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After 1983's incredible debut "Sirens", amazing things and a brilliant future seemed imminent for Savatage. "Power of the Night", their 1985 effort and first major release on Atlantic, seemed to solidify that - given their excellent songwriting skill, good songs, amazing live performances and the sheer genius of Criss Oliva, it seemed only a matter of time until they were on top of the industry and commanding audiences akin to the sorts that Anthrax, Megadeth and Overkill were.
It's easy to see that "Fight for the Rock" really threw them off of this game plan. Does it sound like Savatage up to that point? Not even a little, and there's a very good reason for that - much of the material contained here began its genesis as material Jon Oliva wrote for other musicians, so coming off of the previous releases of "Sirens", "The Dungeons Are Calling" and "Power of the Night", this album is a complete step left about 50 degrees.
Keyboard heavy and overly sappy in lyrics, "Fight for the Rock" as an album sounds as if it were recorded in a cave, through a telephone with a pillow over the receiver. The production team hired by Atlantic obviously had no idea what they were doing or how to bring out the best in Savatage's strengths. Savatage itself completely distanced itself from this release in the years to come, and it's absolutely the nadir of their studio output. Had this ended up in the hands of Trixter, Winger, Firehouse or other "hard rock lite" bands it may have actually been ok for that style of music, but it's certainly not a good representation of Savatage.
That said, it isn't entirely without a few takeaways as at least listenable. "The Edge of Midnight" is a fair song, and could have been a winner had it been worked slightly differently or maybe recorded differently, and "Hyde" showed at least a little potential. The cover of "Wishing Well" is at least competent - "Red Light Paradise", by contrast, is a fantastic song and a DEFINITE winner. These tracks save it from being a complete toss in the landfill.
Ultimately, "Fight for the Rock" is NOT for the Savatage initiate and it's not even a good album for strictly casual fans. There are at least a few things to like about it, but you really do have to dig for them.
Perhaps the greatest crime committed by the third Savatage full-length is that it stacks up so poorly against all its immediate neighbors, or the band's entire body of work in the 80s. But it's quite a lengthy rap sheet. On the surface, Fight of the Rock continues to take the Olivas and company further into the direction of mainstream accessibility, and this results in both a more harmonic, sterile and 'safe' sound that renders much of its content forgettable. As an EP with 3-4 of its better songs, this is a functional hybrid of heavy metal and hard rock, but there are periods through the track list where there is simply too much inactivity. The banal 'flow' of the record does it no service, and at least 50% of this music is complete scrap.
I'm primarily talking about how they launch us off with the decent title track, loaded with appreciable licks that once again place Criss Oliva's performance front and center. The verse riffs are just as catchy as "Power of the Night", the lead is decent and Jon gets off a few shrill screams in there, plus as cheesy as the chorus might seem, it works. But then, for whatever reason they change up the pacing and seem to become the Beatles ("Out on the Streets") gone horny for 80s power ballads ("Crying for Love", "Day After Day"). Savatage were not particularly awful at this sort of mainstream radio crap, no more so than most of the acts that were making a fortune on the airwaves (fuck off nowadays Bryan Adams!), but let's face it: this was not their calling, even if tracks like "Lady in Disguise" showed a fraction of ambition with their added horns and other instrumentation. Apart from "The Edge of Midnight" with its campy, haunted house intro, or the semi catchy "She's Only Rock'Roll", or "Hyde", which seemed like it would have been a better B-side for Hall of thee Mountain King, there's pitifully little of interest here.
Even the production seems throwaway, a bit murkier and less crisp than on the debut. There's a good deal of atmosphere created through Jon's more cutting vocals, which have plenty of reverb on them to slice straight into the night, but the overall vibe of the album is rarely one of the dark, sweaty streets on the prior album. As for Criss, I'd have to say he has a lower ratio of quality riffs here than any other album (including Streets and Edge of Thorns, two others I'm not fond of). The leads rarely matter outside of the better songs (which I've already named), and even in something like "Hyde" the patterns are a bit lackluster. The lyrics are even more effete than the album before it. 'Get rock dedication?' 'You know you better fight for the rock!' Gah, NO, Savatage. I will not! In fact, this whole album seems like it was compromised of cutting room floor clips that just weren't good enough to include with Power of the Night, especially the wimpier numbers that must have been omitted for feeling 'too different, too soon' from Sirens and The Dungeons are Calling. As if the band and Atlantic wanted to 'ease us' into this family friendly Savatage we could take on a picnic. I'd rather just leave it for the ants to carry off.
Thankfully, whatever fluke juice went into this creation ran dry in the band's veins for their ensuing magnum opus, but I'll be honest with you: I have a hard time even remembering this exists on most days. I can remember a friend and I doing our normal weekend stroll to Strawberry's Records & Tapes, seeing this on the shelf and being surprised it even existed, because no one actually gave a shit. It's almost supernatural in its mediocrity, the most average record ever made, and was a sharp letdown even after Power of the Night, an album that itself had a divisive reaction. I wouldn't dub it 'terrible', per se, because Savatage was just the sort of group which was competent enough to try anything, but it doesn't deserve to bear the same logo on it as Hall of the Mountain King or Gutter Ballet. Not recommended to those newly exploring the band, and if you're really all that curious, just YouTube the title track, maybe "The Edge of Midnight" and call it a day.
Hmm...it's really hard for me to say that this album sucks. But when my finger keeps jumping for the "advance track" button, I find it hard to justify buying it. Or even giving it a score of 50. But the fact is, there are some really, really good moments here.
So, apparently some parts of this were supposed to be a Jon Oliva solo album, and other parts (those rotten cover songs!) were pure label suggestion. That would explain the nearly half and half split of awesome songs to fecal matter.
So, the two cover songs are terrible. I don't care for either, and they don't fit Savatage at all. Especially "Day After Day," which is downright embarassing! "Lady In Disguise," "She's Only Rock and Roll," and "Out in the Streets" don't really do it. They're just rather weak, even if some of their elements come from early Savatage songs. And in a way, they are a harbinger of the stuff that Savatage would begin propagating with Streets; melodramatic, quasi-grandiose and a bit pretentious.
The title track kicks things off right. This sounds like Savatage, but more glam metal with those absolutely ridiculous bass drums. You can almost imagine the band playing in s strip club! Especially with those jerky riffs that Criss often throws out. But I digress. The title track is killer, albeit not as driving as "Power of the Night," for example. It is epic and mighty. Criss' guitars always sound like an orchestra of guitars; absolutely massive and ominous. Whereas Power of the Night was a more speedy album, this one is heavy and obstinate, with a slower pace.
"Crying for Love" is a damn good power ballad. This is the darkness that Savatage is so good at! Hell yeah! "Hyde" and "Edge of Midnight" are both equally as dark. Heavy, ominous riffing, and a murky production really make them sound gritty. Add Jon's characteristic maniacal vocal deliver and you've got winning material. "Red Light Paradise" is an awesome way to close the album out, once again bringing us back to the strip club with appropriate lyrics. That opening riff is just wicked! Ace material, for sure.
Sadly, this does have quite a few of the elements of glam, namely those loud bass drums, but it's done in a characteristically Savatage way. And on the songs that are good, they make Motley Crue sound like Justin Bieber. Let's not forget those awful covers and the really lackluster songs. My verdict is that this should be purchased only used, or at 50% of its market value, because the good songs are totally essential.
Having been introduced to the Streets album early in my relationship with Savatage, I was well aware that they were capable of disappointing me. But I wasn’t completely prepared for them to do it during their early albums. Following immediately on the heels of the solid Power of the Night, Fight for the Rock is a whiffle-ball record: full of watered down glam metal and very little of the nuances that make Savatage a potent heavy metal band.
Things kick off misleadingly well with the title track, a reasonably well-performed Savatage track. The main riffs have bite to them, Jon Oliva’s vocal line is catchy (though the lyrics are terribly underthought), there’s a neat little synth thing in the bridge, and Criss’ solo is consistent to what he’s known to do. It doesn’t raise the bar, but it’s a good song. This is usually where Savatage thrives, but things start going downhill almost immediately. The next song is “Out on the Streets” and….wait, haven’t I heard this before? Why, this track was on their first album. Apparently the Atlantic reps felt this song had hit potential so they asked the band to re-record it for Fight for the Rock. The result: the touching sleeper hit from Sirens becomes an overproduced, passionless hair ballad. ‘Tis a shame…and one of many places where the production team fucked Savatage over in their quest to make a commercial rock band out of them.
The biggest mistake from this commercial focus is the decision to include cover songs on the album. “Day After Day” is basically rock bottom. Not because it crappily reproduced, but because the original is so vapid that Savatage’s rendition faithfully sucks. “Wishing Well” is the other one and no, it’s not the Sabbath tune. It’s not particularly bad, but when rounded up with the rest of this album’s underachieving tracklist, it’s just another harmless rocker.
The remainder of the album represents some of the most mediocre material in Savatage’s entire career. Predictable, second-grade 80’s metal songs that make Queensryche look like Watchtower: these are the norm, with the vocals and keyboards fighting for the listener’s attention (see “Lady in Disguise,” is this a lost Foreigner track?). Hey Oliva brothers, why don’t you let Steve Wacholz and Johnny Lee Middleton write something for a change? They couldn’t have written anything plainer than “Crying for Love,” could they? Really it’s almost pure rubbish, with only “The Edge of Midnight” daring to imitate the sinister atmosphere that’s far less rare on their other early releases (is this a lost Dio track?).
Other complaints include the sheer overabundance of gimmicky synthesizer hooks (“Crying for Love”) and a lack of definition in any of the guitars. Likely another result of label pressure, Savatage opt for a slick, non-intrusive production. Their earlier albums were raw and menacing: the sound on Fight for the Rock is more like something Dokken or Winger would be right at home with.
The only silver lining to this album is that the band’s reputation was so badly wounded that they chose to abandon all purely commercial leanings and return to the rawer heavy metal sound they were founded upon. The result? Hall of the Mountain King, one of their best albums. As for this heap, it’s a shining example of why producers should stay the hell out of a metal band’s way, or at least accommodate their sound rather than trying to mold them into something they simply can never be.
Back in the glory days of the 80’s, when Heavy Metal was the hottest thing around, Savatage was one of many American based Heavy Metal bands that produced highly acquainted albums like: Sirens, Power Of The Night and Hall Of The Mountain King. In 1986 the Tampa group released one of their most peculiar releases, yet a classic release, Fight For The Rock.
The reason this release is obscure is because since the band went under the name Savatage in 1983 till the release of Fight For The Rock the band produced two Heavy Metal studio albums that gave them the status of a Heavy act. Fight For The Rock brought some change in their music by infusing more Hard Rock and early Glamish influences, lyrics included. Many true fans of the band didn’t like this release because it’s some sort of a “slipping off the path”. Maybe because of the negative criticism the band releases, a year later, one of its heaviest releases, Hall Of The Mountain King. Yet, when thinking about it, this temporal change that surrounded the album can also be considered as a positive thing for other fans who do like Hard Rock or even Heavy Metal and of course new founders of the genre back in the day.
The one thing the true fans are right about is the production in this release. The first two albums and the EP, The Dungeons Are Calling, were produced with much higher quality than this one, but still the production here is not bad at all, it’s even quite good. There is a small issue of the mastering; Criss’s guitar has a low volume but still, almost like all of Savatage’s albums in the 80’s, he has his signature sound of a gloomy and dark guitar sound. In addition there are the drums that sound a bit mechanic in some songs, even for the 80’s.
The material in this album is presented as eight originals, two covers and one reissued song. The originals are largely pretty good with themes that are most recognized in Hard Rock and Glam Metal like love and relationships. But there are a couple of songs that convey the power of Rock N’ Roll like the self titled, “Fight For The Rock” and “She Is Only Rock N’ Roll” and there the songs concerning horror like “Edge Of Midnight” and “Hyde”. The two covers presented are originally from the bands Badfinger (“Day After Day”), an American classic Rock act from the 70’s and from the Hard Rock / Rock act Free (Wishing Well). The reissue is the song “Out In The Street” which was first introduced back in 1983 among the track list of the band’s debut, Sirens. The song’s old version is much longer and for Fight For The Rock it was recorded a bit differently.
The main stars on this album and probably in the band in Savatage’s greatest era were the two brothers, Criss and Jon Oliva. Jon, the vocalist and keyboards, is one of the greatest singers in Heavy Metal and one of the evil sounding ones. He can rise to high notes and use his morbid demonic voice. On this album he is a bit calm, in most songs, for some reason but he still delivers. As in charge of the keys he practices with high skill, producing a good couple of tunes with a pipe organ effect, to make the songs more mysterious and scary. Criss, the late guitarist (R.I.P, killed in 1993 in a car accident) , was one of the greatest guitarists in the 80’s in Metal and Hard Rock. His versatile and high ability contributed to the creation of magnificent albums. Fight For The Rock is another step in his wonderful career that was unfortunately cut short.
Fight For The Rock contains some great songs such that choosing the best of them is truly a hard task. Some focus needs to be given to some of them to summarize the effort. The opener, “Fight For The Rock”, is another true anthem of Rock and Metal – “…you’d better, fight for the rock n’ roll”. This track holds amazing riffs and solos and a mega chorus. “Cry For Your Love” is a Glam / Hard Rocker suitable for the era. “The Edge Of Midnight” and “Hyde” as the horror thrillers are very dark and good songs with organ pipe keys and heavy riffs. “Hyde” is about the 19th century monstrous fiend scientist. “She Is Only Rock N’ Roll” is another Rock and Glam anthem that joins the sexiness of “Red Light In Paradise”.
This Savatage effort should have been more credited. The band after all was still Heavy Metal and they have their latest releases to prove that. Fight For The Rock was and always will be a Metal anthem so “stand up, raise your fist cause you believe, we will never fade away, Rock is here to stay, let your torches light the sky!!”
Fight for the Rock (1986) is the album after the "Power of the Night" album which had amazing production for it time due to Max Norman. This is quite a step down in production as the snare sounds very tinny, although its not high enough in the mix to be anoying. Alright now production aside, this album is very tasty musically and should not let down any Sava fanatic such as myself.
As previously mentioned there are quite a few ballads on here, and thats not to say that is a bad thing in the least bit. Yes people do point out that this is a more commercial album for them...but it doesn't sound commercial and didn't sell nearly as many albums as their new stuff does. I prefer their newer works more but thats not to say this isn't good...on that contrary. As most of you know Criss Oliva is a fucking guitar god and he always shines with his creative riffs and solos. I must say that this is definatly a different step from Savatage with Fight for the Rock although it's not a bad one either. Theres alot of synths that actually add alot to the overall backdrop of the album. Apparently this album was a rushed job although it turned out great.
Fight For the Rock has a very nice opening riff and its a heavy mammoth that will leave you begging for more. Out on the Steets is a remake from their first album "Sirens" and they do a very good job on it. Very nice mellow track indeed. Crying for your love starts out with a synth and a guitar then gets a slow doomy pace with some cool vocals. I get the chorus stuck in my head for a very long time after hearing this one. Very Catchy! Criss Olivas guitar work on this song is fucking killer!. Next up is Day after Day (a nice slow ballad) with great vocal melodies courtesy of Jon Oliva. Another ear grabber, although quite cheesy (who said cheese isn't great?) i love this song. The Edge of Midnight (what a cool name) starts again with some eerie synths very mid-evalish WHICH FUCKING RULES! This is probably my fave on the album. There is alot of groove in this song that gets my foot tappin the floor constantly. Did i mention this is a highly underated album by the great Savatage? Well it is, no one knows about this. Next up is Hyde thats has some eerie twisted words said, overall this a scary fucking song. The lyrics portraying Jackel and Hyde's life, the songs music and vocals fit the story perfectally. Lady in Disguise is another excellent mid-paced song with a nice little chorus. This album is filled with synths but it actually makes Fight for the Rock more interesting because its something Savatage never did before. She's Only Rock is well.....the name points out exactally what this song is, rock n fuckin roll. Very good song that kind of reminds me of Dio. Wishing Well opens with a fucking cool riff, this is a good song although i wouldn't say its the best on the album. Fuck Criss came up with amazing riffs as Red Light Paradise closes the album we realize what a genious he really was. This is a suitable closer to a awesome album. Never a dull moment with Fight for the Rock and i suggest you buckle the fuck up because your in for a ride of your life. Get in the chair and be prepared to be shocked. I hope you all enjoy this album as much as I do. Stay Metal.
Best Tracks: Fight for the Rock, Out on the Streets, Crying for Love, The Edge of Midnight, Hyde, Lady in Disguise, She's Only Rock N' Roll