Savatage are an American Progressive Metal band and 1989’s Gutter Ballet was their fifth full-length studio album. Following up the classic Hall Of The Mountain King album, Gutter Ballet continues the band’s musical evolution from straightforward Power/Heavy Metal into a more theatrical, classical music-inspired Progressive Metal style.
The core sound of the album is still based around soaring vocals, hard drums, big riffs and blazing lead guitar but equally now there is a prevalence of pianos, slower moments and a generally more symphonic approach in places. The album, on tracks like ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and ‘Of Rage And War’ is also in-part surprisingly rhythmic and ahead of its time. It’s a great example of that classic Eighties Metal sound and it also demonstrates the beginnings of the Progressive Metal style, although their later albums would go much further down that direction.
Standout tracks include the dynamic and varied ‘Hounds’ as well as the superb Title Track, the beautiful Zeppelin-esque acoustic number ‘Silk And Steel’ and the huge ballad ‘When The Crowds Are Gone.’
The standard of production and musicianship is very high on this album, and the songs are all both catchy and interesting. They’re either grand and musical, satisfyingly heavy or both. Singer Jon Olivia has a great range and eccentric vocal personality that can vary from raspy snarls and low shouts to Halford-style shrieks, as well as of course, some great melodic clean singing for the softer piano-lead parts.
It is interesting that the album’s title, Gutter Ballet, was actually taken from the title for a play by the album’s producer Paul O’Neill that would later be adapted to form the band’s next album, 1991’s Streets: A Rock Opera, causing that album to need a title of its own since ‘Gutter Ballet’ had already been used.
Overall; if you want a well produced 1980s Metal album that touches on that sweet spot between Classic Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Power Metal and Prog Metal, with bundles of variety and personality, copious amounts of lead guitar and an amazing singer, then this is an album you should definitely consider checking out. If you like Savatage already but haven’t checked it out yet, you should probably give it a listen and find out what you’re missing.