Listening to the metal majesty and rock grandiosity of "Maniacal Renderings" by JON OLIVA'S PAIN is proof that I made a big mistake letting 2004's "Tage Mahal" get past me. The new effort by the SAVATAGE and DOCTOR BUTCHER legend is a masterful album filled with operatic grandness, heavy metal power, and melodic brilliance. Oliva's ability to create the epic feel of a rock opera without plunging into excess, as well as the weaving together of a range of styles that never loses momentum is simply awe-inspiring.
Right off the bat, "Through the Eyes of the King" combines a hard-rocking groove spiced with (presumably synth-created) strings, and a simple chorus that's just a little twisted, setting the tone for the remainder the album. The epic title track is one that only Oliva could conceive; the aggressiveness, groove, and borderline psychotic splashes are absolutely gripping. At a bit under eight minutes, the track keeps things moving, even through some smartly constructed changes that include a nice piano part at mid-song that gives way to a marching cadence that supports one of the album's many scorching guitar solos. Shades of Roger Daltrey are heard on "The Evil Beside You" and "The Answer", the former opening with an acoustic section that is almost ZEPPELIN-esque and one example of the aforementioned rock-opera feel. The latter is an album highlight, the piano-based ballad boasting a moving chorus of "Jesus, show me the answer" and memorable lines that have Oliva pondering "Have we lost our way? God knows it. Can we change the world?" The pureness of "The Answer" then gives way to a three-minute, no-nonsense rocker called "Push it to the Limit". Another album highlight, the nearly seven-minute "Timeless Flight" boasts a fabulous melody, splashes of QUEEN-like guitars and melancholy piano. Around the four-minute mark the song raises up mightily from a sad delivery to reveal a hot riff with keyboard accompaniment that supports yet another fiery guitar solo. And the majesty continues with the dark and dynamically composed "Holes", the all-encompassing "End Times", and the acoustic closer "Still I Pray for you Now". Finally, you can take a breath and reflect on Oliva's greatness.
Everything comes together on "Maniacal Renderings" and the result makes for a must-own disc, not just for fans, but also for anyone that appreciates fantastic songwriting and a complete rock experience. It is the kind of album that keeps getting better and one that seems nearly impossible to top. But Oliva will probably manage to top it anyway once album number three comes around.