German metal institution Rage is back with the twenty-second album in their long and illustrious career. With a new line-up, a new producer and an injection of new energy and motivation, The Devil Strikes Again might just be the best Rage album in a long time.
2015 finally saw the band break with Victor Smolski, who’s ever increasing, neo-classical influence on the German power metal band had become ever more suffocating for bandleader Peavy Wagner. Wagner, meanwhile, had reconnected with past members Manni Schmidt and Christos Efthimiadis to play a few shows under the banner Refuge (starting out with a surprise appearance under the pseudonym Tres Hombres). Finding himself finally having fun again, Peavy fired Victor Smolski and André Hilgers in an attempt to bring back the earlier, faster and heavier version of Rage. Now, with Marcos Rodriguez on guitars and Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos on drum duties, the new record The Devil Strikes Again sounds like a proper comeback, harking back to the days of Black in Mind and The Missing Link. Who’d have thought?
Starting strong with the title track, it’s evident that Peavy means business. Rage hasn’t sounded this fired up in years. Gone is the excessive, semi-progressive noodling from the 00’s era, and back are the thrashy guitars, the crunchy riffs and the rolling double bass drums. It’s the return of the Rage I didn’t really knew I had missed. It’s fast, heavy and mean, with the meanness stemming largely from Peavy, who’s voice sounds more gruff with each record. It feels like the start of a proper metal record, and it’s been ages since that last happened with a Rage album.
The rest of The Devil Strikes Again holds up reasonably well after that blistering opening track, even though the quality dips immediately after with both My Way and Back on Track venturing into almost uncomfortably cheesy territories. When the album picks itself up again, however, it quickly turns into a very enjoyable record full of catchy tunes and big, chunky riffs. Times of Darkness is the best ballad these guys have put out in years, and The Dark Side of the Sun, with its middle eastern melodies, and the terrific Ocean Full of Tears prove to be absolute highlights.
The ten songs are short and sweet, and feel like a rapid fire of old-fashioned Rage tracks. Helping immensely is the total length of The Devil Strikes Back. The album clocks in at little over forty-five minutes, which is the perfect length for a record like this. It means Rage never outstays their welcome, even though the bonus disc (or second LP) sports six more tracks for those who still haven’t had enough. Another plus is the production, for which the band has chosen Dan Swanö over Charlie Bauerfeind this time. The result is a record that sounds more raw and in your face than the previous few, which works wonders on the snappier, simpler songs offered here.
In the end, Rage’s twenty-second album marks a return to the heavier, purer metal sound of the past, and shows a clearly reinvigorated band at work. More importantly, it sounds like Peavy is having fun again, writing and performing his own material again. If the band manages to build on this album, they may have years left in them still.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release: Out now
- The Devil Strikes Again
- My Way
- Back on Track
- The Final Curtain
- Ocean Full of Tears
- Deaf, Dumb and Blind
- Spirits of the Night
- Times of Darkness
- The Dark Side of the Sun
- Peter “Peavy” Wagner – vocals, bass
- Marcos Rodriguez – guitar
- Vassilios “Luckyˮ Maniatopoulos – drums
Review by Ralph Plug