stitched together from a couple of label-suggested covers (the other being a take on Free‘s Wishing Well, already recently covered at the time by Gary Moore and Blackfoot and, it has to be said, done better by both) alongside material Jon Oliva had written for artists such as John Waite, and it certainly does stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the band’s ouevre. However, that said, and if you’re not a died in the wool Savatage devotee, as a standalone work by a band-that-shouldn’t-have-called-itself-Savatage, it’s actually not that bad, if a little ‘of it’s time’. That said, if your reissue dollar only goes so far in these straightened times, then maybe The Dungeons Are Calling or Power Of The Night might be the better bet. It’s your choice!
The Fight For The Rock digital reissue is out now.