When I was in my big power metal phase, which I guess would’ve probably been around 2000/2001, I stumbled upon a Rage CD in a great used CD store that I used to go into all the time (those were the days). I thought for sure it was going to be great just from looking at it. Turns out… not so much. I don’t recall hating a record more than that one. I thought it was a major pile of shit. I’m pretty sure it was the record XIII, but I can’t be sure as it was sold away a long time ago. Needless to say I wasn’t even a little bit excited when I received this record. I was fully expecting this record to be totally crap.
However, the German hockey metal has struck: and I’ve been addicted for about a week to this CD. For fans of the band, I’m sure that this review will probably be not as good as it could be, because I don’t have a lot of reference for the band’s earlier work, however, I’m going to describe this from the perspective of someone who’s really hearing these guys for the first time. Rage is like a blending of 80s Yes with Blind Guardian. They have all the thrash, the classical influences (and these guys actually pre-date Blind Guardian by a few years) and the “hockey choruses” as one individual I know calls it, that make Blind Guardian, Nocturnal Rites and bands of that nature addictive. On the other hand, there’s a progressive bent, that keeps things fresh and that really is reminiscent of the 1980s.
Actually, the biggest surprise here is that a band with such big, modern production can still sound so genuinely 80s. I know that, of course, these guys started making music in the early 80s, but honestly.. no one sounds like that anymore. These guys have not shyed away from the things that made the 80s unique and campy, including a Top Gun love scene kind of soundtrack moment (the track entitled “Fatal Grace” and starring a Kenny G wannabe) in the big “Empty Hollow” track (a 5 part epic, that kicks ass). But despite all of this, it still manages to be good and somehow avoids the camp. It has all of those simple rock beats, straightforward melodies and guitar driven compositions that one associates with the 80s, but somehow they just make it work. There must be something in the tone or the production that I can’t quite put my finger on, but this record manages to be simultaneously nostalgic and relevant.
But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a glam album either. It is consistent with good German thrash metal and just generally addictive. Very few bands tempt me to headbang at the desk while I’m writing the review and listening to it. Few bands produce melodies that are so intensely addictive as the choruses on this album (see: “Empty Hollow,” “Hunter and Prey,” “Saviour of the Dead”). My biggest complaint about this record, honestly, is that the lyrics are pretty lame. As a buddy put it “Show me a power metal band with good lyrics and I’ll show you the holy grail,” and that’s probably true.. but you’d think that someday we’d be able to get past the embarrassing lyrics that show up on this record (and many other power metal records). It’s a shame, because everything else about this record is great, but just listen to the lyrics to “Hellgirl” and tell me that you’re not embarrassed.
Criticisms aside, I was pretty much wowed by this album. I’ve heard bad things about this band’s later material, so it sounds like this record isn’t at all representative of that era. If you’ve been a fan of this band in the past but quit listening to them, now might be the time to give them another chance. And if you’re a fan of power metal, prog and German thrash you should definitely check out this album.