Streets picked up where Gutter Ballet left off, taking Savatage's interest in progressive metal into a full-album concept. Based around a short story written by producer/songwriter Paul O' Neill, Streets is a diverse collection of songs about a lost soul trying to find himself in the New York City night. Although not based around real life events in the life of the band, it's obvious the group is quite attached to the material, turning out very emotional performances. Unlike many rock operas where the story suffers to further the music or vice versa, the band finds a nice compromise on Streets and is able to convey feelings of deep sorrow, elation, anger, and beauty, sometimes even on the same track. Opening with a snippet from Mozart's Magic Flute, the group quotes from a wide range of influences. "A Little Too Far" has a show tune quality to it, while the beautiful "Heal My Soul" takes its melody from an old Welsh lullaby. Both songs feature lead singer Jon Oliva alone with a piano. Savatage, who before Gutter Ballet had only written a handful of ballads, turns in several brilliant ones here, concluding with perhaps the band's greatest song, the dramatic and impassioned "Believe." That's not to say that there are not a fair share of rockers, as well. In fact, "Strange Reality," "Ghost in the Ruins," and "Jesus Saves" are among the leanest and most intense the band wrote, and Criss Oliva got more interesting as a guitar player with each successive album. While many metal guitarists seem only interested in technical displays, Oliva turns out material here that equals the heart-wrenching singing of his brother. Considering the intensity and beauty of the diverse material here, this is a fine place to start learning about this band.
Review by Geoff Orens