Released: 2008, AFM
The Mountain King returns with his third installment of Jon Oliva’s Pain. Previous releases under this moniker, ‘TAGE MAHAL and MANIACAL RENDERINGS, were both rather lackluster affairs. Each had a few great songs that would strike a chord similar to what listeners might have felt while enjoying classic offerings of Oliva’s landmark band, Savatage; however, the meat of those albums seemed to be a lot of aimless filler. Throughout the promotion of these previous albums, Jon maintained that Savatage was no longer necessary as he was continuing that music with his new band, but for many listeners something was missing. Cue GLOBAL WARNING, the new release. Finally, long-time fans of Jon Oliva will be rewarded again for their allegiance with an album that is flawless from front to back.
Things kick off with the title track, an orchestral arrangement that becomes a song after over three minutes of symphonic elements mixed with seventies-styled organ and heartfelt lead guitar. The second track, “Look at the World,” transitions perfectly out of the first track, providing a classic Jon Oliva, piano-heavy song. In a recent interview, Jon has indicated that the majority of this song was actually written around 1979, which is surprising, considering the more overtly metal type stuff that Savatage/Avatar produced in the early eighties. “Adding the Cost” is one of the more direct songs on the album, and it has an insistent feel to it similar to the POETS AND MADMEN track, “Drive.” Somehow this new song seems to succeed much better than that previous effort, though. Track four, “Before I hang,” has a real classic late eighties Savatage vibe to, albeit more well-produced and polished. Apparently, this track is, in fact, a remnant of tracks that were demoed for GUTTER BALLET, and, if so, they should have used it because it is a killer track. “Firefly” begins a slower, more spacious vibe for the album, with slow, bass heavy, Zep-influenced verses, haunting guitar slides, that lead to one of the most effective and emotional choruses of the album. The lead work throughout this song is not flashy, but it is full of soul. The weirdest track of the album is “Master,” complete with electronic sounds, a machine-sounding beat, and vocal effects. While this track might put off some purists, it is a perfect break from the rest of the album and gives the arrangement of the tracks a nice change of pace. “Ride” offers some nice acoustic guitar parts, coupled with some other classic rock sounding overdubs and another chorus that simply brands itself upon you. “O to G” and “Walk Upon the Water” go together; the former being a light and short piano song, the latter being a signature Jon Oliva track that is again more of the mid-tempo, ballad style that Jon does so well. “Stories” is a driving track with cutting leads and a more aggressive delivery by the Mountain King. There are some nice backing harmony vocals in the verses on this track that will undoubtedly remind many fans of moments on the last few Savatage releases. “Open Your Eyes” is another ballad, but should not be missed as it has the perfect blend of the soft and vulnerable side of Jon’s voice and the stretched, impassioned tone that continues to sell these types of songs for him. There is also another moving guitar solo on display here. Things wrap up with a classic Savatage-styled rocker, “You Never Know” featuring a few classic squeals, and then comes “Someone/souls,” a lazy journey through two parts that sends the listener off with a whisper rather than a roar.
With GLOBAL WARNING, Jon Oliva has accomplished something that might have seemed unlikely to many fans - - the creation of an album that is equal to the glory days of his previous work. For the first time operating as Jon Oliva’s Pain, he has put together an album that can stand on its own. This album is lyrically relevant to the present day and musically timeless, freely roaming across a range of styles with a fluency that only a master’s hand could manage. While the metal community will always clamor for a Savatage reunion, GLOBAL WARNING proves that Jon Oliva is capable of standing out without the crutch of that name’s marketing clout. It would be nice to be able to discuss Jon Oliva’s Pain without the comparisons to that canon, but it would truly be impossible since it was the passion seen in this release that made that band what it always was.