Rage – Afterlifelines (Steamhammer / SPV)

Friday, 29th March 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

In an era where frequent single / EP releases seem to be more of the norm in the music industry, metal artists often still strive to keep the old album format alive. Even more rare though is the double studio record release – although it has happened over the last sixteen years with Nostradamus – Judas Priest, The Living Infinite – Soilwork, and The Book of Souls plus Senjutsu for Iron Maiden to name a few. Celebrating a 40th anniversary as a group, Rage felt that creative burst of energy to deliver Afterlifelines – 21 new songs with the records split between the Afterlife album recorded purely as a trio, and the Lifelines effort which include classical orchestral arrangements with the support of Duisburg’s keyboardist Marco Grasshoff. With plenty of songs to consume, has the band given the listener enough dynamic diversity for deep appreciation – or is it a case of ‘too much filler, not enough killer’ material?

Properly placing three atmospheric tracks to start Afterlife for “In the Beginning” plus end Lifelines with the piano-driven “Interlude” going into this dramatic classically-textured “In the End” – the latter a showcase for Peavy to execute some of his most thoughtful vocal melodies that reach deep into your soul. When looking at the three-piece on the first batch of material, the current lineup feels comfortable mixing things up between that speed/thrash energy line sitting in tandem with the melodic, classic Teutonic power riffs, tempos, and melodies that have been a staple since the inception of the band. Whether it’s the hard charger “End of Illusions”, crunchy modern anthem “Dead Man’s Eyes”, or guitar heroic-oriented “Justice Will Be Mine” – it’s evident that these gentlemen strive to give listeners the best riffs, arrangements, and memorable parts/melodies to latch onto from initial listen to subsequent exposure well down the road. Peavy’s voice continues to have that spitting, venomous nature in forceful, commanding form – using minimal effects to just grab you by the throat and not let go on highlight cuts such as “Shadow World” or “Under a Black Crown”.

The songs of Lifelines may bring about hints of Rage during the XIII or Lingua Mortis record cycles, but there’s just an added depth of cinematic soundscapes that heighten the tension or drama of specific songs – militant throughout “Cold Desire” while serving up as an alluring contrast to the otherwise heavy proceedings on “It’s All Too Much”. When choosing to serve up a reflective ballad in “Dying to Live”, the mix of acoustic/electric layers next to Marco’s piano / orchestration supplemental parts make for an edge of your seat aural odyssey not to be forgotten – while the epic, 10:12 “Lifelines” song itself throws in all the ideal bells or whistles on vocal parts or instrumental / transitional changes to make this another mandatory treat, drummer Vassilios ‘Lucky’ Maniatopoulos going from moderate to double kick slamming groove paces while guitarist Jean Borman delivers all his axe tricks in the arsenal – downpicking triplets, fluid rhythms, bluesy to neoclassical breaks that prove he’s a force at his craft.

Continuing the theme from the previous album Resurrection Day about mankind’s history, this time around Peavy discusses a dystopic scenario, where all systems will fail if mankind doesn’t change – including plastic waste in oceans and extinction of orangutans for a few specific topics of note. Self-produced at their own Lucky Bob Studio, Afterlifelines contains 94 minutes of music that keeps the power/speed meets traditional and thrash angles sharp, while also reminding long-time followers of Rage’s ability to also add those classical/orchestral flourishes to create a highly engaging double recording. Raise your fists high!

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