Jon Oliva's Pain - Maniacal Renderings
AFM Records
Theatrical Heavy Metal
12 songs (69'12)
Release year: 2006
Jon Oliva's Pain, AFM Records
Reviewed by Marty
Album of the month
Jon Oliva and his band Jon Oliva's Pain are back with the follow up to their very successful 2004 debut Taj Mahal. Jon makes no secret of his many musical influences that range from the Beatles to Black Sabbath and Taj Mahal was his chance to expand beyond the normal "trappings" of a Savatage record to offer the listener a rare glimpse into his musical psyche and show another side of this truly gifted songwriter. With Jon at the helm, it's hard not to make Savatage comparisons but with Taj Mahal, he seemed to be trying to move away from what we would expect from him. With this new album Maniacal Renderings, Jon has done an about face and released an album that is loaded with theatrical keyboard laden heavy metal that given the production touch of Paul O'Neil and the guitars of Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli, would make a great Savatage album. A box of cassette tapes full of riffs that Jon and his late brother Criss made together in the late 80's to early nineties that was found by Jon's wife also served as inspiration and a musical catalyst for this album.

Beginning with the opening track Through The Eyes Of The King, we are treated to essentially what could be called Hall Of The Mountain King Part II. It has the trademark HOTMK riffs and vocal styles and the way the pre-chorus/chorus section is set up with the sudden stop before the chorus is identical. A little more organ and syth orchestration as well as some excellent dual lead guitar work offer a richer overall sound in this tribute to an all-time classic Savatage track. Continuing with the title track, Maniacal Renderings, the theatrical Savatage edge is again front and centre. Expanded piano interludes and guitar instrumental breaks round out this heavy prog metal styled track and Jon's voice hasn't sounded this good in decades! The Evil Beside You mixes a quiet acoustic intro with driving heavier parts featuring big booming single note guitar riffs complete with an aggressive vocal by Jon and all the classic Savatage drama. Time To Die uses de-tuned guitars for that extra heaviness and has some of the Of Rage And War feel from Savatage's Gutter Ballet album. With The Answer, Jon gets reflective of current day life and world events and comes up with another killer inspirational type of track that we last saw with Believe from the classic Streets album (there's a classic review that needs to be done!). A big epic chorus spiced up with some nice melodic guitar arpeggios and heavy power chords questions the fate of human kind and looks for inspiration in this crazy world that we live in. For the track Push It To The Limit, we are treated to a three minute blast of balls out heavy metal. Speedy, fast and aggressive metal with Queen Stone Cold Crazy or Ogre Battle styled riffing and Jon's trademark scowl all gel fantastically for a killer track.

For the remainder of the album, Jon pretty much sticks to the more theatrical heavy metal style especially with tracks like Who's Playing God that also features some of the trademark vocal rounds that are found on many Savatage songs from the past. Holes uses big blasting power chords and a heavy, plodding sound that reminds me of Aerosmith's Round And Round before speeding up into a driving and heavy track. Timeless Flight begins with just Jon and his piano before building into a solid 70's flavored heavy track with some laid back, jazzy moments with yet another outstanding vocal performance by Jon. I especially like the sudden tempo change that culminates with some great melodic lead guitar work and more of those wonderful vocal rounds. Other tracks like End Times and Still I Pray For You Now offer tributes to Jon's brother Criss. End Times slowly builds from a quiet piano/voice intro into a blasting power chord laden theatrical journey that culminates in a big climactic vocal at song's end. Still I Pray For You Now is an acoustic based song that actually features a sample of Criss' guitar playing from one of the lost tapes and is a haunting tribute to Jon's late brother. Some versions of this album come with a bonus track entitled Reality's Fool. It's actually a great song and fits right in with the rest of the album. After a quiet intro, it builds and gets heavier (as do many others on this album) with more of the Savatage feel. After the song ends, another hidden track begins after about a minute of silence that starts quietly before building into a killer guitar driven instrumental with tons of Brain May styled lead guitar harmonies and orchestrations. If you can get this version with the bonus track without having to sacrifice your first born to do so, get it!

Although Savatage was a collaboration between both Jon and his brother Criss, since Criss' untimely death 13 years ago, no one single Savatage album has really bore the Criss Oliva influence like this album does. The return to the classic theatrical sound for Maniacal Renderings over Taj Mahal is no doubt influenced by those tapes that Jon now has in his possession. From what I've read, there's lots more to come from those tapes and I hope that the inspiration that they have brought him will ultimately result in another Savatage album and tour someday. There's talk of an upcoming anniversary tour and DVD next year sometime. In the meantime, enjoy this new album as it's definitely the next best thing and from a song writing standpoint, is much better than the last couple of Savatage albums although in comparison, it does lack in production quality but fans have been waiting a long time for something like this. It's a throwback to the Gutter Ballet, Streets era only with Jon's voice sounding much stronger now than it ever has.

Killing Songs :
Through The Eyes Of The King, Maniacal Renderings, The Evil Beside You, Push It To The Limit, Who's Playing God,Timeless Flight and End Times
Marty quoted 90 / 100
Aleksie quoted 98 / 100
Ken quoted 90 / 100
Adam quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Jon Oliva's Pain that we have reviewed:
Jon Oliva's Pain - Festival reviewed by Marty and quoted 86 / 100
Jon Oliva's Pain - Global Warning reviewed by Marty and quoted 93 / 100
Jon Oliva's Pain - Straight Jacket Memoirs reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Jon Oliva's Pain - 'Tage Mahal reviewed by Brent and quoted 90 / 100
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