SAVATAGE (1983–PRESENT). Jon Oliva (vocals, piano), Criss Oliva (guitar), Steve “Doc” Wacholz (drums), Keith Collins (bass).
Savatage was formed by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva, vocals and guitar, respectively, in Florida, in the late seventies (when they were called Avatar). Along with drummer Steve “Doc” Wacholz and bassist Keith Collins, the band initially played a classic style of metal akin to Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. Eventually, however, they moved to include symphonic elements into their sound as a result of Jon’s viewing of the musical Phantom of the Opera, and through working with producer Paul O’Neil, who encouraged the development. The 1989 album, Gutter Ballet, was the first to feature the band’s new style, which was at times operatic (as on the title track) as well as symphonic, incorporating piano and featuring tightly arranged guitar parts that functioned with the dynamism of classical strings.
The band next tried their hand at a rock opera, Streets, in 1991. A critical and artistic success, the album coincided with the emergence of grunge and had a hard time finding an audience, though a core of hardcore fans continued to grow and support the band.
Tragedy struck in 1993 when Criss Oliva was hit and killed by a drunk driver. The band carried on in time, initially hiring Alex Skolnick, originally of Testament. Further lineup changes occurred through the nineties, but when Jon and producer
O’Neil found surprising success with their side project, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage was placed on indefinite hiatus.
Discography: Sirens (Combat, 1983); Dungeons Are Calling (Combat, 1985); Power of the Night (Atlantic, 1985); Fight for the Rock (Atlantic, 1986); Hall of the Mountain King (Victor, 1987); Gutter Ballet (Atlantic, 1989); Streets: A Rock Opera (Atlantic, 1991); Edge of Thorns (Atlantic, 1993); Handful of Rain (Atlantic, 1994); Dead Winter Dead (Atlantic, 1995); The Wake of Magellan (Atlantic, 1998); Final Bell (Nuclear Blast, 1999); Japan Live ’94 (SPV, 2000); Ghost in the Ruins (Import, 2000); Poets & Madmen (Nuclear Blast, 2001); From the Gutter to the Stage: Best of Savatage (Import, 2000).