(CD, Nuclear Blast, 2017)
RAGE has been a very consistent band in terms of high quality music-making and this is really impressive, if you consider that the first LP “Reign Of Fear” was released back in 1986. And if you count the AVENGER days, then a couple of years should be added to the band’s age which happens to be the brainchild of Mr. Peavy. On top of this, RAGE must have been the first to mix orchestral music into this type of Metal, a style that really flourished the moment Victor Smolski entered the fold. However, some years ago, the news that RAGE would have to change the lineup combined with the creation of REFUGE kind of hinted that this could had been the end of the road. Fortunately, Peavey put together a new lineup and after refreshing his songwriting hand “The Devil Strikes Again” broke this semi-hiatus state in 2016. And before letting that album complete its course, RAGE return with “Seasons Of The Black” packed with eleven brand new tracks.
First of all, I am perfectly fine with all the RAGE eras, so I have no problem seeing the band going back to the old(er) days having minimal orchestral parts and being focused on straightforward Metal. I guess it is safe to say that the use of Classical music elements in this band’s music did run its course and maybe it was about time to hit the “reset” button and start fresh. This is totally understandable especially if the result is as good as “Seasons Of The Black” is. Although, I did not spend all the time I wanted with “The Devil Strikes Again” but on the other hand, I have two RAGE albums to digest and enjoy. If you haven’t listened to the previous LP, then the album’s title track will quickly set the stage of where RAGE stand music-wise. There is no long or pompous intro and, in fact, you’ll taste some “The Missing Link” in the sound of the guitars. Although, the guitar vibrato, a couple of phrases and the first part of the solo remind me of the recent SYMPHONY X albums, and this is said on a positive tone. There is also a “Phantom Of The Opera” twist in the rhythm guitars during the last part of the solo but this may be just how I perceive this part. The double bass drum and Peavy’s trademark singing are signs that the fresh fuel that the new lineup put in RAGE’s tank is of high octane. Yeah, “Serpents In Disguise” is even better than the first song delivering those catchy melodies in “End Of All Days” kind of way. You know, the kind that you find yourself singing along after just a couple of album spins. “The Missing Link” or even “Trapped!” will definitely come to mind to the seasoned RAGE fans with “Time Will Tell” even though the backing vocals can be consider as a new addition in the band’s style. And the same goes with the solo part which (again) catchy, melodic and carries the personal more rockin’ style of Marcos Rodríguez.
This more straightforward (as compared to the past) song structures have given Peavy more room for his singing which may be in its best condition, especially in the way he is handling the melodic parts. Just listen to his performance in the one minute clean guitar based “Gaia” and you will immediately get my point. This intro-type song plays the role of lifting the curtain for the suite “The Tragedy Of Man” which has (still) nothing to do with orchestral parts. The happy tone of the music creates an antithesis with the lyrics (talking about someone on death row) and I am really intrigued to read what Peavy has put together in the lyrics. “Bloodshed In Paradise” keeps the catchy profile but is darker than the previous one and since I got lazy here and used previous RAGE album to describe the music I will call “Black In Mind” as my next character witness... The untrained listener will get tricked to say that “Farewell” has some from the Smolski era but after careful listening you’ll discover that this song could easily have been in the “Ghosts” album and this will be the last time using past albums in this review.
I will not say ‘RAGE is back’ because to my mind this band had never left in the first place. As I said, this is a genuine consistent band and it is extremely interesting to see how RAGE has evolved through the years, making a full circle with the last two albums and still sound great. I am so happy that Peavy chose to keep this going and I hope there are some North US touring plans, although I am not walking on clouds, meaning that I am well aware that the US market is not a die-hard fan of this sound...
PS: There is a special edition out there with some really nice AVENGER re-recordings.
01. Season Of The Black
02. Serpents In Disguise
03. Blackened Karma
04. Time Will Tell
05. Septic Bite
06. Walk Among The Dead
07. All We Know Is Not
10. Bloodshed In Paradise
Peter "Peavy" Wagner - Vocals, Bass
Marcos Rodríguez - Guitar
Vassilios "Lucky" Maniatopoulos - Drums