Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of Oliva's Raise the Curtain

When you’re as invested in your projects as Jon has been with Savatage and its spinoffs, it is easy to question why you would want to release a solo album. While Oliva does stick to a few of the frontman’s core templates, the last name basis is justified as he picks up a few new conspirators and provides even more experimentation. This may also be the last album to feature contributions frm the late Criss Oliva, effectively bringing an end to what I like to call the Shoebox Era.

Just as Jon Oliva’s Pain and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as seen as offshoots of Savatage, Oliva could certainly be viewed as an extension of Jon Oliva’s Pain. That project’s penchant for theatrics and the vocals’ raspy tone are still secure, as are the layered structures and progressive influences that were developed on 2008’s Global Warning and 2010’s Festival. The appearance of Pain drummer Christopher Kinder also helps with the connection though he doesn’t really shape the sound either way.

What truly sets this apart from past projects is a distinct lack of metal. The upbeat “Big Brother” borders on heavy but there are more prog and classic rock touches than anything else. The title track serves as a cheerful overture in the vein of Styx and Boston, “Father Time” is driven by a light 70s style riff, and snatches of Beatles pop up on “Soldier” and the closing “Can’t Get Away.” A few songs are also made interesting by the inclusion of a horn section with “Ten Years” arguably being the album’s best song because of it.

Of course, Raise The Curtain still has a few flaws despite the successfully lighter direction. While its second half is noticeably darker, the writing is a little jumbled as “Armageddon” has a slightly awkward structure while “Stalker” and “The Witch” blur together. The lyrics are also rather plain though that’s been noticeable with every band that has been formed without Paul O’Neill’s involvement.

As Jon himself points out in the liner notes, Raise The Curtain could be seen as a companion to Savatage’s Handful of Rain. While this effort is much lighter in comparison, they both feature Jon providing a bulk of instrumentation and both have a feeling of closure. Considering how Jon wants to go back to a heavier sound with his next venture, this probably won’t be the last we’ll see of him. Let’s just see how well he does without the shoebox…

Current Highlights:
“Raise The Curtain”
“Ten Years”
“Father Time”
“I Know”
“Big Brother”

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