I’m a little sad right now. You see, I found out today that Paul O’Neill has died. For those that don’t know him, he was a producer and songwriter most famous for founding the successful theatrical metal act, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I really enjoy TSO, but it was Paul’s work before them that caught my attention. You see, there are bands that I listen to for a while, then tire of, and eventually come back to. Then there are bands that I never tire of. Among that second group is a metal band called Savatage.
Savatage began as a straight forward American metal act, not entirely dissimilar to the other bands of the era. Sure, they had an exceptional guitarist and a vocalist with some awesome screams, but they didn’t stand out enough to get noticed. Then they got screwed over, released a flop of an album, and needed to reinvent themselves. Paul O’Neill stepped in and got them back on track with a stonkingly good album called ‘Hall of the Mountain King’. From there, he not only produced the band, but helped out with the song writing. The result of that was that Savatage went from a straight up metal act to something far more exciting. From giving guitarist Criss Oliva a chance to show just how good he was, to getting vocalist Jon Oliva to show off his own talent, from adding broadway style elements to the music to the massive vocal arrangements of later songs, Paul helped turn the band from a good one into a fantastic one. How good were they? Well, they’re all in TSO now, selling out massive stadiums in very little time indeed. Heck, I can’t think of any other acts than Savatage and TSO that could both play the same set at the same time at a massive festival without it being a mess!
It should also be noted that Paul O’Neill was a very generous man. Charity work aside, there are even stories of him driving around and just giving money to those in need on the streets. To make as much as he did and still maintain the outlook that he had was incredible.
So, thank you Paul for writing some of my favourite songs of all time, and for helping Savatage be as good as they were. I can’t think of a better tribute than to share some of your classics, so that’s what I’m gonna do below. RIP you absolute legend.