For a band whose career never quite reached the commercial heights of giants like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, US Progressive Power Metalers Savatage have managed to achieve many great things since their inception back in 1981 – mainly, commanding the support and admiration of a substantial number of Metal fans across the globe.

It is not at all surprising, then, that the most prestigious Metal festival in the world, Wacken Open Air, has decided to host the first Savatage show since the band was put on ice by Jon Oliva a good thirteen years ago.

To commemorate their return on stage, Savatage and earMusic have decided to release an eleven track collection of songs that were performed during the band’s previous two visits to this north German picturesque village – a collection entitled “Return to Wacken”.

In light of the fact that there are already another four Savatage compilation albums in existence, the main question to be asked here is whether there is any good reason for the very release of “Return To Wacken” and, really, the answer to that question is “no”.

The press release issued by earMusic which accompanied the promo disc we received for reviewing purposes mentions as an incentive the inclusion of an extended booklet featuring previously unreleased pictures and liner notes by Jon Oliva, the quality of which I cannot comment since the said booklet was not provided to us, hence my review will focus mainly on the music on offer.

While the quality of the eleven compositions on offer is simply undeniable, with “Hall Of The Mountain King”, “Gutter Ballet”, “Believe” and “Edge Of Thorns” being amongst the best Heavy Metal compositions ever recorded, the vast majority of these songs have featured on the band’s previous compilations which are far more attractive purchasing propositions that this one.

I mean, why on earth would one choose to buy this release over 2010’s “Still The Orchestra Plays”, when the latter consists of two CDs and one DVD featuring twice the amount of music that “Return To Wacken” does?

Sadly, even 1995’s single disc compilation “From The Gutter To The Stage” contains more material in comparison and that, in itself, is a pretty damning assessment for any release that’s vying for attention this day and age.

It is very clear to me that the very logic behind the release of “Return To Wacken” is to cash in on the band’s upcoming reunion show in Wacken later this August.

While that can be quite off-putting to someone who grew up listening to the music of Savatage such as myself, there is the hope that this very release might just assist a bunch of young metal heads to discover the music of one of the most unique, exciting and talented Heavy Metal bands ever to set foot on this earth.

The jury is still out on this one…

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