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Jon Oliva's Pain: Festival

Throughout his storied career, Jon Oliva has been one of the most dramatic and dynamic songwriters of the era. From his days with Savatage to his work with Trans Siberian Orchestra and now with his band Jon Oliva's Pain, he continues to raise goosebumps and make the hairs stand up with his dramatic and extraordinary musical vision. He draws his material from many a different source and always has the ability to put you right there in whatever scene he creates with his music. So, be prepared as this time around the Festival was born from a nightmare that he had while on tour in Europe. Oliva draws you into this darker world as easily as Dracula can seduce the young maiden into his. This eerie and heavier version of Jon Oliva's Pain is like a drug. This disc is a musical narcotic that is every bit habit forming as one of the legal or illegal mind altering substances you might find.

Oliva says that he wrote most of this disc on guitar. He also plays quite a bit of the six string on here and that helps to explain the overall heavier feeling you get from Festival. Don't think he abandons the keyboards that are a mainstay in his sound but this one is a much more pure metal disc where he tickles the ivories more for dramatic effect.

It is very much Jon Oliva at his finest right from the very start when he tells about someone who will all hate, the person who fills you with nothing but "Lies". Oliva spits out his disgust for this type of person with a vengeance and he uses the guitars in the band to emphasize the point. I am sure his tale will hit home and remind you of someone you know. This terrific rocker is just the jumping off point for a real treat of metal mayhem that Oliva and the band has in store for you. It is a devilishly good piece of work that will have you at full head banging readiness from the first note.

He then turns to a slower brooding style with the gritty "I Fear You". This one reminds me of something that you might hear from Alice Cooper with its dark theme and tasty guitar work. Jon's voice is perfect for this sinister tune and will have you checking out those dark corners to make sure nothing is lurking there.

The band touches on pure power metal with the European flavored "Living On The Edge" next. Pure fist pumping, anthem like metal from someone who knows how to make you neck ache for days! Just crank it up and enjoy.

The first time they slow it down is with the song "Looking For Nothing". This one is a bluesy little ballad that basically is a chance to catch your breath with some mighty fine clean guitar work Oliva's lyrics once again seem to have insight into what every person on the planet goes through in life. Oh, I am not saying he is telling you anything profound or exceptional but that is one of the things about Oliva, his lyrics are many times about what we deal with on an ordinary basis and have the ability to make you feel closer to him with their kind of fatherly advice in many cases.

The song "Afterglow" is classic Oliva with its piano work and orchestration to start that builds and builds until you are caught up in a metal storm where Jon's growl pierces right to the heart. This could be my favorite song on the disc but that might just be my wish to have a Savatage reunion as this one sounds like it could have been plucked out of The Edge Of Thorns sessions. There is a jazzy interlude in the middle that really catches the ear when they turn from metal to tinkling piano and then back again with a magical musical ability. This is heady stuff that will remind you just how powerful a songwriter this guy is.

The second half of the album is just as dynamic as you ears and mind are pummeled with a cornucopia of sound and metal that is as rich and mighty as any you will hear. "The Evil Within", "Death Rides A Back Horse" and the title track "Festival" are all like heroin to the metal junkie. With a flair that only Oliva can provide you will be taken on a journey through the powerful, dark territory that Jon has chosen as his path this time around. All I can say is sit back and enjoy the trip!

Jon does give you some softer moments with the remaining songs on the album. "Now" is a beautifully orchestrated, keyboard oriented power ballad that I cannot wait to see live with its dramatic effect. He really gives you the feeling of what it is like to be away from the ones you love with this searing work that captures the essence of what his music is all about.

The album ends with what might have been a TSO song but as I have read, about half of the song is taken from the tapes of his brother Chris that Jon makes a point to include in every album he has made with this group of musicians. This is a majestic send off that will have you wondering how this album ended already and wondering when we will hear more! That is another thing about Oliva, he could put out a 3 hour disc and you will still want more. I bought this disc before making a trip to the city of Lansing and it was playing continuously for the 6 hours we were gone. Without a doubt it is one of the must have albums of the year. Very few can draw the emotion from music that Oliva can and this may be the finest example of how he can do that so far with this band. It is a treat from start to end and should be a requisite for any music lover!

Track listing:

1. Lies
2. I Fear You
3. Living On The Edge
4. Looking For Nothing
5. Afterglow
6. The Evil Within
7. Now
8. Death Rides A Black Horse
9. Festival
10. Winter Haven

Added: April 15th 2010
Reviewer: Scott Ward
Related Link: Jon Oliva's Official Site
Hits: 5083
Language: english

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Jon Oliva's Pain: Festival
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-04-15 07:37:18
My Score:

The first Jon Oliva's Pain album consisted of songs that had been written over a very long time, nearly a decade. Therefore, it was quite varied and, while each song stands as a sonic monument on its own, perhaps not very consistent. The second album, Maniacal Renderings, was a step in a heavier direction with progressive elements highlighted more prominently. It also harkened back to the "old Savatage" sound whilst retaining a timeless quality to it. The previous album, Global Warning, much as it had been described by Jon Oliva, proved to be a very experimental piece of work, with songs that would not translate very well to a live setting (hence the reason why they weren't performed in concerts often), and contained less heavy songs with more profound musical traits.

Festival sees Jon Oliva's Pain return to a mix of their first two releases, touching on the experimentalism of Global Warning on maybe a song or two. Unusual characteristics seem to be the breakdown of "The Evil Within", an extended passage with tense sound blurps in between piercing vocals, sturdy bass lines, and crushing guitar cascades. The semi-ballad, "Afterglow", while more conventional otherwise, boasts an interesting jazz workout in its finale. The song arguably features Oliva's most heartfelt vocal performance, which proves all the more powerful given the song's constant shifting between acoustic and electric guitar passages. The backing vocals on this one really help lift the chorus as well.

There is plenty of material worth directing your attention to: the guitar intros of "Lies" and "Death Rides a Black Horse" are both epic in scope, though the latter sees the band developing their ideas in a more refined fashion. The orchestral arrangement, the "Tell me what you see" backing harmonies, and stunning fretwork set it apart from many of the other songs on the album. The title tracks is the most theatrical number, depicting Oliva's nightmare. It is informed by bluesy guitar parts, hellfire vocals and piercing screams. Of the two other ballads, "Now" is a great choice to bring the album to an end, as it recalls 90's Savatage with its rises and falls, melting pianos, and emotive vocal delivery.

Unfortunately, not all of the songs maintain as steady a flow as the others. "Living on the Edge" is the kind of song that might get the crowds going live, but given Oliva's songwriting abilities, it is pretty average save for its amazing run-out solo. Similarly, "I Fear You" is quite uneventless musically: it grows from a mid-tempo riff to a hard-rocking piece in typical fashion while "Looking for Nothing" and "Winter Haven" see the band dropping the tempo in favour of melodic sections.

That said, it is great to see Jon Oliva still putting out these albums. It's been almost ten years since the last Savatage album, and had it not been for JOP, we would still be waiting for their new album. Support this band at all costs, and definitely see them live. They're amazing.

Jon Oliva's Pain: Festival
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-04-12 15:52:32
My Score:

It's gotten to the point where all this talk of a Savatage reunion is probably wasted breath, and to be quite honest, Festival, the new album from Jon Oliva's Pain, is probably as close as you are going to get to classic Savatage. All the drama, all the bombast, plenty of heavy metal as well as symphonic prog, it's all here folks, from the master Oliva and his merry henchmen.

Based on ideas surrounding a nightmare that Jon had recently, Festival is at times quite dark yet always exciting for the listener. Kick off track "Lies" is a very Queen-inspired number with crushing guitars, keyboards, and layers of vocals, showing the Jon is still in fine form. The band puts in a fine performance on the orchestral rocker "Death Rides a Black Horse", and the title track is a wonderful progressive metal opus complete with Oliva's shrieking vocals, symphonic keys, and intricate guitar work. "Afterglow" mixes bombastic metal with prog and some tender acoustic moments, while "Living On the Edge" is a great 80's styled headbanger with a catchy chorus. There's a tender acoustic number called "Looking For Nothing", a snarling "The Evil Within", and an interesting slice of lush & symphonic prog-metal in the form of "Winter Haven". The latter also happens to be the CDs longest piece at just under 8 minutes long, and features plenty of varied instrumentation, including a hot synth solo from Oliva. The CD ends with the crushing "I Fear You" and the tender ballad "Now", which closes out things on a quiet note.

Festival is red hot from start to finish, showing the Jon Oliva's Pain still have plenty to offer to their fans. There's no retread riffs here, no familiar melodies, just new and exciting material that's instantly recognizable as Jon Oliva and some of the best he has put together in years. And that's really saying something considering how good his most recent releases have been. Kudos again to a heavy metal legend.

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