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Music / Savatage

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Savatage was a Progressive Metal band from Tarpon Springs, Florida. Originally named Avatar, the band was formed by Jon Oliva and his brother Criss, the name "Savatage" was born when they were forced to change Avatar's name and they combined it with "savage". Savatage was active between 1978 and 2001, released twelve albums and survived the 1993 death of Criss, before entering an indefinite hiatus. During the hiatus, the band was broken up so that Jon Oliva could focus on other projects; Trans-Siberian Orchestra as well as Jon Oliva's Pain.

They initially played typical Heavy Metal, reminiscent of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, before being joined by producer Paul O'Neill in 1987. Afterwards, they switched to a more conceptual, symphonic style of music. They successfully combined elements of both formats on several albums, giving them a varied mix between metal and progressive rock. While they never became a mainstream success, they were appreciated by critics and developed a very loyal fan base.

Savatage reunited for a one off show in 2015, along with Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the same night, though the band remained in active once again until 2023, when it was confirmed the band was working on their final album, Curtain Call, to be released in 2024.

"Hall of the Mountain King" was featured on the soundtrack for Brütal Legend.

Current members:

  • Jon Oliva - vocals, guitar, keyboards
  • Zachary Stevens – lead vocals
  • Chris Caffery - guitar, backing vocals
  • Al Pitrelli - guitar
  • Johnny Lee Middleton – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Jeff Plate – drums

Former members:

  • Criss Oliva – guitar (1978-1993)
  • Steve Wacholz – drums (1980-1993)
  • Keith Collins – bass guitar (1981-1985)
  • Alex Skolnick - guitar (1994)

Related projects:


This band provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The setting of Poets and Madmen.
  • All There in the Manual: The stories behind their rock operas, and ''Poets and Madmen'', can be found in their song booklets.
  • Author Catchphrase: A few recurring verses; "I never wanted to know, never wanted to see-" and "I am the way, I am the light-", shared between three songs; "When the Crowds are Gone", "Believe", and "Alone You Breathe"..
  • Badass Bureaucrat / Badass Pacifist: "Chance" is about Chiune Sugihara, Japanese consul in Lithuania during World War 2. He issued thousands of travel visas allowing Jews to flee Nazi Germany for safety in Japan. The song portrays his inner turmoil between risking his life and career, doing the right thing, and whether negligence in acting is the same is as complicity.
  • Biography: Subverted. It's often believed that Streets is Jon Oliva's autobiography. It isn't, it was at first a play by Paul O'Neill written twelve years before the album, but it is quite similar to what Jon struggled with.
  • Breakup Breakout: Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli focused all their efforts on Trans-Siberian Orchestra after Savatage disbanded and have had far more success in the former than they ever did with the latter.
  • Concept Album: Several. Three albums; Streets, Dead Winter Dead, Wake of Magellan are rock operas. Their final release Poets and Madmen has a back story but no actual narrative.
  • Content Warnings: A few early albums featured the parental advisory sticker despite not having any explicit lyrics in the actual album.
  • Cover Version: They covered "Day After Day" by Badfinger and "Wishing Well" by Free on Fight for the Rock.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "White Witch" from Hall of the Mountain King. Also a major theme of Streets.
  • Epic Rocking: They toe the line concerning length as their longest songs are seven to ten minutes long. However they often write songs that are complicated and change tones frequently.
  • Evil Laugh: A trademark of Jon Oliva, and he does it so well.
  • Grief Song: "Alone You Breathe", dedicated to Criss.
  • Heavy Meta: "Metalhead" off ''Dungeons Are Calling".
  • Heavy Mithril: Their earlier albums had strong elements of Heavy Mithril; such as "Sirens" (guess which album), "Hall of the Mountain King," and "The Unholy".
  • Hellhound: "Hounds".
  • I Love the Dead: "Necrophilia" from Power of the Night.
  • Instrumentals: Several, starting with "Last Dawn" and "Prelude to Madness" on Hall of the Mountain King. Afterwards they commonly had one or two tracks per album.
  • Intercourse with You: "The Whip" (The Dungeons Are Calling) plus "Skull Session" and "Hard for Love" (Power of the Night).
  • Iwo Jima Pose: The cover of Fight for the Rock.
  • Metal Scream: Jon does a number of these. There's a prime example towards the end of "Hall of the Mountain King".
  • Music Videos: A number were made but they received little air time.
  • Nocturnal Mooks: "Legions" is about the Legions of the Night, a pillaging army of Evil Things, whose battle cry is a guitar riff. GOOD GOD.
  • Portmantitle: Avatar + Savage = Savatage.
  • Power Ballad: "Out on the Streets" from Sirens and Fight for the Rock.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story of Wake of Magellan is based on two such events. The first is the murder of reporter Veronica Guerin by drug lords, a senseless tragedy that helps convince the old sailor to kill himself. The second is the Maersk Dubai event, were the captain of a freighter ordered discovered stowaways to be thrown overboard. Finding a similar castaway during his suicide voyage, the old man rescues him and is convinced to continue living.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: "Prelude to Madness" is a metal arrangement of Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" on, well, take guess.
  • Rock Opera:
    • Streets - The story of D.T. Jesus, a New York City drug dealer turned rock star, turned junkie. Realizing that drugs are destroying him he plans a successful comeback show, only for his past to catch up with him and kill a friend. Grieving and confused, he wanders the streets trying to make sense of his life and the city itself.
    • Dead Winter Dead - A story about the Bosnian civil war. A young Serbian man and a Muslim woman are dragged into picking sides as a pointless war consumes a newborn nation. Meanwhile, an old man protests the conflict by playing his cello in a ruined square during nightly bombings.
    • The Wake of Magellan - An old sailor succumbs to despair at the state of the world and how his life played out. He plans to kill himself by setting out to sea and drifting until the ocean claims him. As a massive storm overtakes him, he miraculously encounters a castaway man and struggles to save them both.
  • Tears from a Stone: Shed by a church gargoyle who watched over Sarajevo for centuries, after the old cello player is finally killed by a stray mortar.
  • Villain Song: A few on their rock operas; "I Am", "Doesn't Matter Anyway", and "Complaint in the System". "Agony and Estascy" from Streets is part Villain Song and part BSoD Song, the "villain" being the part of D.T. that wants to give up and return to drugs.