Handful of Rain is a heavy metal album by Savatage that was released in 1994. The first album since the death of their lead guitarist, Criss Oliva, the music is often dark in reflection of brother Jon Oliva's loss.
The title track was originally released as an abridged version, missing its second verse. Some editions of the album (for instance, the "Rock Masters" version released on the iTunes Store) include the omitted piece, referred to by the band and fans alike as "The Barmaid Verse". "Chance" is about Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during World War II who defied government orders by signing exit visas for thousands of Jewish refugees. "Castles Burning" is about Giovanni Falcone, an Italian magistrate killed by the mafia in 1992. "Alone You Breathe" is a tribute to Criss which reuses the chord progression (albeit in a different key) and lyrics from the Streets song "Believe" in its long coda, and also part of the ending chorus in the Gutter Ballet song "When The Crowds Are Gone", although the lyrics do not mirror his death and the songs are not literally about him. The tour in support of this album was documented in the live release, Japan Live '94, which was released in 1995.
The album also marks the first time Savatage would write a trademark vocal counterpoint in a song. The third section of "Chance" has at one point, five overdubbed vocals from singer Zak Stevens.
Sea of Tranquility reviewer Murat Batmaz awarded the album five stars and noted: "Handful of Rain in many ways marked the beginning of a new chapter in Jon Oliva's career, considering it was the first ever album written, recorded and produced without his brother Criss Oliva who was tragically killed in a car accident in late 1993. Given that Criss was the primary songwriter and guitarist of the band, it was believed that Savatage would be no more, and every member took a break before deciding what they'd do with their lives. And even though the booklet credits the full band, every instrument was played by Jon Oliva, including rhythm guitars, some acoustic bits, bass, and drums. It was only at the final moment when they brought in vocalist Zak Stevens and former Testament guitar player Alex Skolnick to lay down some leads. So in a way, Handful of Rain could be considered Jon Oliva's first solo effort with some lyrical input and creative arrangement ideas from producer Paul O'Neill." He also added that this album may be Zak Stevens' best ever vocal performance, commenting "The lyrics of "Alone You Breathe" are heart-wrenching. At one point towards the end, they borrow the famous "I am the way, I am the light" chorus which was previously used on "When the Crowds Are Gone" and "Believe", and in a way complete the trilogy, except that they are sung by Zak Stevens this time. Zak is at his best on this album: his voice oozes sheer emotion and his singing is indelible."
Due to the shake-up in the band following Criss's death, the line-ups were somewhat unclear at the time. Drummer Steve Wacholz left the band and did not play on the album, but he is pictured in the album to maintain a more "classic" Savatage line-up. Bassist Middleton was apparently still too much in shock about Criss to go into the studio, but he did do the tour for the album. Jeff Plate did not play the drums on the album, but was pictured as part of the band line-up in one edition of the album. Plate would become a full-fledged member of the band by the time of their next release, Dead Winter Dead in 1995.
For the recording of the album, Jon Oliva ended up going into the studio, accompanied by producer, co-writer and co-lyricist Paul O'Neill, and recorded all of the instrumental parts(keys, rhythm guitars, bass, drums) by himself. The pair then enlisted former Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick to record guitar solos, and subsequently contacted vocalist Zak Stevens to record the vocal parts for the album.