This is Rage's fifth album, and the third that I have reviewed (I do own their second, which will be reviewed in due course). It is clean, polished, and so very metal. The cover is, well a bit drab, and fairly bleak - a skull lying on concrete, casting a black shadow beneath it. Maybe it's supposed to be a mirror, not concrete. Hmmm. I remember reading once that Peavey Wagner, the vocalist, collected skulls. Alledgely it's legal to keep human skulls in Germany. The things that stick with you. Maybe this is one of his collection. Maybe it's called Yorick. His skull collecting is confirmed by this article here which also contains a nifty description of this cover that I am resisting plagerising and a review of this album.
I'm rambling. Sorry. Shall we give it a spin? Yes, lets.
"Introduction (A Bit More of Green)" is a nicely classically inspired instrumental. It does have a vaguely organic feel to it - like a sprouting shoot rising from a concrete wilderness.
"That's Human Bondage" has slamming rhythms but a relatively sedate pace. It's not about actual bondage, but about being trapped by society. Still, it's quite a fun song to scream along with when you're listening on headphones. Catchy chorus, vocals a bit indistinct in the verses.
The "True Face in Everyone" is another slower, heavy piece with nicely sung choruses. Otherwise kind of dull.
The heartbroken, tortured emotionally "Flowers that Fade in my Hand" is one of the stand out tracks on this album. Peavey's voice seems broken with his anguish and his desperation. And the music is heavy and emotionally fueled. His falsetto shrieks are a little too high pitched, alas, making him sound a little like a cartoon character*. But he can actually hold his notes quite well.This is the compulsory song about death:
"And I know my death holds no scares. There is no mysterium for someone who dares to die..."Is "mysterium" actually a word? Yes! It means "overwhelming mystery". Wooh, new word to my vocabulary, taught by someone who doesn't even speak English as a first language (ha, Helloween taught me "darkling").
We pick up the pace again with "Reflections of a Shadow" with its thrashing beats, and rousing chorus. Nice keyboard/organ solo towards the end.
Crazy keyboards and distorted show-tunes type music "Can't Get Out". It's like someone is trapped within a record. Then the drums crash in and the beat begins. The vocals are fast, lower, Peavey is quite close to tripping over his tongue, or possibly falling into funk metal. It's nicely erratic and discordant, portaying a feel of confusion and desperation. I like it. It's different and interesting. The fade out is slow and eerie, and we get to hear Peavey speak - sounding not unlike Dan Swano in his Nightingale album, where he too sucuumbs to insanity.
Ah, now for one of my favourites - "Waiting for the Moon" starts with energy and passion, the vocals turning into snarling melody, twisting into a scream and then soaring into the chorus. This is a nicely catchy, faster paced number with good melodies and a refreshing sense of semi-positivity.
Now, we should have a little "Faith" in Rage. Starts with a scream, and then falls into Peavey's lower range, bitter and broken, pleading. The chorus is torn, pained. Strangely beautiful in its hopelessness. Also their most anthemic song - on this album at least, and contains one of my favourite lyrical quotes:
"We are branches on the tree of life, we can only get together by touching with our leaves. But we've got the same roots close in ourselves, so let's grow up to the sky."A faster, victorious track, it's time to leave it all behind and "Saddle the Wind".
Another death song. We have "Dust" with its haunting and beautiful verses tainted somewhat by the squealing falsetto on the choruses. Peavey should stick to baritone and low tenor. It does create a mood of passionate desperation, however. Like he is screaming out his grief to the world. A fairly competent and invovled guitar solo.
Another raucous piece, "Nobody Knows" returns to the catchy speed rhythms of the past. Screaming, singing, shouting, Peavey seems completely capable of switching between the three within a few bars.
"Wild Seed" has a good narrative - a story about a young man gone wrong from the start. Fast, aggressive, with a nice warble in the chorus.
I'm not sure why, but I always think of Rage as being the aural equivalent of author Dean Koontz. Like Rage, Koontz is prolificate, releasing at least one book a year. Also, like Rage, he has his specific style which is appealing and with enough quirks to keep you reading his books. However, his books tend to blur into one and some are downright terrible, others just plain bland, and every so often you get the one that is pure gold. For Koontz it is "Watchers" and for Rage it is... not this album. Like Koontz, their earlier stuff is better, with more originality and passion, than the later stuff where it starts to feel like they are just in it for the money and because they are good at what they do.
This is not a bad album. It has some really good tracks, particularly the slower pieces. The album as a whole has cut down the pace rather since the earlier albums. It's not speed metal anymore, but not quite power metal either. It is, like a Dean Koontz novel, worth following through to its conclusion.
Rating = 7/10
* Ever since I read that "Skulls" review I can't stop thinking "Mickey Mouse"!