Once again hitting the reset button, Peavey Wagner has decided to give his longtime speed metal outfit Rage a makeover. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Rage have been a staple in the metal community starting as a straightforward speed metal band before incorporating classical arrangements into their music (long before a more popular band decided to do the same).
Parting ways with long time guitarist and composer Victor Smolski, it came as a shock as their partnership lasted for sixteen years. Bringing two unknown musicians to round out their lineup, Rage have returned after a four year break with their 22nd album, The Devil Strikes Again.
The last few releases with Smolski found Rage going through the motions as each album was similar in nature. The Devil Strikes Again is a change in direction and finds them embracing their more direct metal oriented sound again. It’s more comparable in style to their heavier, riff oriented classics like Black In Mind and End Of All Days than the energetic frantic sound of their earliest material.
Wagner’s greatest strength as a songwriter is the absolutely larger than life melodies he is able to compose. Each track features a remarkable chorus that will saturate in your brain and never leave. Wagner sounds much more inspired here, as he has found his inner fire again.
The title track and album closer “The Dark Side Of The Sun” have some of the heaviest riffs and intense drumming the band has composed. In particular, the latter is reminiscent of modern day Testament in the riffing, before exploding into a soaring vocal that finds Wagner at the top of his game.
“Back On Track,” “The Final Curtain” and “Deaf, Dumb And Blind” are excellent examples of the new collaboration firing on all cylinders. Larger than life vocals accompany classic metal riffing, as Rage haven’t sounded this motivated in years.
Wagner has never been the best lyricist and that still hasn’t changed. Sometimes his lyrics are awkward and not polished, but that doesn’t take away from the layered melodies he has mastered.
With only ten tracks, the album is tight with zero filler. There are also two different special editions, a two disc version that features six unreleased tracks and a 3 disc set which also includes a live show recorded in 2015. The Devil Strikes Again is simply Rage’s best release of the 21st century. Welcome back from the other side!
(released July 8, 2016 on Metalville/Nuclear Blast Records)
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Watch Rage – “The Devil Strikes Again’ Video