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Review: Jon Oliva's Pain - Festival
Jon Oliva's Pain

Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2010
Duration: 55:05
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: April 27, 2010
Reviewed by: Adam Kohrman
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Rated 3.93/5 (78.57%) (28 Votes)

Let's raise a toast to repeated listens, as after one listen to Jon Oliva's Pain's new album Festival, I declared it to be an abysmal, disjointed, and ultimately horrendous mess. After multiple spins, I realize how incorrect I was. That's not to say this is a great album, far from it in fact. While the record frequently becomes ponderous and misguided (even "unguided"), the legendary Savatage frontman is able to convey his traditional heavy metal style amongst a speckled array of reveling influences. These songs are multifaceted, only the traditional "Death Rides a Black Horse" and "Living on the Edge" escape his motley smorgasboard of influence found on this album.

These songs are all unto their own: independent pieces, carefully concocted to create one larger work. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's frustrating how often Oliva goes into uninteresting territory, and stays there for a very long time. This is usually when he's using his voice. It's sad to see, but one of metal's most iconic voices has nothing left. His range is gone, and his voice has become a one-dimensional raspy croak, upstaged by his backup singers. On the other hand, the instrumentals on this album are very well orchestrated, bouncing from scale to scale and key to key, creating a richly mastered, lush guitar-oriented forefront for Festival. Throughout listening to the album, I couldn't help but think how much it would benefit from a virtuosic session vocalist. I'm sure Mr. Oliva has the pull to acquire one; he just has to relinquish the vocal reins. I'm just not sure he's willing to do this.

There are countless influences present here. From classic metal, to traditional rock, even to soft rock, Jon Oliva seems intent on packing as much into Festival as he can. While I admire his experimentation and willingness to break musical paradigms, it often becomes too much. Festival's myriad of styles give it an occasional quirky and unique tone, like on the excellent "Afterglow." Most of the time, however, it results in a scattered and disorganized atmosphere.

When Oliva's voice isn't the focus, this album shines in glory, but it falters when Jon tries to recapture the glory days of Hall of the Mountain King and Power of the Night through his deteriorated voice. Keep it simple, Jon. You've bitten off more than you can chew, and find someone to sing for you.

More about Jon Oliva's Pain...
Review: 'Tage Mahal (reviewed by 4th Horseman)
Review: 'Tage Mahal (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Festival (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Global Warning (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)
Interview with Jon Oliva on May 22, 2010 (Interviewed by Adam Kohrman)
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