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Jon Oliva was one pissed off guy. His brother, Criss Oliva, had just died in a car accident. His full-time band, Savatage, was actually getting less and less popular even though they came out with two back-to-back masterpieces. There must have been some trauma from childhood added in as well as general pissed-offedness at the world. The result? Doctor Butcher. A side project where Oliva didn't have to worry about the theatrics of Savatage, but could empty out all of the ideas floating in his head. He teamed up with another man filled with ideas; the incredibly underrated Chris Caffery, who had toured with Savatage in 1989. Together they created one of the best pure heavy metal albums of the 90's.
Oliva uses more of an aggressive style of singing, although not a death growl, as opposed to his power metal singing of early Savatage albums. This, coupled with Caffery's crushing riffs and powerful soloing makes the listener want to punch a hole in the wall. The Altar, The Chair, and Don't Talk To Me are chock full of air guitar-worthy solos and pure headbanging bliss. Yet Oliva allows some melody to seep in "Lost in the Dark," "Innocent Victim," and "Season of the Witch," although those have incredible solos and riffs as well. "Juice" serves as a perfect intro for "The Chair." While "The Chair" is heavy, "Juice" uses clean guitar to create lush melody while near the end Oliva includes his trademark evil laugh.
That being said, while the Oliva/Caffery songwriting team had enough great ideas to fill two albums, they had trouble connecting those ideas on some places, and it certainly shows. Some parts of songs seem disoriented. Although "I Hate, You Hate, We All Hate," has a great solo and riffing, the song is hurt by its awkard chorus, as well as the poor verse/chorus/verse transition. "The Picture's Wild" makes no sense at all and should have been left off the album. "All for One...None for All" isn't really bad, just unremarkable. But the ideas are there. One wonders how much better this album could have been had they spent some more time on it.
The re-release is a must have because it has been remastered, and there is a bonus disc with four songs from "The Demos" CD as well as an epic new song in "Inspector Highway." "Bridges" is built similar to Savatage's album ending ballads like "Believe" and "Alone You Breathe" which are pretty much love 'em or hate 'em affairs. Other than that, the other four are worthwhile, although no where near as good as some of the stuff on the first disc. Caffery talks on his website about a new Butcher album coming out soon, so that is something to look forward to. If you like what you hear here and want more, Caffery's solo albums are in a similar vein as Doctor Butcher and his 2005 "W.A.R.P.E.D." contains a Butcher outtake called "Iraq Attack."
A must-have for fans of straight ahead metal. 88/100