In their early years, Savatage was one of the premier death metal acts in America and their debut album, Sirens, helped catapult them to a major-label record deal. Lead singer Jon Oliva shrieks and moans over thumping, prominent bass by Keith Collins, excellent drumming from Steve Wacholz, and fine raw metal guitar from Criss Oliva. The first three songs show the band at their tightest. The title track opens with bells and wind chimes before the group kicks into an intense song about the mythical Sirens. Savatage was always different from the rest of the pack and instead of reveling in gruesome or satanic lyrics, they often seemed more interested in storytelling. As such on "Holocaust" and "I Believe," the tone is more cautionary in tone than exploitive. Such is not the case with "Scream Murder," which is more typical of the genre. Elsewhere, the band slows down the pace with "On the Run" on which Jon Oliva does his best Robert Plant impression over a churning rhythm section. Although the album has its weaker moments -- the group seems to run out of musical and lyrical ideas about halfway through the record -- it closes on a fine note with "Out on the Streets," which with its romantic, yearning lyrics and emotional delivery pointed the way to Savatage's future.
by Geoff Orens