Album review: SAVATAGE – Sirens and Dungeons Are Calling (remasters)

ear-MUSIC [release date 3.09.21]

We’re cranking the machine way back to 1982, and Savatage’s twin debuts, Sirens and Dungeons Are Calling, both independently released.

The band, Jon and Criss Oliva, Keith Collins and Steve Wacholz recorded and mixed all the tracks in a day. Quite an achievement, but such was the limited storage capacity of vinyl, the recordings were split. Thus an LP and an EP were released.

Both have now been reissued in remastered form by Ear/Edel, who have embarked on a new series of back catalogue remasters. (Next up, Saga).

Defined by the the ominous chime of church bells and the clang of heavy metal guitars on Siren‘s opening track, the band’s doomy and direct metal had them wading into dark waters indeed.

The album wasn’t universally acclaimed, but even now, looking back, the tracks are performed with such vigorous animal intensity you can’t help but be impressed. ‘Holocaust’, ‘Rage’ and ‘Twisted Little Sister’ are just as visceral as the titles suggest. ***

Though Dungeons Are Calling was written and recorded at the same time, you have to say that it has the vision and the ambition that Sirens doesn’t.

Once we get past the theatricality of the intro, the title track has the band
really going for it. They’d clearly gained in confidence as the session progressed.

We’re in a heavy metal world of Dungeons And Dragons. ‘Midas Knight’ and ‘By The Grace Of The Witch’ simply quake with armour plated riffs and pneumatic rhythms. ‘City Beneath The Surface’ isn’t far behind. And yet… with the benefit of hindsight, a close examination of the lyrics reveal veiled references to the murky world of drug addiction, and an underlying empathy for lost souls… ‘I steal from my friends’, ‘a prisoner in hell’, ‘live like the dead’, and so forth. ***1/2

On both, the label’s rich remastering job has improved the listening experience. The “recorded in a cave” ambience has been replaced by a much more contemporary sound, adding depth and weight to the band’s recordings.

By accident or design, Savatage had created a substantial chunk of metalised music that would act as a loud and proud calling card. No surprise that Atlantic Records signed them within months of Sirens and Dungeons…’ release.

Review by Brian McGowan

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