Jon Olivia's Pain Festival

On their fourth full-length, Jon Olivia's Pain (created by the former Savatage front-man from which they take their name) truly develop into something unto themselves. Where the outfit have previously been preoccupied with a residency in the lighter side of metal's kingdom ― falling somewhere between power and hair metal ― this affair feels decidedly darker than expected. Slightly more guttural, while never losing the technical prowess any contributor to this realm must possess, Festival plods along with a bleak air reminiscent of Heaven and Hell's later material colliding with the dominance of Manowar, occasional forays into steely grooves and modest displays of Gamma Ray-ish fire for a bit of flash. Not only is the experience interesting, but it actually creates a surprisingly deeper engagement than one would imagine possible, amplified by the creepy carnival atmosphere. It's almost as if Olivia and crew have discovered the uncomplicated combativeness of Doomriders and Baroness, striving to incorporate their brutish ways into Festival's progressive tendencies, as opposed to the typical vice versa. Either way, it works well and just might inspire a few crossover fans for these otherwise opposing facets. (AFM)