Friday 10 January 2020

Rage - Wings of Rage (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 10 Jan 2020
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Never mind the bands from way back who went away but have come back recently with new material, I have a special admiration for those bands from way back who never went away at all and Rage are one of those. Sure, Peavy Wagner has been the only founder member left since 1987 and they're now on their fifth long running line-up, Marcos Rodriguez and Lucky Maniatopoulos both on their sixth year with the band, but they've never quit.

I remember Rage from the eighties and they're one of the first bands to come immediately to mind when I think of heavy power metal. Those early albums on Noise Records, like Reign of Fear and Execution Guaranteed, weren't the best examples of the genre ever recorded but I enjoyed them and bought a few when they came out. I'm a little shocked at how far out of date I am though. This is, I believe, their twenty-fifth studio album and they've done rather a lot in the thirty years since I've been paying attention.

I leapt at this because I wanted to hear a band I liked back in the eighties doing something new with modern 21st century production. It sounds great and the mix is decent. I'd have liked a little more definition to the bass but I guess it's hard to lose it entirely when the band in question is a trio. The opening tracks are up tempo without being thrash, heavy without being death, powerful without losing melody. It's a really nice balance.

True, the opening track, has absolutely everything I want from a heavy power metal song. It's exactly what I wanted to hear in 1987 when technology just couldn't make this sound possible. Let Them Rest in Peace sounds more up to date with modern riffs opening it, but just as we think Rage are going down a Pantera road, we realise that the tone, in everything from the guitars to the backing vocals, has that warmth that power metal is so fond of. It's very European.

I ought to see what my son thinks of this album as, while it has zero plans to blister like Kreator or Destruction, it has a similarly huge sound and it's not exactly slow. Lucky Maniatopoulos, in particular, feels like he's rather keen on venturing into thrash at points on songs like Tomorrow, HTTS 2.0 and Wings of Rage, though the band never quite follow him across the border from power metal except for Don't Let Me Down which is speed metal at points.

As its subtitle suggests, Shadow Over Deadland (The Twilight Transition) is a break point six tracks in. The five that precede it are all lively and up tempo numbers full of riffs and hooks and solos and everything that we might expect from heavy power metal. This one's there to calm us down for a moment before the band add an orchestral backing in A Nameless Grave. I should note here that their 1996 album, Lingua Mortis, is remembered as the first metal album to be recorded with a symphony orchestra and they've kept that up ever since, albeit on only one song here.

Wings of Rage isn't short, clocking in only a few minutes less than an hour, but it never outstays its welcome. I'm many albums behind but the ratings on Metal Archives are a little lower over the past decade than they were before that. Maybe this a return to form because it sounds solid to me. Sure, there are highlights, so not everything is of similar quality, but there isn't one bad song here among a dozen.

The two albums prior to this one, The Devil Strikes Again and Seasons of the Black, were made with the exact same line-up so I'm keen to check them out. I've had this one on repeat today. It still feels as fresh as it did when I first pressed play but I want more. Fortunately, there's a lot of Rage that I haven't heard for me to catch up on. Let's hope it's as good as this.

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