Released: 2012, Nuclear Blast
One of my all time favourite bands is back like clockwork with a new studio album. No major changes, the lineup is the same they are still on Nuclear Blast and the Soundchaser is on the front-cover as is the classic logo. Unfortunately the band chose 21 for the album name, presumably, because it is the 21st album but that’s the problem. It’s not the bands 21st anniversary. It is not the bands 21st studio album and it’s not the bands 21st release. The spoken word intro is about the card game 21 but the album title is awkward and doesn’t work. They had the same issue when the named their 8th album X and named their 10th album, XIII. For the record 21 is the bands 18th studio album of new materiel. X is a compilation, Lingua Mortis is an EP and the Avenger stuff is not Rage.
Numbers aside, earlier last year founder and main-man Peavy said that he was going to separate the Lingua Mortis project (the classical stuff) and Rage, and promised the next album would be heavy and straight-ahead. Well, he wasn’t lying…21 is likely one of Rage heaviest albums in a long, long time. In fact…it’s almost too heavy. I always really enjoyed what Rage did mixing classical and Metal to varying degrees of success. I also enjoyed the speed and intensity of their pre-classical days. Now with both those elements gone the heaviness is brought to the fore. Check out the one-two-three gut-punch of ‘Feel My Pain’, ‘Serial Killer’ and ‘Psycho Terror’… that’s some heavy shit. I’ve never heard Peavy use guttural Death vocals before and while I’m a huge fan of Death and Black Metal as well, I’m not sure it works for Rage. However the key element of Rage’s sound is intact and that it incredibly catchy song-writing. Peavy and long-time song-writing friend Smolski have this uncanny nack for writing vocal melody lines and catchy choruses that stick in your head combined with awesome riffs.
Andre Hilgers puts on a clinic behind the drum-kit with many little flourishes (even a well-timed cowbell!) that add lots of audio dynamics to the already complex drumming. He has found a great balance between speed and complexity. Based on his performance on CARVED IN STONE, I wasn’t convinced that Hilgers was the best choice to replace Terrana. STRINGS TO A WEB was better but he played it a bit safe. Now hearing him cut loose on 21, I’m convinced! This is his best performance in Rage to date in my opinion. Smolski still rips up the fret-board like nobody’s business and Peavy’s rough ’n’ ready, battle-tested vocals are always in fine form but I do admit to missing hear his high range at times. The lyrics he delivers with conviction and intensity are tougher and darker as well and this time with songs about murder, suicide and serial killers.
Rage remains as one of the longest running and most prolific Metal bands of all time. When you own 18 albums by a band how do you find the appropriate adjectives to describe what are essentially minor changes to the winning sound? Sure, 21 is a darker, meaner and heavier album. They promised and delivered and for those fans who aren’t thrilled with the orchestration they can enjoy the emphasis on the core of the Rage sound. Rage have added a little more ‘rage’ to their sound. 21 is another fine album from the esteemed act.