Mob Rules – Radical Peace
Reviewed by Arno Callens
I’ve put off on writing this review for a while and I’m not going to pretend it’s out of any other reason than laziness. Nevertheless, one could argue it’s not easy to review an album that is so close to flawless that you have very little else to say about it. Especially when said album has been with you for some time and calls to mind specific memories of a specific time. No? Not falling for it? Well I guess I’m just lazy then.
Anyway, to cap off my Mob Rules rewind it’s time to take a look at Radical Peace. The title is a political pun, marking the band’s maturity both in topics and material. Gone is the typically German power metal, and gone are any traces of science fiction and fantasy. What we get is a progressive metal look at the world today and before, all wrapped up in a deliciously moving and melodic experience.
Never one for many bells and whistles, Mob Rules starts sober with a portrait of the infamous Joseph Mengele, a.k.a. Slayer’s “Angel Of Death”. Unlike the Bay Area thrash version of this story, “Children Of The Flames” is not played for cheap thrills and kicks but rather zooms in on the titular victims of the Nazi doctor. The refrain is a grandiose statement of Mengele’s delusions and is therefore equally ecstatic and horrific. A slow burner that leaves a lasting impression, Mob Rules hasn’t been this on its game right out of the gate since Hollowed Be Thy Name’s title track curtain raiser.
“Trial By Fire” kicks things into gear: a driven verse leading into a pumping chorus, before “Warchild” takes us back into a more ballad-oriented direction. Single “Astral Hand” has more than one hint of Iron Maiden to it, building from a mesmerizing intro to a massive refrain that hasn’t left me since I first heard it. Probably my favorite song of theirs amidst a catalog riddled with candidates.
As they go, the first four songs are suitably epic in a non-showy, minimalistic later-day Iron Maiden fashion. Mob Rules ramps this feeling up to eleven with the album’s centerpiece “The Oswald File (Ethnolution II – A Matter Of Unnecessary Doubt)” (or unnecessary subtitle, am I right?), an eighteen minute chronicle of the Kennedy-assassination and subsequent investigation. Chapter 2, “Desperate Son”, could be interpreted as either a look inside the mind of Lee Harvey Oswald or a search for the actual culprit (provided the historical explanation isn’t sufficient for you or you’ve seen too many Oliver Stone-movies). No unnecessary doubt about Chapter 5, “A Dead Man’s Face”, which recounts the events of November 22nd, 1963 with all the shock and awe that comes with it. The narrative travels back to the beginning with chapter 6, “Did You Reach The Sun”, and closes on the question of whether the assassin (whoever you believe it was) has ever found the peace he hoped to achieve with his deeds. It’s a wallop of a song, shifting emotional gears with ease, and devouring its running time without a blink.
After this, the last two songs may feel a little bit lightweight. “Waiting For The Sun” has the misfortune of being way less impressive than what came before, but “The Glance Of Fame” picks up the pace with another personal story about temporary fame or infamy, the subject of which escapes me at present.
“The Oswald File” renders Radical Peace the pinnacle of Mob Rules’ discography, but it really helps that the rest of the material is on the same qualitative level. Cannibal Nation would see Mob Rules expand on the seeds they’d sown here, just like Radical Peace was the culmination of a band stretching its wings beyond the realms of power metal into the crossover zone of power, progressive, and heavy metal. Mob Rules arrives a mature and incredibly unique band and Radical Peace remains their masterpiece to this day.
4.5 // 5