Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer ‡
Very few bands in the global-wide subculture comprising the hard rock and heavy metal communities ever rise to the point of becoming immensely popular.
Some do though, as they defy the odds and fight the currents; a fine example of this type rarity would be Tampa, Florida’s providers of melodic-yet-heavy power metal, Savatage. Today, the band is an iconic, metallic deity revered by the innumerable fans of Metaldom, as well they should be. However, we are not gathered here today in their name, no, instead we are here to have a look at an associated act… and we have up-to-the-minute news about them too.
Today’s homage begins in 1991, where Savatage have just reached the conclusion of that year’s tour supporting their ‘Streets: A Rock Opera‘ album. After six studio albums and other miscellaneous releases, successful tours and more, singer Jon Oliva leaves Savatage. As this news begins to make the rounds, it falls upon the ears of guitarist Chris Caffery (Spirits Of Fire, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Doro), who calls Oliva up. Caffery, who has been a touring guitarist for Savatage previously, talks to Jon for hours, and eventually they talk themselves right into forming a new band, DOCTOR BUTCHER.
Savatage recruits a new singer, Zachary Stevens, as Jon Oliva continues to work on the band’s next planned album (‘Edge Of Thorns‘) with his brother, band guitarist Criss Oliva. At one point, Savatage asks Caffery to rejoin them but, in a display of loyalty and confidence in what they’re doing, he rejects the offer and continues contributing to DOCTOR BUTCHER. For nearly most of that year, 1993, Jon and Chris stay busy fleshing out their songwriting in hopes of an eventual recording.
Interestingly, DOCTOR BUTCHER are on the Atlantic Records roster, as are Savatage, but this will soon change as the outcome of a tragedy is imminent. On October 17th, 1993, a drunk driver crashes into Criss Oliva‘s car, killing him instantly and putting an end to the life of one of the best, stand-out players to ever pick up a guitar. The press don’t help the situation in any way either, opting to go the negative route with bad press over Oliva’s health (he was still recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction he had during the late 80’s and early 90’s). In turn, this leads Atlantic Records to make a decision between DOCTOR BUTCHER or Savatage and the label chose the latter.
In late 1994, DOCTOR BUTCHER enter famed Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida, and proceed to record (plus, mix and master) a multifaceted opus. The recording line up for the band is Oliva and Caffery, joined by drummer John Osborn and the self-titled album (originally titled ‘A Living Hell’) features such guests as guitarist “Metal” Mike Chlasciak (Halford, Painmuseum), keyboardist Paul Morris (Rainbow), and drummers Jeff Plate (Metal Church, Savatage) and Gene Barnett (ex-Lillian Axe).
The debut is picked up by Germany’s GUN Records for a release in Europe yet unfortunately, it does not receive a release in the U.S. In hindsight, this is almost unfathomable and surely robbed countless metalheads of discovering this fiery debut for themselves. Despite being let down by a non-U.S. release, plans were made with Edel Records for a second record with the tentative title, ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Butchered’. It is believed that the sophomore album was recorded, but due to contractual obligations, it has never been released.
A compilation of the band’s demos was released in 1999 by Crook Records and is streaming below. In 2005, Black Lotus Records re-issued the self-titled album with a bonus disc, featuring one new song (“Inspector Highway“) and four tracks taken from the demo CD.
Now, in an up-to-the-minute, real-time update comes news that the 1994 eponymous debut album, ‘Doctor Butcher‘, is now available re-issued on vinyl for the first time ever! As part of their “BlackBeard” series, Jolly Roger Records are offering a vinyl LP format – with the first 100 copies on colored vinyl – licensed by Sony Music Entertainment Italy. This first-time ever LP offer of this intense milestone from DOCTOR BUTCHER arrived June 20th and can be purchased [HERE].