Savatage in 1995 released “Dead Winter Dead” which is a concept/rock opera album based upon the Bosnian War in 1991 where a love story developed between a Serb man and a Muslim girl. The album features vocalist Zachary Stevens, guitarists Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Jeff Plate. The album also features founding member Jon Oliva on keyboards and lead vocals on the songs “I Am” and “Doesn’t Matter Anyway.” This album is the missing link that would change the course of band planting the seed where Trans-Siberian Orchestra would be born.
“Dead Winter Dead” features a collection of great songs mostly written by Paul O’Neal and Jon Oliva. The ballads themselves with little tweaking could easily be a Broadway show. The album itself captures various feelings and emotions of war and love. The closing track is a great example of this where in the center of town the Serb soldier is greeted by the Muslim girl who only sees his uniform and not for who is. “I don’t understand what you want me to be, It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am. But I know that it’s all that you see.” Meanwhile, many references and classical music influences of Mozart and Beethoven are very strong and well done on the album.
Musically, this album is much better than some of the previous rock operas that were done by Savatage. The music is much tighter and more solid with regards to the musicianship on this album than on the previous record “Handful of Rain.” There’s a good collection of tempos and melodies used to demonstrate the feelings of emotions where rage and hatred for a war that is tearing down Yugoslavia. The guitar work by both Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli is done very well. The sound is crisp and clear, yet producing enjoyable riffs and leads. A lot of time and prep went into the music of this album before recording and it really shows.
The vocal work by Zachary Stevens is very impressive. His vocal work is now blending in well with the band that was once fronted by Jon Oliva. His vocal range has plenty of harmony and his range has much improved. The two tracks that Jon Oliva sings on and the one back vocal he does on this album are done well. Jon has always had a unique voice. Although, this album was the breaking point later on for Jon Oliva as the song “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” charted, but it became a popular hit for Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
1. “Overture” 1:50
2. “Sarajevo” 2:31
3. “This is the Time (1990)” 5:40
4. “I Am” 4:32
5. “Starlight” 5:38
6. “Doesn’t Matter Anyway” 3:47
7. “This Isn’t What We Meant” 4:12
8. “Mozart and Madness” 5:01
9. “Memory” 1:19
10. “Dead Winter Dead” 4:18
11. “One Child” 5:14
12. “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” 3:24
13. “Not What You See” 5:02