October 17, 1993 – Christopher “Criss” Michael Oliva was lead guitarist and co-founder of the heavy metal band Savatage, born in Pompton Plains, NJ on April 3rd 1963. In 1976 the Oliva family moved to Dunedin, Florida and it was here that Criss and his brother Jon formed a band Avatar, in 1978.
But in 1983 as success was looming on the horizon, they had to change their name and decided on Savatage. Under that name they released their first two albums, Sirens in 1983 and The Dungeons Are Calling in 1985. Savatage continued to flourish, releasing a further 6 albums after signing with Atlantic Records in 1985.
The band toured relentlessly, with Criss winning critical acclaim, his biggest dream was for Savatage’s 1991 album Streets: A Rock Opera to achieve platinum status. Streets was Savatage’s biggest mainstream success, and Criss enjoyed the exposure the record gave the band, allowing new fans to be found for their music.
It all ended when an oncoming car operated by a drunk driver crossed the median and struck Criss’ car head-on, tragically killing him instantly in the early morning hours of October 17, 1993 and severely injuring his wife Dawn (Hoppert). He was 30 years old. Dawn passed away from a broken heart it said on Criss’s brother Jon’s website a dozen years later (2005).