SAVATAGE — Streets: A Rock Opera (review)

SAVATAGE — Streets: A Rock Opera album cover Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Kingcrimsonprog
Streets: A Rock Opera was the sixth full-length studio album by the American Progressive Metal band Savatage. As you can probably tell from its title, the album is a concept album that is tied together by a singular narrative in which each song tells a part of the same story.

The story in question is based on a play called ‘Gutter Ballet’ (which was also the title of the band’s previous studio album with which some material here overlaps) written by the album’s producer Paul O’Neil. It chronicles the life of a petty drug dealer who gains success as a rock star before loosing it all, trying to get it all back and who sees his friend murdered when his past comes back to haunt him.

Singer Jon Olivia masterfully expresses the emotions of the story’s central character (named DT – ‘Down Town’ or ‘Detox’ – Jesus, depending on the flawed memory of another character) and the musicians are excellent at conveying the mood of each track as determined by the story (for example ‘Sam And Tex’ is a faster, more anarchic track which reflects the fight which is occurring in the story).

Furthermore, Chris Oliva’s guitar solos are absolutely out of this world. There are some seriously creative, impressive and expressive solos on this record that really elevate it to a whole other level musically.

If you are generally into the excesses of Prog Metal or even modern Prog-like music, and love the theatrics of albums like Metropolis Pt. 2, Operation: Mindcrime or the whole Amory Wars series then this should almost certainly be of some interest for you. It flows very differently than a lot of other concept albums seem to however, and is already pretty interesting on that structural level alone.

To be fair, if you are only into very straight faced Metal and don’t care for the overuse of ballads, pianos, ‘cheesy’ moments or anything too theatrical then this is not a great album to start your Savatage journey with. The album got labeled as ‘Broadway Metal’ by some people at the time precisely because it shares an awful lot in common with musicals, so if that idea seems unappealing then maybe you should start off with something heavier and more direct like ‘Hall Of The Mountain King’ instead.

After releasing this album Jon Olivia would take a back seat within the band’s line-up away from the limelight for over a decade and a new era would begin. Just a few years later Chris Olivia would be dead. Historically, Streets is a very interesting final chapter of sorts and its easy to see both musically and historically why it is so dear to many fan’s hearts. If you are a fan of the band at all then you really ought to check it out.

Overall; It could be argued that the album is a little overlong, a bit cheesy and that there isn’t enough Metal sounding material on offer. When you are listening to album highlights like the amazing ‘Ghost In The Ruins’ or ‘Believe’ however, you probably won’t regret purchasing this record. It is definitely an interesting album and it grows a lot on repeat listens. I’d definitely recommend it as long as ballads and concept albums aren’t absolute anathema to you.
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