Rage is probably one of the first bands I ever heard in my life. Having a metalhead brother 8 years older than me had its perks when shaping my taste in music, and given the fact that my family always had a knack for the Teutonic style of playing metal, Peavy Wagner and company were always at my side from a young age, alongside other Germanic greats such as Running Wild, Grave Digger, and Blind Guardian. With a lot of highs and very little bumps along the way, Rage is back for their 23rd (!) album ‘Wings of Rage’, the third one with the new power trio formation of Peavy (bass, vocals), Marcos Rodríguez (guitars) and Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos (drums).
Since ‘The Devil Strikes Again’ came out in 2016, the band is looking back at their 90’s golden-era with fondness and borrowed the more riff-centered, heavier approach of the time in detriment of the more melodic, semi-neoclassical style that the Viktor Smolski-era offered, which is actually working out pretty well for their sound. This time around, while there are extremely potent passages and the ode to the 90’s continues (hell, there’s even a new rendition of their main hit “Higher Than the Sky” here), the trio managed to bring back melodies akin to their late 2000’s.
Heavier, angrier tracks like “Let Them Rest in Peace” and “Chasing the Twilight Zone” – two efforts that could easily feature in the ‘End of All Days’ (1996) album – contrast with more modern, melodic songs such as opener “True” and “Tomorrow”, showcasing a multi-faceted band meticulously choosing their instrumental parts to cover most of their fanbase and newcomers alike.
It’s clear that Peavy knows how important is the band’s history and where his most affective roots are, as shown in the title track, both catchy in the chorus and powerful in the riffs and drum lines. “Wings of Rage” has a simple chorus and an energetic dose of the heavy/power metal German groups are recognized for. “A Nameless Grave” follows the same path, providing an interesting critical view, in fact, about the tens of millions that give their lives in wars all over the World.
A thrashier vibe can also be seen in the more aggressive, faster tracks. “Don’t Let Me Down”, for instance, has a distinct guitar scale reminiscing euro-thrash, which then takes a 180 turn in the chorus for a more sorrowful, almost symphonic approach. The sorrow atmosphere continues, in fact, on the following track “Shine a Light”, a semi-ballad that sees Peavy and friend aiming for an emotional side of music instead of Rage’s signature riff-based frantic experience.
As I wrote above, the new (and improved, for that matter) version of classic “Higher Than the Sky”, “HTTS 2.0”, is as explosive as it gets, with Marcos Rodríguez shredding his brains out masterfully and “Lucky” discharging his rage all over the drum kit. One of the best tracks in the album, and curiously enough a remake of one of Rage’s best efforts. “Blame It on the Truth” and “For Those Who Wish to Die” close the album and even if both are decent, they’re just not on par with the rest. This final portion gives the idea of losing steam, and while they have their moments, it’s not enough to end it all with a bang.
Having a 37+ year career is nothing short of impressive, and the fact that Peavy never lost his way and was always surrounded by stellar musicians and songwriters helped shape the way to this experienced and still energetic Rage. All in all, ‘Wings of Rage’ is a good endeavor by one of Germany’s greatest, which should keep bringing them new fans and making old ones come back for more. It is the weakest record featuring this formation, but nevertheless a very fun one. Rage on!