Doctor Butcher - Doctor Butcher (Re-issue)
Black Lotus Records
Heavy Metal
Disc 1: 11 songs (49'43) Disc 2: 5 songs (32'38)
Release year: 2005
Doctor Butcher, Black Lotus
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
Back in 1994, both Jon Oliva and Chris Caffery found themselves at somewhat of an impasse in their respective careers in that leaving Savatage to pursue other projects really hadn't been productive. Without them, Savatage scored big with the Edge Of Thorns album with new vocalist Zak Stevens but the future was in doubt due to the untimely death of guitarist Cris Oliva in 1993. Chris Caffery had backed out, even though he was mostly used on the road for the live performances, to start a new project with his brother. A phone call from Jon asking Chris to come down and hang out was all that was needed to get the two back together. After lots of drinking and watching football, they started writing songs together. With a view to creating a fun project of the heaviest in-your-face heavy metal that they could possibly make and casting aside the trappings of the expected Savatage sound, the Doctor Butcher project was born. This album was originally released in 1995 and was a great surprise to myself and many other Savatage fans as many of us had never really heard much of Chris Caffery's guitar playing on record. Having never been released in the U.S. or Canada, it was an expensive import for those lucky enough to find it. It is a true jewel in the crown of the Savatage legacy and after being out of print for quite a while, it has recently been re-mastered and re-released by Chris's new label Black Lotus Records, with one new track and four tracks from the original demos for the sessions.

For those who've never heard this album, picture a much darker and heavier version of Savatage; one that pretty much explores the more aggressive side of the band as heard on earlier albums like Power Of The Night and Hall Of The Mountain King. Most Savatage albums usually had a couple of aggressive tracks but this album really has nothing but. This is pure traditional heavy metal with Jon putting away the keyboards for the entire album. The album opener, The Altar is a true heavy metal classic with it's sinister, huge and thick guitar riffs and pounding double bass drum work courtesy of Jon Osborn. Dealing with religious corruption, Jon's screaming and raspy vocals really rip organized religion a new asshole!! Lots of droning chordal octaves that were always a staple of Cris Oliva's playing are heard throughout this track and many others. Don't Talk To Me uses more modern riffing sounds (with a slight influence from the grunge era that was flourishing at the time). Pounding and heavy, this one slips everyone the finger and is highlighted by a cool tempo change that's very Tony Iommi like and reflects a very strong Black Sabbath presence that's found in many of the riffs throughout the album. Season Of The Witch is a hypnotic and chunky heavy tune with Jon using weird modulation effects on his voice. The chorus is very catchy on this one and once again, the Tony Iommi influence makes its presence felt with another sudden speedy tempo change mid track that ends with some great leads by Chris. U.S. thrash metal styles of the 80's (i.e. Testament, Anthrax and Megadeth) are the norm for Reach Out And Torment Someone; a play on the "reach out and touch someone" telephone adds from many years ago. Great thrashy riffs and speedy Testament styled vocals by Jon serve up the recipe for this neck breaker! One of the best songs to ever come out of these sessions is the track The Chair. About a man on death row, it gets a "nice" intro aptly entitled Juice which sees Chris providing some clean guitar and expressive leads over a dreamy vocal by Jon. Reality sets in as the huge opening riffs of The Chair come ripping out of your speakers. With a somewhat deranged vocal by Jon, this is traditional heavy metal at it's finest.

This album is a little "front heavy" with the best tracks being in the first half of the album. That's certainly not to take away anything from the rest of the album, as every track is extremely solid. Heavy blasting riffs and more sinister vocals from Jon are still the norm for the remainder of the album with both Chris and Jon bent on creating some of the nastiest heavy metal that they've ever done. With tracks like I Hate, You Hate, We All Hate and All For One...None For All and you get the picture. The Sabbath influences still surface on several tracks with more atmospheric touches highlighting the track Lost In The Dark. This entire album brought the amazing guitar talent of Chris Caffery to the entire world. He was finally able to step out of the shadow of Cris Oliva and the results are stunning

This re-issued version contains a second bonus CD that contains 5 tracks including a new song, Inspector Highway which was actually written in 1993 but has been re-recorded with Jeff Plate (Savatage) on drums and features a guest appearance by "Metal" Mike Clasciak (Halford, Pain Museum) on guitar. A heavy and driving track, it was inspired by the tale of a haunted highway in Northern New Jersey. The remaining four tracks were pulled from the original demos that were done for the album. Freaks has an Accept Balls To The Wall type of groove whereas Born Of The Board sees the only appearance of Jon's piano before getting plodding and heavy. Help Police! has some great galloping and chunky riffs and Bridges sees the only appearance of any sort of ballad on this entire release. A Streets style power ballad, it's a shame that this one wasn't worked up enough to eventually be used either on this or subsequent Savatage releases. The fact that such quality songs on the demos didn't make the final cut is really testament to the very high quality of the ones that eventually did.

The re-mastering has really brought out the heaviness in this album and it sounds better than ever. The fact that it's over 10 years old doesn't seem to come into play as it doesn't sound dated by any means. The addition of the bonus CD and extra tracks is a real bonus as these are not substandard or throw away tracks and could've stood on their own with the full production of the rest of the album. With Savatage currently on hiatus, new albums by Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva's Pain have given us fans something to keep us going. If you've never heard the Doctor Butcher album and are a Savatage fan then you are missing out on an important piece of the band's history. I absolutely love this album (always have!!) and hearing this newly re-mastered and expanded version has made me fall in love with it all over again. There also has been some discussion by both Chris and Jon about doing another Doctor Butcher album someday. A true heavy metal masterpiece is finally widely available and for Savatage fans, your collection will never be complete without this album....go get it now!!

Killing Songs :
Everything!! but my favs are The Altar, Don' Talk To Me, Season Of The Witch, The Chair, Lost In The Dark and Inspector Highway
Marty quoted 95 / 100
Jeff quoted 75 / 100
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