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When I heard this album, I shat bricks. It's as if Jon wrote music that was deliberately everything I look for in metal. Dear god, where to begin...
I could begin with the guitars, which are immaculate, or I could begin with the singing, which is the best Jon has done since the epic "Hall of the Mountain King." Or I could begin with the perfect integration of "melody vs. heavy". It's not heavy and melody, it's both. At the same time. I could also begin with the twin leads. God those are fun.
However, focusing on one component of the album would be facetious; the charm in this album is the whole picture. And god, is that picture awesome. What must be noted is that this album isn't unexpected; it sounds a lot like Savatage (in the case of Through the Eyes of the King, almost too much -- listen to Hall of the Mountain King [the song] then tell me they're not related), but it's different. When Savatage went melodic in the early 90's, as I was perusing the discography, I appreciated it, but at the same time, I kinda yearned for the aggression of Hall of the Mountain King. Well, it's here. But so is the melody. So in effect, this is everything Jon has contributed to Savatage, boiled down into one awesome album.
In my opinion, this is everything that made Savatage awesome. Well, almost everything. It isn't as aggressive as the Criss Oliva era Savatage, nor as epic as the later era 'Tage. Yes, those elements are missing, but hey, if they were there, this wouldn't be a Jon Oliva album. This would be a Savatage album.
I would recommend this to those who would like to see more Jon Oliva in Savatage, for it's easy to see his influence on Savatage when you hear this album. It still manages to distance itself from Savatage, but the two are clearly related.
I said at the end of my review for Jon Oliva's Pain's last CD, "Tage Mahal," that I would believe Jon's claim that the new CD would be totally different and better when I heard it. Well, I have heard it and I believe it; this album destroys the previous on so many levels that it is hard to believe that this is the same band.
Don't get me wrong, though. This is still what you would expect from a Jon Oliva side project: neoclassical metal of the highest sort, with a couple of surprises thrown in. For one thing, there are a handful of riffs and ideas from Criss Oliva that Jon apparently found in his attic. Any fan of old-school Savatage will immediately pick out a riff or section and know that Criss wrote or at least influenced it. Jon sings in the same sort of growl that he has been using since his work on “Dead Winter Dead” and his keyboard work is as prominent as ever, including a keyboard solo in the title track. There is also a section in “Through the Eyes of the King” where Jon uses a pipe organ; it came out of nowhere and knocked me on my back.
The lead guitar work is so much better than Tage Mahal as well; this isn’t random wanking, these solos, although plentiful, have a point and are far more interesting. The guitar tone is much more powerful this time around, as opposed to the piss-poor production on the previous album, and it allows the guitars to lay a solid foundation on which Oliva can construct his ideas.
The songs themselves don’t seem as rushed as before, and Jon fills all of the songs with his trademark melodies and hooks (any Savatage fan will know what I’m talking about). “The Answer” is the first Savatage ballad (and by “Savatage ballad,” I’m referring to those ballads that all had similar song structures to “Believe”) that isn’t incredibly cheesy and over-the-top. On the contrary, this song is more down-to-earth and melancholy; the chorus is so emotional, that lead guitar that comes in near the end is so moving, and the piano outro stays in the listener’s mind and haunts it. “Timeless Flight” is another better than average ballad; that is, until there is a false ending and the heavy guitar riffs kick in. Overtop of those riffs are nice dual guitar leads while Jon screams “Take me to the promised land” over and over. A rather odd song, but it is just so high-quality it’s impossible not to like. For the first several listens, I was rather unimpressed with “Holes,” that is, until it snuck up on me and blew me away. The main riff mixed with Jon’s voice just fits together so well, and there is an awesome shredding section at the end. There is also a nice shredding section in the middle of the title track as well (amidst the aforementioned keyboard solo and a classical-sounding section that sounds like something Criss wrote).
Unfortunately, this album has a big flaw: there are only enough riffs to fill up about 50% of the album. The rest of the time there is usually a generic chug-chug riff with maybe an occasional pinch harmonic thrown in (“Time to Die”). The rest of the title track (apart from the sped up solo section and the beautiful classical piano part) suffers from this problem as well, not to mention that the male choir chorus makes me wince. Also, the rest of the band pretty much just does their job and nothing more, making this seem more like a Jon Oliva solo project (which it kind of is, but they market themselves as an actual band) with a better than average lead guitarist.
Still, this album surprised me in that the lyrics were a strongpoint of the album. It’s kind of hard to forgive Jon for singing about rainbows on Tage Mahal, but this album has a central theme: Jon is weary of life and is reaching out for help. There are some deep religious themes, which may turn off some metal heads, but it’s hard to fault Jon, because they are so personal and honest, as opposed to 95% of lyricists out there, who write either about politics that they have no grasp of, or typical metal fare that has been done to death and was never that great to begin with. “Through the Eyes of the King” and “The Answer” are probably the most blatant, but “The Answer” has probably the best lyrics I have seen from Oliva since “St. Patrick’s.”
So anyone who was disappointed in Tage Mahal is still encouraged to check this out, because perhaps that album was just a fluke. Even so, this album isn’t perfect, better riffs are needed and the rest of the band has to actually contribute. Although it isn’t perfect, “Maniacal Renderings” is still a worthy successor to Savatage, even if it does not fully measure up to said bands pervious output.
Jon Oliva is one of the most recognizable figures in the progressive metal scene. Jon's singing career runs through the life span of Savatage and the Christmas influenced Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After the demise of Savatage, Jon Oliva formed a new project, titled Jon Oliva's Pain, which followed the similar progressive path of Savatage. The band released "Tage Mahal" in 2004 and received positive feedback from fans of Savatage and the progressive community. With that being said, fans of Savatage and progressive metal can relax and witness the second album of Jon Oliva's new project, "Maniacal Renderings."
"Maniacal Renderings" remains strong in the sense of being heavy, yet is still unwaveringly progressive. The riffing is surprisingly heavy when considering the amount of progressive influences and musical formations. Some tracks, like "Through The Eyes Of The King," have smooth mid-paced thrash riffs that sound accompany Jon's vocals perfectly. Expect some really fancy guitar work on this album. Every song has anywhere between one to three solos with the occasional duel lead. The ballads are the only thing that drag this album down. I personally don't have a problem with ballads, but the softer tracks here are really boring and don't fit the mood of the album. Once again, the only negative section of this album is the softer songs. Keyboard laden songs like "Playing God" and the title track give the record a strong progressive feel. The keyboards usually radiate symphonic effects, but the piano is common on the title track and most of the softer songs.
Jon Oliva has become a progressive metal legend because of his great voice, and he doesn't let down any of his fans here. Jon's exercises his awesome ability of vocal tone by compressing a voice that ranges from normal singing to high notes. He also does a great job of holding his notes and sounding passionate in his music. To sum it up, this is Jon fucking Oliva the way we all know him.
"Maniacal Rendering" is a great album to own if you enjoy progressive metal. Being a huge progressive metal fan myself, I can safely say I enjoy listening to this record. This a good album and is essential for anyone who enjoys Savatage or Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
This review was written for: http://www.Thrashpit.com
A new album from Jon Oliva is always nice news for all the metal fans, especially those who like heavy, power and progressive metal. After a decent and nice album “Tage Mahal”, here it comes the second work from this band. Jon he is great songwriter endued with a melodic and thundering voice. The album here is very much like its predecessor but there are some differences which i’ll analyze them.Some of the music for this album was written and recorded before years in some old cassettes by Jon and his brother Criss Oliva, may that’s why this album is so good and it has some points that make you to remember the old Savatage.
The album starts with a “Through The Eyes Of The King”, which reminds of course “Hall Of The Mountain King”, it’s a great song with amazing guitar solos here, there is a haunting atmosphere throughout the song with the fine keyboard playing and the tremendous vocals from Jon, maybe this is the best in the album with some others, if it’s not, i am sure that’s one of these classic epic songs that Jon Oliva knows how to make. The album continues with “Maniacal Renderings” which starts with a steady nice guitar riff, this is more heavy metal but the choirs still remain, the chorus is catchy enough, the title is fitted perfectly with the music with the rhythm changes and the spooky choir solo which Jon sings it full of passion. The three elements are here darkness, heaviness and melody.
The third song is “The Evil Beside You”, really atmospheric and full of feeling, it’s one of these old school Savatage songs, the deep piano tunes accompany it and some of the classic killer riffs here of course. The fourth song “Time To Die” starts without introductions and things like that, it’s one classic heavy song that is stamped in your face.
The fifth song is called “The Answer”, it starts softly and it seems a ballad, i think that Jon unfolds his pain in this song more than the others of this album, the chorus is catchy and great too. “Push It To The Limit” is more fast and rapid, it’s only 2:30, it’s a nice song but nothing special here to add, maybe it’s a break from all these atmospheric tunes that I listened before.
“Playing God” is progressive enough and not so power metal, this track is more rock with some keyboards, a nice effort and a good song. The eighth song is “Timeless Flight”, this one is a classic ballad with a good solo in it’s end and some nice points, the song gets better in the end when Jon starts to sing faster and there’s more energy there. But the falling of quality is inevitable, the songs are good but they could be only seven and having higher quality.
“Holes “ the ninth song is much like “Time To Die” with a little changes or “Playing God”, it’s the same style with no differences. “End Times” struggle to fight the boredom but doesn’t do anything, this feeling that i listen the same things is still on and that’s bad. The album closes with a boring song “Pray For You Now”, a nice ballad for ending the song with much feeling in Jon’s voice.
After all of these i realized that the voice of Oliva can turn some songs from mediocre songs to very good, I think that this album and the first one from Jon Oliva’s Pain could have eighth songs, no eleven, there is no use from more songs with nothing new in them. The album is enjoyable and a must for all the Savatage fans and for them who like steady heavy metal music combined with atmosphere and good piano tunes.