A few weeks ago I had the chance to listen to the new Jon Oliva's Pain album Maniacal Renderings once at the pre-listening party, now I could listen more closely. But you can read about the song background in the special about the pre-listening party.
The first track is the thrashy Through The Eyes Of The King. A heavy one with a modern touch, but when Jon's vocals join in it takes off a bit of the edge. It reminds me of Doctor Butcher, but the guitars miss the aggressiveness. Also at Doctor Butcher they don't use strings - even if they are mainly in the background - and not the organ... In a way this song is building a bridge between Doctor Butcher and Savatage's Gutter Ballet or Hall Of The Mountain King. The title track Maniacal Renderings is a heavy groover with a big background choir. In the middle part they slow down a bit and the keyboard is typical Jon Oliva / Savatage. Jon Oliva was - with his brother Criss - the founder of Savatage and so it's no surprise that there are reminiscences. The title track is quite long with almost 8 minutes and so there are long instrumental parts. Personally I think they should have cut that down a bit... The tracks The Evil Beside You and Time To Die are probably known as they been released as a single a little ago. With The Answer they slow down, get balladesque - in the beginning. A heavy tune which shows parallels in the arranging to Savatage's Gutter Ballet. But then it's time to accelerate and to Push It To The Limit. Perhaps the fastest song Jon did in his career... Guitar-driven and based on some riffing. The song leads into Who's Playing God which could have been taken off Hall Of The Mountain King or Gutter Ballet, but is a bit more progressive. Twin guitar leads and riffs add some heaviness, while the keyboard give it some epic, bombastic character. The track Holes is very dark and has a different atmosphere, it needs time to get into it. Here only Jon's voice is showing similarities to Savatage, but he has a very unique voice, so that's no surprise. The last track on the regular album is Still I Pray For You Now which is an acoustic ballad where Jon is dealing with his brothers death. Very emotional and touching.
The limited edition has Reality's Fool as bonus. The track is special, coz at this song Jon's nephew Christopher Jon stepping into the light first and adds a guitar solo here.
Jon Oliva's Pain debut Tage Mahal had its moments,. but this album is a huge step forward and probably what Savatage fans are longing for. It kinda covers all shades of Savatage's sound, probably coz several songs are based on ideas of Criss Oliva... Check out: The Evil Beside You, End Times, The Answer and Push It To The Limit.
Savatage fans are waiting for a new album of Savatage and this one is closer to it then the debut. What the new Circle II Circle album will bring, time will tell, just wait a few weeks. But I can recommend this one to all Savatage fans and epic power metal fans. But it has to stand the fest of time, perhaps one day it'll be a classic like Hall Of The Mountain King or Gutter Ballet...