Rage – Carved In Stone
After Mike Terrana’s departure from the band in 2006, Rage picked up drummer Andre Hilgers for their 2008 release Carved In Stone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this led the band back towards a slightly more simple, straightforward release. Carved In Stone is probably the band’s least ambitious and symphonic release within recent memory, with a tendency towards more tried and true formats and sounds. Of course, since Rage’s “standard” heavy metal formula has long been a winning one, this could only result in another solid, if unremarkable, release.
It would be just like Rage to attempt to prove me wrong with their opening song, and the title track delivers in every way: a dramatic symphonic introduction, rock solid riffing, and a supremely memorable chorus. It pains me to say that this is easily the strongest track on the album, and my favorite by a fair margin. “Drop Dead!” sounds decidedly like Victor Smolski was just having fun screwing around with riffing one day when Peavy said “Hey that’s great, let’s make a song out of it about how I’m feeling today!” This is where the album becomes a little more banal (though I guess the lyricism of the title track might also qualify), with an unremarkable verse and a rather dumb chorus. While this is an occasional trait that Rage often exhibits sooner or later in their albums, it happens much earlier than I’d like on Carved In Stone.
While it’s not a downward spiral, most of the rest of the album is so-so to moderately good. “Open My Grave” is refreshingly not about politics or religion, and has a great mixture of aggression and mellow interludes, but “One Step Ahead” somewhat ruins its purposeful stomp with some of the uninspired “Open your mind, man!” anti-religious lyrics that occasionally plague the band. Smolski has taken a more casual approach here, but while he’s tearing down fewer walls than usual, the same solid framework of guitar work is as present as always.
Being the first Rage album featuring Andre Hilgers on drums, the change in percussive force and drumming style is somewhat noticeable, but not overly so. This is due in part to the more conventional layout and styling of Carved In Stone, particularly in contrast to its predecessor Speak Of The Dead. Peavey’s growling clean vocals on the other hand, have never been better, and that’s really the showcase here. Even on the softer, macabre “Lord Of The Flies” (a very good song), his performance is striking and memorable. “Lord Of The Flies” finally comes full circle
Concisely, I consider Carved In Stone to be the band’s weakest (and I use the word VERY subjectively) effort amongst their more recent releases. For some who prefer the band’s less experimental and symphonic side however, this might actually be preferable. Aside from some of the band’s inexpert attempts to narrate religious and political struggles, this is a sturdy album, and recommended easily to every fan of the band. However, I would not give it to someone looking to get into the band for the first time.
Dan’s Rating: 3.25 out of 5