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Well...This Isn't Very Good - 37%

DawnoftheShred, May 20th, 2009

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.