Album of the Week 36-2012: Rage – Black In Mind

Peter ‘Peavy’ Wagner deserves all the respect he can get for soldiering on with his old fashioned Heavy Metal for almost thirty years now. As singer, bassist and chief songwriter for Rage, he’s been churning out consistently good records, although his best works were released in the mid-nineties with guitarist Sven Fischer and the brothers Chris and Spiros Efthimiadis – drums and guitars respectively – in the form of 1995’s ‘Black In Mind’ and ‘End Of All Days’ a year later. It was on these albums that Rage perfected its Hardrock-edged German Power Metal sound.

‘Black In Mind’ is everything that ranks Rage among the best Heavy Metal bands from Germany. This definitely has more aggression than your average Helloween clone – no disrespect to Helloween itself whatsoever – and the catchy bits don’t sound quite as forced as with many Teutonic Power Metal bands. The guitar riffs prove that the band’s music is actually still rooted in Speed Metal, the songs sound instantly recognizable, yet have enough surprising twists and turns to avoid the predictability of the aforementioned types of bands and Wagner’s raw and powerful vocals are high above his country’s average.

In addition, Rage’s best songs are on the two records mentioned in the first paragraph. ‘End Of All Days’ has the rightful live staple ‘Higher Than The Sky’ and its passionate title track, but Rage’s numer one song is on this album: ‘The Crawling Chaos’! Holy freaking shit, this song is amazing. Besides possessing the greatest chorus Rage has ever recorded – I love powerful vocal harmonies, they always invite me to wail along – the song’s pounding rhythm accounts for obligatory headbanging and despite its simple structure, the song doesn’t let itself be predicted easily. ‘The Crawling Chaos’ is one of those desert island songs for me.

But ‘Black In Mind’ wouldn’t have been an album of the week if there wasn’t more great stuff on here. ‘A Spider’s Web’ for instance, which despite its slightly Prog-ish dynamics is an obvious hint to the band’s earlier Speed Metal days and therefore is quite reminiscent of what the band did on ‘Trapped!’. The epic ‘In A Nameless Time’ has a structure which seems like a precursor to the neoclassical route they would try out several times – with varying levels of success – in later days. ‘Sent By The Devil’ and the driving title track would later become live staples.

The only minus about this album is its length. Personally, I would have made the album about fifteen minutes shorter, also because the second half of the album is slightly less interesting than the first. There are some great songs on the second half though; ‘Forever’ is reminiscent of Maiden, despite it not being too spectacular lyrically, and closing ballad ‘All This Time’ is beautiful.

Lyrically, this album seems to be a bit odd every now and then – check the furthermore awesome ‘Alive But Dead’ to see what I mean – but there’s nothing to be too worried about. There is a Lovecraftian twist to some of the lyrics – hell, ‘The Crawling Chaos’ is a Lovecraft title – and it definitely fits the sound of the music.

Almost everything Rage put out is worth at least a listen, but if you want to kickstart with their greatest work, ‘Black In Mind’ would be an amazing starting point. When you go out to get that one, be sure to get ‘End Of All Days’ as well, as it’s been recorded with the same lineup and is stylistically similar. German Heavy Metal hardly gets any better than this.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Crawling Chaos’, ‘A Spider’s Web’, ‘Shadow Out Of Time’

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