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It's weird how Savatage went from being one of the best second-tier bands around (other illustrious of this category being Trouble, Accept, Helloween, etc.) to being metal's answer to the Andrew Lloyd Webber catalog. For the last few albums, they've really pushed the "opera" in "rock opera", pulling back on the guitars a bit to add in more piano and classical-pops stuff, and so my interest waned. It had already waned pretty badly when Jon Oliva gave up to the vocal spot to the competent-but-unspectacular Zachary Stevens, so even though the critics rushed to fellate the new stuff, I rarely pulled anything after Mountain King out of the rack. Poets and Madmen features the full-fledged return of Jon Oliva to vocals (yay...for now), but continues the love affair with the poncey sound and is thus a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes the new Sav sound gels really well, as on the distinctly "Gutter Ballet"-ish "Morphine Child" and the driving "There in the Silence"...but sometimes it doesn't, as on "Commissar", which sounds like a bad Andy Kaufman routine, or the starry-eyed hippie-dip of "The Rumor (Jesus)", the title of which should answer your questions about whether or not this band has much of the ol' gothic doom left in them. The sound itself is fine, solidly crisp production with emphasis in all the right places, and the songwriting shimmers with professionalism, but I'm just not getting excited about this. It's probably a great buy for people who want to explore classical music, but can't handle Yngwie or Emperor. For folks like me, who would rather hear the noisiest Wagner opus than sit through fifteen hellish minutes of Cats, Poets and Madmen is just unnecessary and unnerving. Ironic, too, as my cat went fuckin' nuts whenever I played this and bolted out of the room. Maybe if the whole album thing doesn't work out, Savatage can get a gig with a carnival, making housepets sick or something...