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2.50 | 4 ratings | 2 reviews
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Single · 2001


1. Commissar (5:35)
2. Drive (3:18)
3. Voyage (2:26)

Total Time: 11:20


- Jon Oliva / vocals and keyboards
- Chris Caffery / guitars
- Johnny Lee Middleton / bass
- Jeff Plate / drums

Guest musicians:
- Al Pitrelli / additional guitars and vocals
- Bob Kinkel / additional keyboards and vocals

About this release

Release date: February 5, 2001
Label: Nuclear Blast

Thanks to progshine, adg211288 for the updates


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Savatage are an iconic band that have attracted praise both from metal and progressive rock press and fans. Some of their records rightly belong in the metal music annals. Alas, Poets and Madmen, their last album to date, isn't one of them. It's a deflated, uninspired record that, while touching all the right notes that are typical of Savatage's music, comes across as a faded version of the band that once was, leaving me deeply dissatisfied.

Released in February 2001, Commissioner is the single that preceded the full-length album Poets and Madmen. It is comprised of three songs. Two are taken from the forthcoming LP ("Commissar" and "Drive"), while the third ("Voyage") is a short original instrumental. Of the two album tracks, "Commissar" is the best. It contains all the elements that characterize Savatage's music: driving guitar riffs, check. Sophisticated piano and keyboard arrangements, check. Vocals that range from hard and gritty to velvety and sweet, check. Choral arrangements to give the music an extra dramatic flavor, check. Blistering guitar solos, check. However, although the band use all the right ingredients, the final product is a little insipid. The melodies are not that transcendental and everything feels like a half-hearted attempt to follow the classic Savatage formula (including a little déjà-vu moment on the fast vocal section of the song that reminds me of a similar passage from The Wake of Magellan). The meandering and shifting song structure does not help either. "Drive" is a shorter, more compact piece that pushes harder on the accelerator with a heavier sound and faster tempo. Again, it ticks all the right boxes but fails to leave a lasting impression. Meanwhile, "Voyage" is a 2 minutes and a half long instrumental acoustic piece by Al Pitrelli: nice but nothing to write home about.

The two album songs are exactly the same versions that you can find on the full-length and the only new track is really not much more than a small acoustic postlude, so given the choice I do not see why you should get this instead of the LP. A little more extra material, or at least alternate versions of some album tracks, could have made this a semi-interesting release. But the lack of extra non-album material combined with my general coldness towards the material from Poets and Madmen, makes me rate this release as really only for completionists who want to have all Savatage's releases. Everyone else should just get the full-length album.
‘Commissar’ is a single by metal band Savatage, released in 2001 to promote their ‘Poets and Madmen’ album, it features three tracks that total at just over eleven minutes in duration.

‘Poets and Madmen’ is an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, and easily one of the bands best releases, so no doubt it’d be tricky to choose which songs to use as promotional singles. However, ‘Commissar’, with its bombastic intro, its intense guitar playing and Jon Oliva’s rapid-fire vocals, is a fine choice, and easily stands out as one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

Second track, ‘Drive’, is mostly a straight-up metal song, but highlights the bands ferocity. With lightning fast riffs and wailing vocals, this is also a noteworthy track that makes ‘Poets and Madmen’ an essential purchase, and gives guitarist Chris Caffery a chance to truly shine. And finally, there’s ‘Voyage’, a short, two-minute acoustic guitar track. It’s a nice little instrumental that fills out the disc well, but isn’t overly essential.

Overall, ‘Commissar’ is an all-round decent enough CD single for Savatage fans.

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