Rage - Speak of the dead 3/5

Reviewed: 4-28-06


1. Morituri te salutant
2. Prelude of souls
3. Innocent
4. Depression
5. No regrets
6. Confusion
7. Black
8. Beauty
9. No fear
10. Soul survivor
11. Full moon
12. Kill your gods
13. Turn my world around
14. Be with me or be gone
15. Speak of the dead
16. La luna deine (bonus track)

The new Rage CD is a disappointment. That's not to say it's a bad CD, but Rage is one of the greatest bands around, and I have sky high expectations for all of their CDs. The general consensus of opinion on this CD is that it is divided into 2 sections, and that you'll generally prefer one section to the other. The first section is the "Suite lingua mortis" which makes up the first 8 tracks and harkens back to the classically inclined CDs 'XIII' and 'Ghosts'. Here the music is entirely by guitar wizard Victor Smolski and he definitely adds his own personality and style to the "Rage does classical" music. The next section of the CD is 8 "normal" Rage songs. I fall into the camp that prefers the "Suite" portion of the CD. Not due to having a general preference to Rage's classical style, but more due to the fact that I find the 2nd section's songs to be fairly bland.

The "suite" opens up with a couple of instrumental interludes. The first is pretty interesting since it is made up entirely of the brass section of the orchestra. Brass isn't generally heard too much in metal so this brief intro is very fresh sounding. It immediately segues into "Prelude of souls" which is a progressiveish mix of classical and metal. It's generally catchy and doesn't hang around long enough to wear out its welcome. Finally, this leads into "Innocent", the first "proper" song on the CD. It's also my favorite song on the CD as it has the most compelling, catchy melodies on the whole CD. Fans will notice the stark similarity between the main riff on this song to the riff from Metallica's "Master of puppets". Next is "Depression", a brief classical interlude that quietly builds to a big climax which instantly shifts to "No regrets". This song begins with some fake drums and some wacko dissonant guitar riff. It actually sounds quite cool. The main (normal) riff kicks in and we have the section of the "suite" most reminiscent of the previous Rage CDs with the orchestra. This is a bit heavier and riffier at its slower tempo, but is another winner with a memorable chorus. Next we have a couple of short instrumental interludes. Normally, I would oppose all of these instrumentals with no proper songs, but they work pretty well in this "suite" by being quite brief. Finally, the first section of the CD ends with "Beauty". Unfortunately, "Beauty" is a fairly bland ballad that ends the whole epic with a wimper instead of a bang.

With "No fear" we start the "normal" section of the CD. "No fear" exemplifies most of the 2nd half of the CD. It's not a bad song, but it just feels ordinary and is mostly lacking in the hooks and melodies that make Rage what it is. The songs here are heavier and generally peppy in tempo, and wouldn't really sound out of place on any of the mid 90s Rage CDs to the present. But, they would generally be the weakest tracks on any of those CDs. I will say that I have warmed to this 2nd half of the CD with repeated listens. One standout from this bunch is "Full moon". This song features much more compelling melodies (primarily in the chorus) and is the best song from this half of the CD. The CD closes with "La luna deine" which is a Spanish version of "Full moon".

Rage's history is generally defined by periods defined by its line-up. The mainstay of the band is bassist/singer/primary songwriter (and metal god) Peavy Wagner. But, all of the other roles have seen members come and go. We have been in the "Smolski" era of Rage for a while now, and I am beginning to think it may be time for another transition. It seems that with Peavy dividing the songwriting duties between himself and Smolski that the last couple of CDs haven't been as outstanding as Rage fans have become used to. 'Unity' was the apex of this era, but 'Soundchaser' and now 'Speak of the dead' just don't measure up. Smolski is a technically gifted guitarist with a lot of classical training. This sounds good on paper, but I generally don't remember any of his solos once they're over, while I can hum a bunch of solos that former guitarist Manni Schmidt left on past CDs. Peavy is responsible for some of the mediocre songs on the last few CDs too, so I don't want to pin all the blame on Smolski, but I think some fresh blood could liven things up again. In the meantime, Rage fans should probably buy and enjoy this CD, but they won't be blown away. If you're new to the band then check out their best stuff from the mid-90s 'Trapped' or 'The missing link' which are absolute classic power metal CDs.




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