Back at the end of February, I went to see the classic 1988-1993 lineup of Rage, who called themselves Refuge after their biggest hit. I wondered how I could have missed this band in my youth. Here were a bunch of guys, barely older than me, playing music that was right up my alley. Maybe I was distracted by grunge, or maybe without the internet, it was harder to find German bands not named the Scorpions. Either way, I promised not to miss anymore.
The month before, Peter “Peavy” Wagner, singer, bass player, sole original member and leader of Rage, with the current lineup – Marcos Rodriguez (previously of Soundchaser) on guitar and Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos (formerly a drum technician) on drums – put out an EP titled, My Way, which I dutifully listened to. My first impression was how much harder it sounded compared to the live show. Although as I mentioned in the review (HERE), the Refuge live show was missing much of the production of the recorded tracks. And half of the EP was from their power metal breakthrough, 1995’s Black in Mind. Now, on July 7th, a full album is being released. With only the title track from the EP included, The Devil Strikes Again gives Rage fans plenty of new material to listen to.
Even though the band formed in the mid-eighties, and is considered part of the German power metal scene, Rage’s sound is decidedly more modern. I was beginning to think that the classic material was going to be the only songs I would like when the first notes of the title track started up. A blistering intro and screamed vocals made me unsure of my new decision. But on the EP track, “My Way”, and throughout the entire record, there is plenty of music for a hard rock fan like me to enjoy.
Actually, that might be a little of an understatement. At 16 songs, there’s enough variety here to make fans of any era of Rage happy. Thrash returns later on “The Dark Side of the Sun”, although it breaks down into a nice solo. Already an indulgence at 74 minutes long, their inner geek comes out in the proggish ballad “Into the Fire”, complete with time signature changes, acoustic guitars, and long electric guitar solo. The rest is just solid hard rock. My favorites are “My Way”, with its catchy chorus and solid guitars and “The Final Curtain” (which hopefully is not too based in reality). The riff is just one big hook. Could I take out a couple of songs to make it shorter? Sure, but then someone else wouldn’t like the album as much – the advantage of too much choice.
Although Wagner gives off several Hetfield-like grunts, and other influences might appear from time to time, the real surprise here (am I the only one who doesn’t read about an album before listening to it?) was the three final songs – all covers of, presumably, some of their favorite bands. There is now another version of the Skid Row classic “Slave to the Grind” (although really – can you ever hear that song enough times?), “Open Fire” by Y&T, and “Bravado” by Rush, which could be considered the second ballad on the album. Being a huge Rush fan (as my wife will groaningly attest to), I almost fell off my chair when I heard the guitar intro spill out of my headphones. If you asked me which Rush songs a band might cover, this would not have been one of them. But I digress…
Whether this was a combination of old and new tunes cobbled together, or a studied effort by Wagner and his band to stretch themselves in multiple directions, Rage have produced an album for all their fans. Although he may have enjoyed revisiting the Refuge era, clearly Wagner is not done yet!
The Devil Strikes Again
Back on Track
The Final Curtain
Ocean Full of Tears
Deaf, Dumb and Blind
Spirits of the Night PM – best solo
Times of Darkness
The Dark Side of the Sun
Bring Me Down
Into the Fire
Slave to the Grind (Skid Row cover)
Bravado (Rush cover)
Open Fire (Y&T cover)
Rage’s albums, including their latest release The Devil Strikes Back, can be purchased from the Amazon link on the Decibel Geek home page.