Jon Oliva's Pain

Festival

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Jon Oliva's Pain have endured now for some seven years and four albums…and that's just referring to the band bearing that name, never mind the man's personal life. And this is mentioned because it is the untimely death of Oliva's baby brother Criss, all the way back in 1993, that continues to both haunt and fuel his creativity, transforming what at first appeared to be just a project parallel to Savatage (as well as Oliva's most successful endeavor, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) into a de facto heir apparent -- not least stylistically speaking, given Oliva's ongoing efforts to finish any pieces of music left by his brother while composing lavish progressive heavy metal in his own vision, which is then suitably roughed up by his histrionic vocals and slightly warped lyrics. Released in 2010, Festival is another perfect case in point, thanks to the effortless melding of class and brute force, instrumental complexities, and pure adrenalin to be found on well-rounded headbangers like "Lies," "The Evil Within," and "I Fear You." Sprinkled in among these mandatory metallic tent poles are a number of minor and major departures, including the deliberate yet dramatic "Death Rides a Black Horse" (which drags on a tad, but remarkably weds Queen and Black Sabbath without great effort), the string-laden ballad "Now," and the authentically jazzy piano midway through "Afterglow." Topping all this are Oliva's touching promises to carry on, somehow, reverberating through the epic "Winter Haven" -- another song partially credit to Criss that surely won't leave a dry eye in the house. Even more than a great song, the latter makes plain that Festival -- though far from perfect, as evidenced by the very forgettable title track -- is a heavy metal album with a heart, and that's a rare, rare specimen indeed.

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