Rebellion // Arminus: Furor Teutonicus
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — More ditch digger than Grave Digger
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: rebellion-metal.de | myspace.com
Release Dates: EU: Out now! NA: 11.13.2012
In the world of power metal, there are the top dawgs and then there are the noble second stringers. These second tier bands can be fun and entertaining, but know their place in the power pecking order and never try to rise above their station. Instead, they content themselves with a life of emulating and imitating their betters. Rebellion is the epitome of this kind of back bencher. I find a lot of their material highly enjoyable, but in all honestly, they were always a shameless Grave Digger clone (founded by two former member of Grave Digger who actually sued to use that name for this outfit). Their best albums were the ones that stayed closest to the vintage Grave Digger model (i.e. A Tragedy in Steel, Sagas of Iceland Vol. I, Miklagard) and rocked the Germanic power metal with the gruff, angry vox. Better still, the lyrics focused mainly on tales of Viking feuds, quarrels and dust ups, which is as metal as metal gets. Because these albums were fun and catchy, it never troubled me that they were a copycat act. However, I wasn’t keen on 2009s Arise, which alternated between stale, cheesy and boring and for the first time, the songs truly felt like Grave Digger cast offs. Naturally, I was hoping Arminius: Furor Teutonicus (which translates loosely as “arm the angry Germans” or “fist the angry Germans,” I’m not sure which) would be a return to the slam-bang, riff-driven raid n pillage romps of the past. While its better than Arise, it still ends up another let down with a bit too many stale Diggerisms. The successfully riffy Rebellion of old is here, but not to the extent I hoped for. I suppose its a step in the right direction though.
In a rather odd choice, Rebellion opts to kick things off with a long-winded, power-ballady number called “Rest in Peace,” which features a tenuous combination of celtic instrumentation, slow, chuggy riffs, awkward, overly dramatic clean vocals and choral arrangements. While not a terrible song, it comes across like a third-rate Sabaton song rather than a second-rate Grave Digger song and it hardly serves to set an energetic mood to the proceedings. Things improve drastically with the vintage Rebellion (and by this I mean Grave Digger) crunch and punch of “Ala Germanica,” which is exactly the kind of material I want from these guys. It recalls their finest moments, like the classic “Sons of the Dragon Slayer” and it kicks a goodly amount of ass with big, heavy riffing, rousing battle-ready, hoarse vocals and lyrics of battlefield glory. The momentum is partially maintained by the heavy, but slower riffing in “Prince of the Cheruscer,” which is entertaining if not super memorable.
From there, it’s a mixed bag between decent, riff-driven metal like “Dusk Awaiting Dawn,” “Tribes United” and “The Seeress Tower,” uninspired but heavy Grave Digger retreads like “Varus” and “Ghost of Freedom,” and boring, uninspiring ballads like “Requiem.” The album never fully gets on track or gets in a groove and I found myself wishing things were more dynamic and lively. It just doesn’t feel like a consistent and inspired outing and after the lackluster Arise, they needed a big win here to remain relevant in my Big Book of Metal.
One of my big issues with this album and Arise, is Michael Seifert’s increasing attempts at clean singing. While he actually has a better voice that Grave Digger‘s Chris Boltendahl, this style of music is meant for the rough and ready metal vocals that make Germanic metal work (like “Ala Germanica”). I don’t care to hear his cheesy, goth-rock baritone placed over the chuggy, old-school riffing and it kills the material for me. Additionally, the lyrics stray too often into silly, Yoda-speak like “to Rome, taxes we pay. Starve in the winter, we may.” Another issue is the lack of truly catchy, blood angering riffs. A lot of this stuff feels like it wants to grab you, but just misses the mark somehow. Granted, some of the stuff just feels just generic and bland, but some of it feels like frustratingly near misses. The playing rarely hits the level of “fist in the air” or even “beer stein slightly in air.” Without that going for it, what’s the point of listening to this type of metal?
Arminus isn’t terrible and I really wanted to like this more, but its the second disappointing release in a row by Rebellion and they just aren’t a big enough act to keep folks coming back for more with this kind of showing. I’ll be spinning “Ala Germanica” regularly, but for the most part, I don’t think this is particularly memorable and I doubt I’ll be spending much time with it in the future. I’d suggest sticking to their older stuff or maybe just stick with Grave Digger. After all, second tier bands can only be expected to do so much.