Jon Oliva's Pain

Tage Mahal

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Tage Mahal is the first album from Jon Oliva's Pain -- just one of the numerous side projects helmed by the American metal legend outside the scope of his primary vehicle Savatage. But unlike his work with, say, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, there are really no radical differences between Savatage and the dramatic piano-led heavy metal of Pain -- only a slightly darker, more gothic tone, perhaps. In fact, one almost gets the feeling that Tage Mahal could very well have been a Savatage release if the members of that band didn't live so far apart from each other, while the crack heavy metal studio unit enlisted to perform on Pain (and also responsible for vocalist Zachary Stevens' Circle II Circle project) happened to reside in Oliva's hometown. Not that it really matters, since Oliva is talented and prolific enough as a writer to use his patented, Savatage-tested hard rock and metal as a launching pad for such standout Pain offerings as "Nowhere to Run," "Father, Son, Holy Ghost," and the excellent "Walk Alone." Likewise, his clever and original lyrics can always be relied on to add greater dimension where generic metal bands would bore listeners to tears, transforming potentially mindless shout-alongs like "People Say -- Gimme Some Hell" and non-sensible ravings of a lunatic mind such as, er, "The Non-Sensible Ravings of a Lunatic Mind" into quite memorable exercises. This, after all, is one of only two American metal singers lawfully permitted to use the word "rainbow" in their song lyrics; my friends -- you know the other one! Anyway, Tage Mahal isn't completely clunker-proof (see the forgettable "Pain" and the oddly "Ride Like the Wind"-like "All the Time") nor groundbreaking enough to have hordes of metal-heads racing for the record stores, but it won't let down Jon Oliva fans either.

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