Rage are a band I first came to know properly in 2009 due to the Sweden Rock Festival, only 25 years into their long and interesting career. There is a tendency for a listener who becomes a fan of a band, to favour the material that first got them into the band as well as the members who played in that era. For me, it was therefore very sad when the band split with the incredibly talented guitarist Victor Smolski along with drummer Andre Hilgers.
One of the things founder member Peter “Peavy” Wagner said after the split was that he wanted to go back to the more straightforward speed and power metal of the ’90s. With the new members (Marcos Rodriguez on guitar along with Vassillios “Lucky” Maniatopoulas on guitar) this is definitely the direction of travel. Seasons Of The Black is the second album with the new outfit and is better than the previous The Devil Strikes Again, partly due to the later section of the album which is a 4 song suite, featuring a more classical style with symphonic touches.
Lyrically, it is quite dark and quite topical, touching on terrible politicians and fake religious leaders along with the difficult subject of depression as well as torture, ignorance, and hate. We live in dark times and this album represents that. On the whole, there are plenty of fast riffs and catchy choruses (something they have always been good at) to enjoy and join in with.
Highlights include title track opener “Seasons Of The Black”, with its thrash style beginning and the little guitar flurries in a very strong chorus. The more mid-tempo “Serpents In Disguise” has some politically tinged lyrics, noting how, as humans, we never seem to learn from history. There also seems to be (perhaps somewhat controversially) a dig at the latest American administration or at least foreign policy (although nowhere near the all-out assault of say the latest Roger Waters album) in the lines “haters use religion” and “claim a nation under God”. This leads to an ending of gentle acoustic guitar, underpinned by machine gun drumming in the fade out.
“Time Will Tell” is one of the most commercial tracks they have done, especially the backing vocals in the chorus, yet lyrically quite heavy due to the subject matter of terrorism. The line about the “flag of hate” brought to mind a fellow German band in Kreator. The song wonders if it will finally bring an end to the world. As the title says, only “Time Will Tell”.
The four-track ending is the best part of the album. The linking parts in at least three of them are quite nicely done. From the gentle acoustic guitar and birdsong used at the start in “Gaia” (repeated at the end of “Farewell”) and the reuse of the lyrics in “Gaia” in “Justify” asking “who wants to first to throw the stone” and “we’re all choking on revenge” as the latter condemns the idea of the death penalty, stating in reality it does not really heal anyone in the long run. “Farewell” is one of those fabulous endings, forlorn yet uplifting at the same time. Although not the heaviest of tracks, it has a delightful melody helped along with some subtle orchestration. It is a song of hope and dreams, yet has a feeling of hopelessness. A real classic rock style ending.
There is a limited edition which features songs from the Avenger era, the band as they were before they were called Rage. Several of the tracks from the album released in 1985 are featured, along with one from an EP they also released. The material is heavier and more thrash in style with lyrics about the devil; sort of the faster and more evil little brother of Rage! It also has a NWOBHM sound about it, which is understandable for the era. However, it still holds up rather well in this re-recorded version. If you don’t have the material already then, without doubt, it is certainly worth the extra few pounds or dollars to buy it.