Dead Winter Dead

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Dead Winter Dead
Studio album by Savatage
Released October 24, 1995
Genre Progressive metal, Symphonic metal, Power metal
Length 52:06
Label Atlantic/Wea
Producer Paul O'Neill/Jon Oliva
Savatage chronology
Doesn't Matter Anyway EP
(1995)
Dead Winter Dead
(1995)
Japan Live '94
(1995)
Singles from Dead Winter Dead
  1. "Doesn't Matter Anyway"
    Released: 1995
  2. "Dead Winter Dead"
    Released: 1995
  3. "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24"
    Released: 1995
  4. "One Child"
    Released: 1996
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]

Dead Winter Dead is a concept album by Savatage, released in 1995 dealing with a Serb boy and a Muslim girl who fall in love. The story of the album also focused on the Bosnian War, which was ongoing at the time.[2]

This album featured the return of Chris Caffery, who featured on Savatage's 1989 release Gutter Ballet. Alex Skolnick, who had played guitars on Savatage's previous album Handful of Rain, opted not to stay around for the next album in order to concentrate on his solo band. Singer Jon Oliva took drummer Jeff Plate from the Handful of Rain tour, and brought in his old friend, former member and Doctor Butcher member to join the band. Atlantic Records also felt that the band needed a second, more well-known guitarist to complete the line-up. Al Pitrelli, formerly a member of Alice Cooper's touring band, became the lead guitarist for the band.[2]

This record gave the band an unexpected radio hit in "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)", and the band decided they wanted to explore this kind of music in a different way. Around this time, Paul O'Neill, along with Robert Kinkel, was interested in starting up what became the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was later re-released by TSO as "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" on their first release, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.

The track "Mozart and Madness" quotes directly from the opening theme of Mozart's Symphony No. 25, whilst "Memory" quotes directly from Ludwig van Beethoven's interpretation of "Ode to Joy"

Reception[edit]

Sea of Tranquility reviewer Murat Batmaz praised the album, defining it as follows: "This was Savatage's second concept album after their undisputed masterpiece Streets. However, the tone and message of Dead Winter Dead is more universally structured, and the flow of the story is more focused and defined. There really aren't many concept albums this good around."[3] He also added: "Previously experimented on "Chance", the band makes use of strong counterpoint vocal harmonies on two songs: their first single "One Child" and closing track "Not What You See", ultimately moving because of its intense harmonizing and tapping into multiple emotions. As different melodies, words, and ideas all flow together simultaneously where it comes to the point you can't discern each line individually, one particular verse stands out: Zak's repeated "I don't understand" croon. It is incredibly beautiful and cements Savatage as one of the greatest bands with some of the most haunting album finales ever."[4]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jon Oliva and Paul O'Neill, except where noted. 

Original CD release
No. Title Length
1. "Overture"   1:50
2. "Sarajevo"   2:31
3. "This is the Time (1990)"   5:40
4. "I Am"   4:32
5. "Starlight"   5:38
6. "Doesn't Matter Anyway"   3:47
7. "This Isn't What We Meant"   4:12
8. "Mozart and Madness"   5:01
9. "Memory"   1:19
10. "Dead Winter Dead"   4:18
11. "One Child"   5:14
12. "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" (Robert Kinkel, Jon Oliva, Paul O'Neill) 3:24
13. "Not What You See"   5:02

Story[edit]

In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, there is a town square surrounded by buildings that were constructed during the Middle Ages. The square has a beautiful stone fountain at its center and at one corner there is a thousand year old church with a gargoyle carved into its belfry. Now this gargoyle, for the last thousand years, has spent all his time trying to comprehend the human emotions of laughter and sorrow. But even after a millennium of contemplation, these most curious of human attributes remain a total mystery to our stone friend.

Our story begins in the year of 1990; the Berlin Wall has just fallen, communism has collapsed and for the first time since the Roman Empire, Yugoslavia finds itself a free nation. Serdjan Aleskovic cannot believe his good fortune to be alive and young at such a moment. The future and the happiness of all seem assured in what must surely be "the best of times".

However, even as Serdjan celebrates with his fellow countrymen, there are little men with little minds who are already busy sowing the seeds of hate between neighbors. Young and impressionable Serdjan joins some of his friends in a Serbian Militia Unit and eventually finds himself in the hills outside of Sarajevo firing mortar shells nightly in the city. Meanwhile in Sarajevo itself, Katrina Brasic, a young Muslim girl, finds herself buying weapons from a group of arms merchants and then joining her comrades firing in the hills around the city.

The years pass by and it is now late November 1994. An old man who had left Yugoslavia many decades before, has now returned to the city of his birth, only to find it in ruins. As the season's first snowfall begins, he stands in the town square, looks toward the heavens and explains that when the Yugoslavians prayed for change, this is not what they intended.

As the old man finishes his prayer, the sun begins to set and the first shells of the evening's artillery barrage are starting to arc overhead. But instead of heading for the shelters with the rest of the civilians, he climbs atop the rubble that used to be the fountain and taking out his cello, starts to play Mozart as the shells explode around him. From this night forward he would repeat this ritual every evening. And every evening Serdjan and Katrina each find themselves listening to the thoughts of Mozart and Beethoven as they drift between the explosions across no man's land.

Though the winter does its best to cover the landscape with a blanket of temporary innocence, the war only escalates in violence and brutality. One day in late December, Serdjan on a patrol in Sarajevo, comes across a schoolyard where a recent exploding shell has left the ground littered with the bodies of young children. It is one thing to drop shells into a mortar and quite another to see where they land. Long after Serdjan returns to his own lines, he cannot get the faces of the children out of his mind. Realizing that what he has been participating in is not the glorious nation building that their leaders had described, but rather a path to mutual oblivion, he decides right then and there that he can no longer be a part of this, that you cannot build a future on the bodies of others. At the first opportunity, he resolves that he will desert.

Sitting in his bunker on December 24, he listens to the sounds of Christmas carols from the old cello player mingling with the sounds of war. Katrina, on the other side of the battlefield, is also listening. It had just stopped snowing and the clouds had given way to reveal a beautiful star-filled sky when suddenly the cellos player's music abruptly ceases. Fearing the worst, Serdjan and Katrina both do something quite foolish and from their respectives sides, start to make their ways across no man's land toward the town square. Arriving at exactly the same moment, they see one another. Instinctively realizing that they are both there for the same reason, they do not start to fight, but instead, together walk slowly to the fountain. There they find the old man lying dead in the snow, his face covered with blood, his cello lying smashed and broken at his side.

Then without warning, a single drop of liquid falls from the cloudless sky, wiping some of the blood off the old man's cheek. Serdjan looks up, but he can see nothing except the stone gargoyle high up on the church belfry. Overcome by what he has seen this night, he decides that he must leave this war immediately. Turning to the Muslim girl he asks her to come with him, but now all she sees is his Serbian uniform. Pouring out his feelings, he explains that he is not what she thinks that he is. Eventually winning her to his side, they leave the night together.[5]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]