"After 1987's successful album Hall of the Mountain King, Savatage established themselves as a strong and remarkable band for years to come. Gutter Ballet being the second album with producer Paul O'Neill, it marked the beginning of a completely new era for them. Although HOTMK hinted that they were onto something new, with Gutter Ballet it was clear that the Oliva brothers and Paul O'Neill had something completely different on their minds. When Jon, Criss, and Paul joined forces probably not even they could imagine where the Savatage legacy would lead them. Eventually Savatage would take their place in the history of heavy metal as one of the most original, haunting, ground-breaking, and emotionally devastating bands of all times.Originally, the working title for this album was Hounds of Zaroff. Till the last minute, Jon and Criss were planning to title it either Hounds of Zaroff or Temptation Revelation, which is one of the instrumental tracks on the album. The song "Gutter Ballet" hadn't been composed yet, and there was no intention whatsoever to experiment with such musical ideas either. Everything suddenly changed when Jon's manager Jon Goldwater gave him a ticket to see the "Phantom of the Opera" at the theatre. The minute Jon saw it, his vision on songwriting changed drastically. He composed the intro of "Gutter Ballet" the same night he saw the show, and the song was one of the last to make it on the album. Isn't it incredible how one of the band's most important tracks was created almost on a whim? That soothing piano intro with poignant orchestral enhancements, cerebral lyrics, searing vocals, and a fitting guitar solo all made a trademark song that would eventually serve to define Savatage's trademark sound.If you are more familiar with Savatage's more recent concept albums all following interesting storylines, I think it is important to note that Gutter Ballet is not a concept album. Still, the ending trilogy consisting of "Mentally Yours", "Summer's Rain" and "Thorazine Shuffle" has strong lyrical bounds. All of them were written when vocalist Jon Oliva came out of alcohol and drug rehab. The ending trilogy is about a man called Timmy, who Jon and Criss knew from the band's earlier days. Timmy was a really disturbed and sick person. He was eventually found dead of an overdose in real life, which truly affected Jon. Gutter Ballet was also much inspired by Jon's real life three-day stay in a mental asylum before the doctors realised he needed drug rehab. During Sava's long HOTMK tour with Megadeth and Dio, Jon had a breakdown from exhaustion and drug use. So in this aspect the storyline of this trilogy arguably stems from a very personal experience. After his short stay at the mental asylum he was moved to the Betty Ford Clinic where he was roommates with Eric Clapton. I think the song "Thorazine Shuffle" makes indirect references in a twisted way about both Timmy and Jon Oliva himself. Gutter Ballet is a transition album from Sava's old heavy metal roots to the more prog-driven new sound incorporating keyboards and pianos in their music. Pianos would eventually become indispensable elements to Sava's songwriting. On this album they used it mainly in the title track, the amazing ballad "When the Crowds Are Gone" (the band's peak as far as lyrics are concerned), the beautiful instrumental "Temptation Revelation", and some others. Straight rocking tunes are the opening track "Of Rage and War", which is an awesome depiction of war, "Hounds" and "The Unholy". This is an excellent piece of work with great diversity. Criss Oliva to this day is one of my favourite guitar players ever. He played everything by ear, but the articulation he put behind his soloing was out of this world. Although every solo is beyond fantastic here, one of my favourites is the never-ending melodic solo in "Hounds" accompanied by Jon's emotional delivery. Criss would later become even better on the band's next two releases Streets and Edge of Thorns. The only song I don't like as much as the rest is "She's in Love". Actually it's got a very good groove but I think its lyrics somewhat pale in comparison with the solid statements offered by the other tunes. Jon Oliva's voice may need a little time to grow on you, especially compared to Zak Stevens', but no one can touch Jon on pure raw emotion. Very highly recommended Savatage album. And I'm not saying that because they're my favourite band. Even most non-Sava fans will agree that this is one of their must-have releases."
Murat Batmaz | 09/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album really does have to be heard to be believed. You cant just think of it as another Savatage release or another metal release for that matter, but as a great piece of music. The riffs are awesome and complex as are most of the lyrics. The best songs on the alum are definetely Gutter Ballet, The Unholy, and Summer's Rain which contains a simple, yet very awesome ending guitar riff. This album rules!! It's got it all!! New to this band? This is a great starting place. This and Hall of the Moutain King are both a great start if your new."
Bluerabbit | USA | 02/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First off, If you like Savatage(any era) YOU MUST OWN THIS CD!!!
Honestly, if it weren't for this cd I never would've gotten into them. I Had heard Hall of the Mountain king and liked 2 songs "Strange Wings" and "HOTMK" from that album but when I 1st heard "Gutter Ballet" I was hooked! I mean coming out 1989 and remaining timeless is a feat within itself! I mean how many other bands from the late 80's do you still listen to? Jon And Criss Oliva Are at their best on this cd if you want a mix of Hard Rockers and very progressive music. The only song that doesn't sit well with me is "She's in Love" it's pretty much an ode to all the hard rock songs of that era. but the rest of the album is totally awesome and Jon's voice is amazing compared to their earlier material. On a side note you should take another listen to "Gutter Ballet" and "When the Crowds are Gone" as Jon played all the drums and Criss played the bass on these 2 tracks! As Johnny Lee and Doc had already went back home to Florida when they decided to record these tracks.
GUTTER BALLET IS A MASTERPIECE!"
How was I missing this band? :-|
I. MUNOZ | Montreal, PQ, Canada | 03/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Oh my God! Jon Oliva is a monster singer!" -- was the sentence constantly hitting my mind while listening to this album. Yes, this is my first Savatage album. Should I cry or laugh? Well, whatever I'd do now I have some more material to consume, and man how good it is! It's SOOO good! In few words, Savatage is a pompous, aggressive, dramatic and sonically greedy band that can deliver the most lyrical and the rawest music at the same time. In addition, Chris Oliva is an amazing guitar player. He's able of both shredding and making the axe sing, as well as riffing like the best out there. What else can I say? I'm so excited with this album that I'm just speechless. Being a newbie to the band I know I'm just scratching the surface, but I had to write a review anyway to share with someone all my enthusiasm and fascination. What an incredible music! Their control of the dynamics, their rage, their excellent lyrics, their melodies and everything in them is SOOO GREAT! But again, Jon Oliva leaves me hands down, totally breathless... The guy sings with a rare passion, like barely hitting some notes here while showcasing an ultra-wide range there. He is just metal expressiveness incarnated into one person. Talk about deliverance and talk about emotional power! So, if you already knew this band, you're really really lucky. If you don't, please do yourself a favor and start buying their albums right now -- as I'll certainly do. Once more, I'm new to them so I don't know which album is the best or the worst, but now at least I know that when you're talking about Savatage you're talking about high quality heavy metal. Five huge, brilliant stars!"
One Of The Finest Hardrock Releases.
I. MUNOZ | 06/13/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If it weren't for their earlier album "Hall of the Mountain King," this album would be my favorite. It's really a tie. You can't beat this album. Something for everyone on here. The most diverse Savatage album. Try on "Thorazine Shuffle," "Of Rage and War," and "Summer's Rain" for size. Musically heavy and grandiose. If you're new to Savatage, this album or "Hall of the Mountain King" are the best in my opinion."