Rage – The Devil Strikes Again (Metalville Records)Sunday, 26th June 2016
Relegating to Metalville in North American territories after years under the powerful Nuclear Blast umbrella (still on NB for all other major markets), Rage are a story of perseverance – trends be damned. The German unit parted company with longtime guitarist/vocalist Victor Smolski and drummer André Hilgers in 2015, setting the stage for bassist/vocalist Peavy to start a new chapter in the book of this power/speed trio. Enter Vassilios ‘Lucky’ Maniatopoulos on drums and Marcos Rodriguez on guitars (the latter ironically in a Belgian band also called Soundchaser) – for The Devil Strikes Again, the newest studio effort which appears to give the three-piece an energetic, exciting uptick that encompasses a lot of nuances that are Teutonic metal to the tee.
Rage has always straddled the fence between mid-tempo, anthem-oriented power numbers and the slightly faster/speedier terrain which almost positions itself into the realms of thrash. Right out of the gate the title track plus “Back on Track” find themselves in the latter classification (‘Lucky’ pounding out galloping kick drums throughout), while “The Final Curtain” and “Ocean Full of Tears” contain the easy, repetitive chorus parts and heads down riff charge that made Judas Priest and Accept legendary ram it down, balls to the wall maniacs. Spreading out some of the speedier numbers from front to back allows the listener occasional dynamic reprieve, while the musicians aren’t afraid to add in acoustic parts or slower intro atmospheric moments to set up other movements – “My Way” and “Times of Darkness” two standouts in this regard.
Peavy has an acquired Germanic vocal delivery that’s steady as a stopwatch – he keeps on ticking with that throaty bellow that probably works better on a faster guitar-oriented roller coaster like the closer “The Dark Side of the Sun” which recalls a lot of classic Metallica than more melodic fare like the aforementioned “Ocean Full of Tears”. You can’t go wrong with ram’s horns on a skull for a cover – and the production once again shines in thick German finesse and magnificence.
It’s no Perfect Man or Soundchaser to cover both bookends of Rage highlights from their discography, but it’s high quality enough to keep the followers satisfied and triumphant- which matters most in the end.