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Savatage: Musicality in the Thrashings

In a field crowded with cookie-cutter metal bands, at least give Savatage credit for appearing to have been formed with a jagged can lid. At Anaheim’s Bandstand club on Wednesday, the quintet played with an intensity (somewhere between Motorhead and Canada’s Nomeansno) and modicum of originality that set it apart.

Though singer Jon Oliva seems to have bought his voice down at Ed’s Screech ‘n’ Growl and the rest of the group had the amps set on “pummel,” there was a distinctive musicality to their thrashings. Guitarists Criss Oliva and Christopher Caffery churned up some heaving dissonances that would have done noise artist Glenn Branca proud.

Lyrically, Savatage (which headlines the Palace tonight) falls pretty much in the post-apocalyptic doom school, though Wednesday the words were chiefly lost in the tumult and an awful sound mix. It’s scarcely ironic then that during the anti-violence “Of Rage and War” the group’s slam-dancing fans and the club’s bouncers were engaged in a limited ground war of their own.

Second-billed Cold Sweat delivered a pandering, rote-rock set capped by a version of “I Just Want to Make Love to You” that sounded as if Foghat was its idea of roots.

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