"Edge Of Thorns" is the 7th full-length studio album by by US, Florida based heavy/power metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in April 1993. A major lineup change has taken place since the release of "Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)" as lead vocalist, composer, and founding member Jon Oliva left Savatage after the tour supporting "Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)". His substance abuse and the strain of touring had taken it´s toll on him, and he decided it would be best for him to quit the band and try and solve his personal issues. Oliva is replaced here by Zachary Stevens. He stayed on as composer though, and like the case have been on the last couple of albums, all songwriting is credited to Jon Oliva, Criss Oliva, and producer Paul O´Neill. The remaining part of the lineup are Criss Oliva (guitars, backing vocals), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass, backing vocals), and Steve Wacholz (drums, percussion).
"Edge Of Thorns" succeeds what is often considered the band´s peak period (1987-1991), and adding to that the change on the lead vocalist spot, the album wasn´t exactly created under the easiest conditions. While Zachary Stevens can´t fully live up to the incredible vocal qualities of Jon Oliva, he is still a greatly skilled singer in his own right, and a suitable replacement with a strong voice and commanding delivery, who most fans of the band quickly accepted.
Stylistically the music on the 13 track, 53:57 minutes long album is unmistakably the sound of Savatage. Hard rocking heavy riffs, blistering solos and lead themes, a pounding organic rhythm section (there are actually electric drums on this one, which take away a bit of the usually more organic sounding tone), and raw yet melodic vocals in front. Piano and keyboards are also part of the sound, but they are not as dominant as they were on the predecessor. In that respect "Edge Of Thorns" is a more guitar driven and immediate album than "Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)", which required more spins to sink in and which had more sophisticated song arrangements. There are still quite a few sophisticated tracks featured on this album too though, so it´s not a through and through raw and unpolished heavy/power metal album like some of the band´s early releases. But why would it be this long into the band´s career? Taking into consideration their development of sound over the years, it´s only natural that the raw power is a bit more restrained and that the overall sound is relatively polished.
Savatage vary their sound from epic mid-paced tracks, to heavy US power metal, to hard rocking energetic rockers, and a couple of more quit/mellow tracks. Highlights include "He Carves His Stone" (which is among the band´s most hard edged tracks), the title track, "Follow Me", "Damien", and the two energetic rockers "Lights Out" and "Miles Away". The latter reminds me a bit of a hard edged Van Halen track. The material is generally well written and catchy though. The whole thing is packed in a professional, clear, and powerful sounding production, which helps bring out the details in the music. Upon conclusion "Edge Of Thorns" is another fairly strong Savatage release, but compared to the preceding three studio albums, it can´t quite live up to the extremely high quality of those. Still a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is well deserved.