Oliva - Raise the Curtain

Oliva Raise the Curtain cover
Raise the Curtain
AFM Records
Obviously, It’s rather pointless, to mention who Jon Oliva is, but just in case any of the readership belongs to the younger generation, we might mention that this mountain of a man, who also, has an enormous heart as well, used to be along with his brother Chris, the “heart” and soul of Savatage, one of the Best Metal bands that ever came out of Florida, other than Crimson Glory and come to think of it, Kamelot perhaps. That’s as far as traditional and melodic metal goes because Florida is also well known about its death metal scene.
At any rate, after the dismantlement of Savatage and the creation of the TSO, initially as an X-mas spectacle and then as a full time, “musical” type of spectacle, Oliva, seemingly directed his metal juices to his solo project J.O.Pain that occasionally seemed to show glimmers of the past, especially when some “unused” riffs and song-bits from the past, were used, sometimes causing pretty magical, results. After some four albums if I am not mistaken and some rather tragic circumstances involving the death of another close friend – another guitarist, as fate would have it in Matt La Porte, the band took a break. Oliva did a few shows after that with a renewed line-up and is preparing a new “Pain” album, but in the meantime, decided to use up the last remaining music bits and pieces that his brother left behind as a legacy to create, his first, purely “solo album”.
With a little help from a bunch of friends, but mainly handling most of it himself, Oliva creates a dozen tunes that are not really metal. Well his vocals are unmistaken, but they are more “later period”, don’t expect any early Sava, screaming stuff. He claims in the liner notes that this sounds like Avatar, and having heard some further demos (other than the 2 songs) I could partially agree, although his songwriting after all these years is light years better. Still it’s not terribly complex ideas, but some pretty melodic, very theatrical, haunting pieces, that sound very much like they were done for a musical, but then you’d expect, roles and multiple vocalists, in such a case, whereupon here you only get Jon.
Given that this material was written some time ago most of it has a late 70s, early 80s sound, pretty retro, really. Ehm, If you could think of what Kiss did when they tried to do the “Elder” stuff like “World Without Heroes”… it’s not that far removed actually for a good portion of the album. There are a bunch of songs, that sound, like very early, Avatar/Proto-Savatage songs, that have a bit more oomph and I suppose a couple of songs that seem to pay tribute to bands like Queen and the likes the more symphonic, crazy, out there ones.
“Raise the Curtain” the eponymous song kick starts the album with pomp… and circumstance and once you get used of the “altered” style, you might actually begin to enjoy it. It has an overture-like quality about it.
“Soundchaser” is more dynamic even proto Savatage sounding number, but it’s very simple, based on a very simple yet totally effective little idea and a catchy little riff/hook. Works just fine.
“Ten Years” goes a bit, smokey cabaret, with horns and all and it’s pretty bleak and poisonous, but has a nice melody... it might have worked as part of the “Streets” (?) maybe (?!) or maybe not!
“Father Time” kicks off with a funky riff, you know this Doobie brothers type of “twangy” kinda thing and sorta goes along with it and grooves along nicely into semi-dramatic territory. Pretty sweet song.
“I Know” is dark and sorrowful and slow… and Jon really, gives a painful and almost rueful recitation in this one... too sad a song, too dark. Frightening.
“Big Brother” is apparently a little song about us being spied on, by… whom ? Do we even know anymore? LOL?!
“Armageddon” is a twisted little number that starts with a psychotic harpsichord intro and sounds quite spooky throughout. Oliva opts for his “twisted” psycho voice, here, but it sounds more like an elongated intro, rather than a proper song, to be honest.
“Soldier” is a timid ballad, with flutes, not about war, but just about a soldier, wanting to go back home to his family. Noble and beautiful.
“Stalker” is based on an interesting riff, and is a half twisted tale, that sort of is one of those “early” sounding songs... but it’s not terribly “rocking” throughout, it’s quite psychedelic, actually.
“The Witch” however, is a couple of notches heavier, and must have been formed, from “material” that was conceived close to the “debut” of the band... as things are getting a LOT HEAVIER.
“Can’t Get Away” is very melodic and flowery and seems to pay tribute to The Beatles and to Queen I guess?
Finally “The Truth” a bonus track on a special edition is an acoustic and a beautiful one at that. Both the last two songs – from what I could quickly see, from glancing at the credits are credited to both the Brothers Oliva, so…. That’s a nice touch and a fitting way to close the album.
Well. I suppose. It’s a bizarre album and not one, for everyone. Seriously, those who feel intrigued by the description or like Oliva that much should get it. On the other hand, endless re-releases and repackaging of things tends to tire, so some may think that this is like scraping the bottom of a creative barrel. It’s not true either. Oliva, has TSO, making him a ton of money, so this is really and clearly a fun project for him, something dear to him, something he really wanted to do. As such, one has to recognize his moments of brilliance and his, unquestionable compositional talent, but one cannot look past the fact that some of this material was left by the wayside, because other material was selected over it, or because it was lost, or for whatever reason. So yeah – A solo album is a bit of an overkill. But then again we love that band!