Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast
Throughout a long career in metal, Peavey Wagner and Rage have gone through several evolutionary steps - from the straight ahead attitude of the earlier speed metal releases through a softened, more melodic approach with the Lingua Mortis albums, XIII and GHOSTS, and then back to a more aggressive, but contemporary, form of power metal with UNITY and SOUNDCHASER. In each step, they maintained their focus and edge, offering fans of German metal some truly essential albums. With 2006’s SPEAK OF THE DEAD, however, it seemed like the band was losing a bit of direction and focus. While trying to combine the best elements of the Lingua Mortis albums with the aggression of the offerings that followed them, they produced an album that failed to satisfy, full of odd little segues with only a few songs in the first half and a bunch of tracks that felt like mostly filler in the second half. With 2008’s new presentation, CARVED IN STONE, they have returned to form by delivering a balls out, contemporary metal feast.
The key element to Rage’s success in the last decade or so is their well-produced mix of pummeling guitar riffs, driving, head-banging grooves, and instantly catchy choruses delivered through the signature, gruff vocals of the man behind the band, Peavey Wagner. Every song on CARVED IN STONE serves this blend of elements perfectly. Tracks like “Drop Dead,” “Gentle Murders,” and “Long Hard Road” are the perfect representatives of the album’s overall sound, a sound that harkens strongly back to UNITY and SOUNDCHASER. Out of ten tracks on the album, only two offer anything beyond the straight ahead form described: “Without You” and “Lord of the Flies.” The former is more of a ballad that succeeds nicely as it is situated in the very middle of the album, offering a brief change of pace; the latter is more of an interesting metal offering full of some tempo changes, some background chanting, and some of the most emotive singing on the album. Fans of the song “Dies Irae” on the UNITY album will relate to this song instantly. Followers of the guitar heroics of Victor Smolski will not be disappointed with the album either as his signature brand of insane and unique soloing is constantly on display throughout.
Thankfully, Rage has left behind the tinkering of the last effort, an experiment that largely fell flat due to an aimless approach. This time around it’s all about straight up, catchy, robust metal, making this one of the few must haves of power metal so far this year.