Mob Rules – Savage Land
Whenever I’m in a bar and I request the DJ to play some Mob Rules, I get Black Sabbath. And while “The Mob Rules” is a cracking song, it’s not what I meant. Surely, Mob Rules have always been somewhat of an underdog within the German metal scene: well-respected, but hardly broken through. I had the good fortune to see them live in Belgium once, and only at a gig organized by fellow fans. In the following rewind I will attempt to explain why it’s to every power metal fan’s eternal detriment to ignore this band any longer.
Mob Rules hails from a late nineties movement of second-generation German power metal bands (including the likes of Edguy, Iron Savior and Brainstorm), following in the footsteps of genre pioneers Helloween, Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian. The debut Savage Land displays all the traits of the sound: up tempo riffs, lush melodies, and an upbeat atmosphere, with a pinch of Iron Maiden for flavor. Yet if there is anything that sets Mob Rules apart, it’s their taste for the dramatic. Their songs are infused with a real sense of affinity for their subject material, without overdoing it in bombast or melancholy. A lot of credit for that goes to vocalist Klaus Dirks, who has a perfect emotional pitch, only improved over the years.
Savage Land is a concept album about the fall of mankind, inspired by such films as Mad Max and Waterworld (but don’t let the latter stop you from listening). A group of people leave the ruined city of Insurgeria, and seek their fortunes under the auspices of the Ruler of the Wasteland, depicted in the cover art by Belgian artist Eric Philippe. “Insurgeria” kicks off the events and already showcases the grandiosity with witch Mob Rules paints its stories. It takes very little effort to transport yourself into the tale of the city’s survivors, and even if it does, you’ll have an easy time singing along to the catchy chorus anyway. Next up is the classic tune “Rain Song”, which is so infectious they made it into another version called “New World Symphony” on Among The Gods. Stick this refrain on repeat for an hour, and you may not even notice it’s playing over and over. It’s that engrossing.
Always good at switching up the faster more straightforward cuts with slower more brooding material, Mob Rules then diversifies with “Hold Back The Light”, a resting point before the punchy “Secret Signs”. The title track is a trilogy perfectly summing up this trend: “Strangers In Time” is the pulsating first part, the instrumental “Pianista” takes it down, and “No Reason Why” is the contemplative apotheosis. This formula continues throughout the album, with rockers “Blaze Of First Warning” and “Pray For Sunlight” trading with the slower “Down In Nowhere Land” and moving mini-epic “End Of All Days”.
Savage Land is nothing if not ambitious, and it may be slightly overlong or overreaching. I think of the album as a journey from the “Prologue” to “End Of All Days”, and one worth undertaking again and again. Each time it will reveal more of itself, until you realize just how well it’s tied together. Over the years the band would come to develop itself further and further, but the seeds are sown here, and it is a joy from beginning to end.
Arno’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5