Saturday, 14 November 2009

Savatage - Fight For The Rock (1986)

1. Fight For The Rock
2. Out On The Streets
3. Crying For Love
4. Day After Day
5. The Edge Of Midnight
6. Hyde
7. Lady In Disguise
8. She's Only Rock 'N Roll
9. Wishing Well
10. Red Light Paradise

Savatage are a weird, wonderful and mysterious unit, through all their formations and guises over the last 25-30 years. Their sound is completely unique, with the vicious singing talents of Jon Oliva (lead vocals), the strange, offbeat guitar work of his brother Criss Oliva (1978-1993), the pulsating reliability of Johnny Lee Middleton (bass) and whoever occupies the drum stool all create a haunting hard rock vibe. I’ve found every Savatage album that I’ve sat and listened to; impressive, raw and diverse in one way or another and 1986’s “Fight For The Rock” is no different in my opinion. Now it will come as no surprise to tell you that this is my favourite ‘Tage record out of their whole catalogue to date. But, to all Savatage fans and to the band themselves, it is considered to be their worst work. Jon Oliva even said in October 1994: "I've never really been fond of that album.” It is also referred to as “Fight For The Nightmare”. The problem I have, is that I don’t see any problem with this album. It’s very, very good. It appears to be unjustly criticized and slated by the world and his wife for being “commercial”. The fact is, it’s still too “out there”, possibly alienating a wider mainstream audience (although it did chart) yet retains many dark and heavy qualities that should’ve drawn Savatage fans in right off the bat.
I guess it’s the fact that Atlantic records (as the band have stated many times) wanted Savatage to push for a “poppier” approach seeing as Jon Oliva had been writing songs for a lot of other artists at the time, stuff for the likes of John Waite and also material for a solo record that was planned. The label made them use the batch of songs that were lying around, rather than going in and cutting something fresh and working as a band to create a new record. This is where all the negativity stems from and I can understand that, but I have always felt that it didn’t really hurt them as badly as the band and fans may make out. The album that followed FFTR was “Hall Of The Mountain King”, which is a classic metal record, widely regarded as Savatage’s best output ever. So, I always see this as a stepping stone (or bump in the road for those naysayers) and an alternative offering that can be looked back upon without scoffing aloud or having any feelings of regret or resentment.
Fight For The Rock” has an almost Beatle-esque feel at points; songs such as “Out On The Streets” and “Day After Day” have a whimsical late 60s charm to them. I don’t care at all that they’re not heavy as hell rockers, because I can appreciate the quality and beauty of the actual music and arrangements. The band easily slips from dreamy lull to brewing storm in a matter of moments, laying down chugging, pure metal slabs such as; “Crying For Love”, the excellent “Hyde” (it screams evil), the menacing “Red Light Paradise” and the anthemic title cut. The case again is that, one could have gone and seen Savatage live on many occasions from ’86 onwards and not heard a single lick from this album. Not a major gripe, but for me, it would have been bitterly disappointing, as this is fine solid rock contained within nine original compositions and helped along by a phenomenal cover of Free’s “Wishing Well”, the best version I’ve heard done compared to the 1973 track. The biggest stand-out is “The Edge Of Midnight” – the song has a intro sounding like someone blasting the Castlevania theme out of a Casio watch, but it’s good and it does its job in enhancing the creepy atmosphere the track builds up. Then, come the hammering riffs - like reaching sexual climax whilst having your teeth smashed in - and all the guttural venom spit forth from Jon Oliva’s throat. It’s pure class, all 4 minutes and 52 seconds of it. How “The Edge Of Midnight” can be ignored from a set-list is beyond me completely??

Once again, I have to beg of you to give this one a try, fan or no fan. “Fight For The Rock” is more than worthy addition to any growing hard rock collection old or new. It still gives a decent representation of the Savatage sound and is a piece of the band’s history whether they like it or not. It’s another mark of where the artist was at during that particular period, label pressure or no label pressure, good or bad album behind you; it should always be considered an experience you can learn from. Mama didn’t raise no fool and he likes this one an awful lot….



© Flash Metal Circus


  1. Weird... I was driving around the other day listening to the new TESTAMENT record and trying to remember the name of this band. All I could come up with is that it started with an "S". Good stuff, as usual, Circus Circus.