Over 15 years into their career, Savatage refused to stay still -- if anything, the group continued to improve in the '90s, as their 14th album, The Wake of Magellan, proved. Long ago, the group began fusing heavy metal with progressive rock, but they've rarely recorded a concept album as enthralling as The Wake of Magellan. Employing a fictional character, Hector Del-Fuego Magellan, a supposed descendent of famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the band retells two true stories. The first is the tale of the Maersk Dubai, a Taiwanese freight ship whose captain, upon discovering three stowaways on board, decided to throw the offending passengers overboard. The second is the story of journalist Veronica Guerin, who died while combating drug pushers in her home country of Ireland. Magellan relates these two stories -- some of the narrative is enhanced by an epic poem in the liner notes, which was written, along with the lyrics, by producer Paul O'Neill -- over the course of the album. It's an ambitious effort, to say the least, but Savatage's surprisingly graceful music -- not only does it fit the story line, but it has sweeping melodies, intricate arrangements and stunning solos that are compelling on their own terms -- making it a fascinating voyage.
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine