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Alright, I'm a huge Savatage fan, particularly of the later stuff from Gutter Ballet to Wake of Magellan. Poets and Madmen is a bit different from the albums which proceeded, though it is similar at the same time.
The first thing to notice about this release is that for the first time since 1993's Edge of Thorns, Jon Oliva is back on lead vocals for the duration of the album. I personally have always preferred Zak Stevens to Jon, so this takes a few points off right from the start, especially because I feel the album loses a lot for his absence. If this album had been a true return to form of mid 80s Savatage, Jon would sound very at place on it, but the music leaves me really wanting to hear Zak's voice as it's more reminscent of the 90s stuff.
Another thing I feel this album loses points for is the Jekyl and Hyde quality of the writing. The songs can't decide on what mood they are. There's very many melodic interludes more reminiscent of Zak's Savatage... piano and softer more melodic vocals, but at the same time, they randomly burst into more agressive riffs and angrier rougher vocals. For some of the songs it increases the mood but for others it nearly ruins it.
All things aside, I do like several songs on this album quite a bit. I feel like The Morphine Child and Back to a Reason are two amazing tracks, and for the most part, most of the rest have very good parts to them. I just feel like this album was not really taken to it's fullest potential. As if the band were rushed when making it. I feel this is especially bothering when it comes to the story, which I think is weaker than all the rest of theirs. It has good parts, but really isn't the same caliber of Wake or DWD, let alone the godly Streets. The other thing that bothers me is that this album comes off has a half-assed return to form. I personally feel that the band didn't need a return to form to begin with, but it bugs me that this album couldn't go the full nine and just leaves me wanting the full blown rock opera that they're come to specialize in through time.
As I said, this is still worthy of picking up, especially for the die-hard Savatage fan. It's got a few gems on it, but if you're new to the band try any of the albums from Gutter Ballet to Wake of Magellan before this.