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3.83 | 46 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 1989

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Of Rage And War (4:46)
2. Gutter Ballet (6:20)
3. Temptation Revelation (2:56)
4. When The Crowds Are Gone (5:46)
5. Silk And Steel (2:58)
6. She's In Love (3:51)
7. Hounds (6:28)
8. The Unholy (4:37)
9. Mentally Yours (5:20)
10. Summer's Rain (4:33)

Total Time 47:27


- Jon Oliva / vocals, piano
- Criss Oliva / guitars, backing vocals
- Chris Caffery / guitars, keyboards
- Johnny Lee Middleton / bass, backing vocals
- Steve Wacholz / drums, percussion

About this release

Release date: December 1, 1989
Label: Atlantic Records

European Editon has the following bonus track:

11. Thorazine Shuffle (4:43)

Reissued in 1997 by Edel with the following bonus track:

12. All That I Bleed (piano version) (4:35)

Reissued in 2002 by SPV with the following bonus tracks:

12. Hounds (live at Hollywood Palace, 1990) (7:20)
13. When The Crowds Are Gone (live at Hollywood Palace, 1990) (7:08)

Reissued and remastered in 2011 by Ear Music with the following bonus tracks:

12. Alone You Breath (acoustic version) (4:38)
13. Handful Of Rain (acoustic version) (5:31)

Thanks to J-Man, progshine, Lynx33, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

While there’s always been subtle classical and theatrical elements to Savatage’s music, it wasn’t until 1989’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ that the band really started to take their sound in a more ambitious direction. Inspired by musicals such as ‘Phantom of the Opera’, there’s a much more grandiose feel to this album than anything they’d done before, and would only lead to the band transitioning from power metal to more progressive territory.

One notable change in the band’s sound is the more prominent use of pianos and keyboards. While there were always some keys lingering in the background, ‘Gutter Ballet’ sees them become a more integral part of the music. It works amazingly well, and really distinguishes Savatage’s unique identity.

Of course, the musicianship itself is fantastic. With each member, building upon the momentum they’d garnered with previous album, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’, being on top form. Jon Oliva’s vocals really suit the more theatrical approach well, and his guitarist brother Criss Oliva’s blistering guitars are as incredible as ever. Working with producer/songwriter Paul O’Neill, this was a time of growth for the band, and each member really plays their part to help the band mature.

With highlights that include ‘Gutter Ballet’, ‘When the Crowds Are Gone’, ‘Of Rage and War’, ‘She’s in Love’, ‘Hounds’, ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and ‘Mentally Yours’, there’s an abundance of killer material here that constantly shifts from heavy to melodic, but never lets up in quality.

1987’s ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ may have been the album where Savatage hit their stride and started a run of successful (critically, if not commercially) albums, but for me, ‘Gutter Ballet’ is where they truly defined their sound and began a creative run that would see them continually release albums of high standards.
Deploying some orchestral and keyboard hits to their grandiose style of US power metal might make you think that Savatage were running a risk of descending into flat-out pretentious pomposity, but on Gutter Ballet they walk the tightrope magnificently. Not quite going into prog metal territory but certainly letting off warning shots at its borders, not so much going full symphonic metal with the orchestral elements but instead using the strings to add a certain much to their more traditional power metal style, Savatage juggle numerous musical ingredients with skill and produce an album which is simultaneously punchy and nuanced, accessible and intricate.
"Gutter Ballet" is the 5th full-length studio album by US, Florida based heavy/power metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in December 1989. There´s been one lineup change since the release of "Hall Of The Mountain King (1987)" as Chris Caffery has been added as a second guitarist (he is also credited for performing keyboards), making Savatage a five-piece on this release (although in reality Caffery didn´t perform on the album). Caffery had previously toured with Savatage. "Gutter Ballet" spawned two promotional videos for the title track and "When The Crowds Are Gone". Both videos were given repeated plays on the then prolific MTV Headbangers Ball show, which helped promote the album and heighten Savatage profile even more.

Stylistically "Gutter Ballet" marks a change in musical direction for Savatage. Main composer Jon Oliva (producer Paul O'Neill and guitarist Criss Oliva are also credited as main composers) got inspired by musicals and grander song arrangements after watching a performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "The Phantom of the Opera", and although the core sound of the album is still heavy/power metal, some of the compositions featured on the album are quite ambitious in nature, as a result of the new influences. It´s not that Savatage hadn´t entered more sophisticated compositional territories before (their use of parts of pieces by the classical composers Edward Grieg and Gustav Holst on "Prelude To Madness" from "Hall Of The Mountain King (1987)" is an example of that), but now those elements are more fully incorporated in the band´s music. Occasionally even to a point where you could label the music progressive. However as on past releases the progressive metal elements are still only a secondary influence in the band´s music. This is still first and foremost heavy/power metal delivered with great energy and bite.

"Gutter Ballet" opens with the hard edged and heavy "Of Rage And War", which features the classic heavy/power metal Savatage sound, but we´re taken on quite a diverse journey during the next four tracks. The title track is a relatively progressive track featuring piano, orchestral arrangements, and a musical style build up. The arrangement is clever, sophisticated, and powerful. "Temptation Revelation" is an instrumental which is obviously written to showcase Criss Oliva´s considerable guitar skills (and succeeds in doing that while still being an interesting composition), before the power ballad type "When The Crowds Are Gone" kicks in. It´s yet another incredibly well composed track with a strong chorus hookline. The acoustic guitar instrumental "Silk And Steel" finishes the adventurous run of tracks, before the album settles in with more familiar sounding heavy/power metal tracks like "She's In Love", "Hounds", "The Unholy", and "Mentally Yours". The original vinyl version of "Gutter Ballet" closed with the power ballad "Summer's Rain", while the CD version featured the bonus track "Thorazine Shuffle" after "Summer's Rain". So looking at the tracklist it´s mostly during the first part of the album that you´ll find surprises in the musical direction, compared to the previous releases by the band.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. The rhythm section of drummer Steve Wacholz and bassist Johnny Lee Middleton are a tightly nit unit, delivering pounding organic beats, driving the music forward in a great energetic fashion. Lead vocalist Jon Oliva takes his performance up a notch here compared to his vocals on the previous releases by the band (and that says a lot since his performances on those past releases were very strong). His raw rusty voice is commanding and powerful, yet always melodic and sensitive. Criss Oliva delivers one jaw-dropping moment after another throughout the album. His riffs are delivered with a rare bite and conviction, and his solos and licks are not only incredibly well played, but there is something special about his tone too, that not many guitarists are able to rival nor duplicate. You get the feeling that he bleeds notes. That´s the kind of intimacy he sounds like he has with his guitar. It´s nothing less than a perfect symbiosis.

"Gutter Ballet" also features a very well sounding production. It´s heavy and powerful, yet detailed and clear. A perfect and tasteful sound for the material on the album. Upon conclusion "Gutter Ballet" is an album which shows Savatage developing their sound, but there is still a good balance between the epic and sophisticated moments and the hard edged rocking parts, and therefore the more adventurous elements never take away from the power of the music, which in some cases can be the downfall of similar releases. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.
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.

Members reviews

A long time before bands such as Therion or Apocalyptica made their groundbreaking symphonic or opera metal masterpieces, a long time before symphonic gothic metal bands such as Nightwish got into mainstream, a long time before bands such as Metallica would try to collaborate with big orchestras and a long time before epic metal all star bands such as Aina, Ayreon or Avantasia made their appearances, there was a young American band that decided to get away from their power and thrash metal roots and chose the hard path to follow instead of recreating an album in the key of their infamous "Hall Of The Mountain King" record that got amazing critics and is considered nowadays as a cult album. The mentioned bands are all something like the intellectual babies of Savatage in one way or the other. This young band decided to try the courageous attempt to fusion heavy metal music with symphonic approaches. They didn't take the radical step to create an entire symphonic metal album and also put a few more traditional American power metal tracks on the record, but the most important and longest tracks on the record went into a rather new direction. It's somewhat a transitional album as the band headed for more operatic sounds on the later records and later founded the infamous Trans-Siberian Orchestra to conquer the world with their new interpretation of classical music.

It all started here when Savatage released "Gutter Ballet" which is one of the band's strongest or even their best record but without a doubt their most important concerning their maturity and climax of creativity. The album starts with a very atmospheric and angry power metal song called "Of Rage And War" that leads us on a wrong path and let us expect another strong heavy power metal record. There are a few more songs of that kind on the record like the powerful "She's In Love" for example.

But the title track already leaves us stunning. A beautifully emotional and yet peaceful piano interlude let us guess and expect what might come after the first minute of the song. Finally, we realize in the most stunning way that piano melodies, decent violins, melodic guitars, powerful drums and pumping bass guitars got into a pumping fusion in this unique and experimental track. Over all those instruments thrones the powerful and perfectly imperfect voice of Jon Oliva. There is nothing kitsch or artificial about this track as there are no backing choirs, no female guest singers, no national state orchestra with one hundred musicians and more. This song is about true emotions and is overwhelming in emotions without being overwhelming in instruments. The ballad "When The Crowds Are Gone" goes even further and the sound is mostly reduced to a haunting piano melody and Oliva's unique voice before some melodic guitars finally get in and dominate the song. There is so much power and true emotion in this quiet track that it might honestly make cry any one that has a weakness for great rock ballads. "Summer's Rain" and the bonus track "Thorazine Shuffle" slightly go in the same direction and has very honest and interesting lyrics why the music is a little bit less memorable. The soft and touching instrumentals underline softly the symphonic direction of this album.

The band is already able to vary with its symphonic influences. "Hounds" and "The Unholy" sounds very dark and atmospheric and have something truly majestic in their sound. Another true highlight is the fairly underrated "Mentally Yours" that combines the anger and power of the band's older works with the intellectual majesty on the new horizon. The band only uses the instrumental efforts to underline the atmosphere of an epic story while the powerful vocals and sharp riffs don't lose any of their power.

This diversified and highly professional and intellectual album is more than an experiment; it's the birth of a new genre or at least a major milestone and influence for the future of metal music. With their first try, Savatage are already able to create ten or eleven mesmerizing and unforgettable anthems. There's not a single weak song on this record, not a single filler and even though every song sounds different and concentrates on a different feeling, story or musical expression, there is a clear guiding line on this epic record and the high quality of every song makes this album sound very coherent instead of just being a collection of great tracks. Back then, this record was easily the record of the year and while other metal bands disappointed towards the end of the last millennium, Savatage emerged and showed how one could be able to change and prosper without getting unfaithful towards its own past. It's a pity that this band has never truly gained further attention as this album might easily please to rock music maniacs and fans of classical music. This record is a great milestone in the still young history of metal music and it happens quite often that I listen intensively to this inspiring record from time to time that has not lost anything of its initial magic.

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