Doctor Butcher

Doctor Butcher

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The Doctor Butcher project was created by Savatage architect Jon Oliva and journeyman guitarist Chris Caffery, with Seven Witches drummer John Osborn, at a time when the first two were not in fact active members of Savatage (though they would soon be pressed back into service following the tragic death of guitarist Criss Oliva), and the results definitely constitute a different kind of beast. Clearly eager to experiment following years of regimented songwriting for his former band, Oliva collaborated with Caffery on an unpredictable, at times quite structurally skittish, collection of skewed heavy metal, to the degree that it's sometimes hard to figure out if the likes of "Reach Out and Torment Someone," "Innocent Victim," and "I Hate, You Hate, We All Hate!!" are intentionally unruly, or simply not quite finished. Knowing Oliva's history makes it hard to seriously consider the latter possibility, but there's also little recommending positively leaden excursions -- part plodding mindless riffs, part sweet and evocative melodies -- like "Season of the Witch" and "The Chair." Far better, and even immediate at times, are the wonderfully moody "Lost in the Dark," the riff-tastic "All for One, None for All," the evocative, Caffery-orchestrated interlude "Juice," and leadoff track "Don't Talk to Me," with its viciously spat chorus. And even though it contains another confusing patchwork of somewhat incongruent ideas, "The Picture's Wild" makes for an inspired and interesting patchwork nonetheless. Having said all that, some cynics may still view Doctor Butcher as a convenient repository for sub-Savatage material, but they'd only have a point inasmuch as Oliva's voice is almost impossible to separate from that hallowed American metal institution -- for if heard in a historical vacuum, the music is still interesting enough to speak for itself.

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