Poets & Madmen, Savatage's 12th studio album and fourth concept album, finds the band continuing to write grand metal pieces with changing time signatures and effective transitions between quiet and loud sections. However, with the return of Jon Oliva as vocalist and the departure of guitarist Al Pitrelli, the band's sound continues to evolve and change. While the years have seen Oliva's vocal range decrease, his snarling style of talk-singing is thankfully still present and is reminiscent of his work with Doctor Butcher. With Chris Caffery, the sole guitarist in the band, the group sounds leaner and yet ironically heavier than on their previous records. Oliva's limited vocal range also has put the focus more on rhythm and churning guitar riffs than melody. However, that does not mean the vocal lines are dull. In the ten-minute "Morphine Child," massive vocal harmonies fuse together heavy metal and cabaret musical influences that take some of the experiments the group has done before to the next level. "The Rumor," meanwhile, features the most prominent use of acoustic guitar on a Savatage album for years and finds the band moving back and forth between folk and heavy metal. While "Man in the Mirror" and "Awaken" sound more like Streets-era Savatage, the closing ballad, "Back to Reason," admirably moves away from the admittedly moving but redundant power ballad formula the band had been repeating for quite some time.
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AllMusic Review by Geoff Orens