RAGE Speak Of the Dead Nuclear Blast (2006)
It makes me happy to know that, pretty soon a new Rage album is going to be released, but most importantly I feel really proud knowing that what I'm now holding in my hands is the promo of the band's 17th full-length effort to date. When I made the conscious decision to spend my very limited school allowance on the album "Perfect Man" (1988), instead of buying a tasty sandwich and a bottle of orange juice, I never realised that at the age of thirty one I would still be able to enjoy the friendly companionship of Mr.Wagner's trio.
Well, there are many changes which have taken place in this band throughout the years, both in terms of line up and musical direction, one thing has always remained the same: the need to create challenging, good quality music. Knowing that Victor Smolski (guitars) and Mike Terrana (drums) would complete the band's line up for the third time, but, most importantly, that Rage have acquired the services of the Minsk Symphonic Orchestra for the recordings of "Speak Of The Dead", I started hoping for an album that would follow in the footsteps of the amazing "XIII".
Well, the album kicks off with a very short but impressive classical intro, which is soon followed by another instrumental composition called "Prelude Of Souls". Has my hearing been playing tricks on me, or have Rage gone totally progressive? Indeed, for the next two and a half minutes, Peavey and Co sound like a metal version of Yes - very impressive, yet not quite what I was expecting of them. My wishes came true when the Metallica-sounding (see "Master Of Puppets") guitar riff of "Innocent" filled the room. This is a real treat for every Rage fan - a well balanced composition that proves how well classical music and Heavy Metal mix together. The refrain is amazingly catchy, and Victor Smolski's performance is breathtaking.
After another short classical theme based on string instruments comes "No Regrets", which is a dark-sounding, Savatage-influenced composition. Some really weird guitar effects add to the character of the song, and so does the backing vocal performance from members of the Minsk orchestra in the refrain, where a well trained ear will be able to detect their unusual accent.
So far, everything looked really promising, yet, after a short drum and guitar solo display in "Confusion", which doesn't seem to serve any specific purpose, and another moody classical instrumental composition, the orchestra's participation will sadly end after the ethnic sounding theme of "Beauty". So, what is the other half of this album all about? Well, now you'll get the chance to listen to material similar to the style of "Unity" and "Soundchaser".
Fast guitar riffs, intense drumming and clearly defined melodies is the name of the game, and even though "No Fear" didn't manage to impress me that much, the following three compositions sent me directly to 7th heaven! Just listen to the seeping power of "Soul Survivor's" opening riff, the groovy theme of "Full Moon", or the meaty guitar parts of "Kill Your Gods", which is by far the heaviest composition of the album. Without causing any huge stir, the remaining three compositions will satisfy most of the band's fans and signal the end of this release.
If there is one song title from this album which explains exactly how I feel about "Speak Of The Dead", that's definitely "Confusion". There are some amazing compositions in both the symphonic and the metal parts of the album, which are going to be worshiped by many metalheads, but overall the album seems to be lacking coherence. In the year of our lord 2006, I still feel that "The Missing Link" and "XIII" are the best albums ever recorded by Rage - yet an album such as "Speak Of The Dead" is not so distant in quality and effect.
Review by John Stefanis