Almanac – Rush of Death (Nuclear Blast)Thursday, 5th March 2020
Three albums in now for ex-Rage guitarist Victor Smolski and his act Almanac – an extension of his work during the years with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra. There have been a couple of changes for Rush of Death – Andy B. Franck stepping down to stick with his main Brainstorm workload, so along with a new drummer in Kevin Kott (Masterplan, At Vance), we have a fresh male singer in Patrick Sühl. Rest assured, those who love European-oriented power metal with those classical/orchestration touches along with a bit of the theatrical dramatic interludes will find these ten tracks delightful, entertaining, and dynamic.
The guitar playing from Victor runs the gamut from fluid arpeggio-oriented sweeps and solid power rhythms to interesting, exotic twists and dotted notes – often within the same song as “Satisfied” illustrates. A split album in the sense that the mid-section consists of a sequel to the Suite Lingua Mortis Part 2 found on the 2006 Rage album Speak of the Devil while the beginning and ending songs are the ‘racing’ material, expect topics like Ancient Rome’s fabled fighters during the orchestral-oriented tracks for the former while songs like “Predator” and “Like a Machine” have a modern, race car driver lyrical stance. The multiple narrative/vocal angles give the record added character and impending, edge of the seat aural anticipation – the shorter “Let the Show Begin” and “The Human Essence” small breather moments for the heavier crunch/stomp of “Soiled Existence” that features some darker, low screams and growls against Patrick’s emotive delivery and Jeannette Marchewka’s sweeter register that serves choir/counterpart measures as the rhythms churn in mid-tempo splendor.
What pleases me most about Rush of Death is the potent drum and bass tones that appear on the record – the snare and kick sounds especially present more of an organic nature and aren’t digitized to death, giving more of a live nature and pop to the proceedings. Most will find the essence of Rage is still present in Almanac – Victor an integral part of the band during the 2000’s and early 2010’s, it’s just put in a broader, heavier, and possibly slightly more modern context through his songwriting and band member support. Whether you are hearing straight-forward metal to the bone riffs throughout “Bought and Sold” or the epic keyboards, clean ambiance to dramatic, swirling nature for the already mentioned “Satisfied”, it’s evident that Almanac aren’t content to churn out paint by numbers power metal.
As such, a transition album that doesn’t lose any impact even with the lineup changes – enough to warrant investigation and appreciation based on their already solid catalog.