With the departure of Jon Oliva as lead vocalist (but not as keyboardist or writer) for Savatage, the band found a replacement in the former singer of Wicked Witch, Zachary Stevens. While Stevens did not have the emotional range that Oliva showed on Gutter Ballet and Streets, he had a less bombastic delivery that fit well with the new material that Paul O' Neill and the Oliva brothers and were writing. After moving towards progressive metal on the previous two albums, Edge of Thorns was a leaner, more understated guitar-driven record. The majority of the album consists of stripped-down metal anthems, recorded with less flashy guitar work and production than on previous records. The band continued to try out new sounds, however, using an electric sitar on "Degrees of Sanity" and recording their first acoustic ballad with "Sleep," which closes the album. Edge of Thorns also includes two short solo piano instrumentals adding a note of emotional depth most metal bands never explore. Among the highlights are the pounding "He Carves His Stone" and "Conversation Piece," with its lyrics about self-mutilation. The title track remains one of the band's finest moments, with a haunting piano phrase, a fierce guitar riff, and a strong lead vocal by Stevens. A true one-off in the Savatage canon, the tragic death of Criss Oliva following the release of Edge of Thorns ended up leading the band back to progressive metal.
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AllMusic Review by Geoff Orens