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2010 saw the release of a quite wonderful Savatage double disc compilation, titled 'Still the Orchestra Plays'; a comprehensive collection of, arguably, the band's best loved songs. Five years on and we now have 'Return to Wacken', which is both superfluous in light of that 2010 release, and somewhat misleading. No, it does not feature live recordings from their performances at Wacken Open Air in 1998 and 2002; rather, it's constituted by studio recordings of certain tracks they played during said two Wacken appearances. Of course, Savatage's recent reunion will see them back at the world's biggest metal fest at the end of July this year and it states in press materials that this compilation "celebrates the return to the stage of one of the world's greatest progressive metal bands." The second half of that statement is irrefutable; with that, I agree. However, I disagree with the first half. A live CD/DVD/BD of their July 2015 performance at Wacken later this year would, most certainly, be a celebration, as would be the actuality of attending the fest to witness their performance first-hand. 'Return to Wacken' is nothing but a "cash-in" attempt that's riding the excitement of people's anticipation of this legendary band's live comeback.

All that said, this is still Savatage we're talking about here, and the music is both inspired and inspirational. Always has been and always will be. Younger metal fans who might be learning about Savatage's metal heritage for the first time, and wondering just what all the hype's about surrounding their reunion, could certainly benefit from a compilation such as 'Return to Wacken'. However, given the choice, and the fact that it's still readily available for purchase at an incredibly reasonable price (including a live DVD)... in fact, at the time of writing, for the same price as 'Return to Wacken', my advice would be to invest in 'Still the Orchestra Plays'. I've still scored this highly just because it's Jon Oliva and co. I couldn't bring myself to do anything but, he's one of the scene's most talented and nicest guys. Although I've knocked a mark off for the "cash-in" transparency of this release; otherwise, it'd be a firm nine out of ten.
Review by Mark Holmes
19th June 2015
1) Hall of the Mountain King
2) Gutter Ballet
3) Believe
4) Chance
5) Edge of Thorns
6) The Wake of Magellan
7) Dead Winter Dead
8) The Hourglass
9) Tonight He Grins Again
10) Prelude to Madness
11) When the Crowds are Gone
"...the music is both inspired and inspirational. Always has been and always will be."