Rage – Ghosts
Right, I’ll jump right into this one. Going backwards through Rage’s discography has been a silly (if highly interesting and entertaining) exercise to get to know the band. Getting surprises in reverse is something of a novel experience, and that’s precisely what happened to me with Ghosts. Now, I’d heard a few songs off of this work before, but listening to it from front to back a few times really reinforced just how unique a record this is. Being the second of a pair of albums (preceded by XIII) that saw Rage take a heavy keyboard/orchestral spin, and the last before the total lineup overall, Ghosts is, once listened to, clearly a rather distinct point for Peavy and his crew.
“Ok, you’ve said this about a number of Rage albums now Dan.” Yeah, I know, but it’s true! Compare the sound on Ghosts to modern efforts that attempt to be more symphonic (such as portions of Speak Of The Dead and Strings To A Web), and there is a stark contrast. Rage is so mellow here that, with the exception of Peavy’s instantly identifiable vocal timbre, you probably wouldn’t guess that it’s the same band. Take songs like the mellow title track or the sweeping, melodic “Back In Time”, and you’ll witness what I’m talking about.
There’s still a sprinkling of Rage’s trademark aggression, make no mistake, but on the whole, this is a rather smoothed-out and otherworldly experience. The tinkly yet foreboding keyboard work on songs like “Fear”, combined with some fortissimo bass chord hits means that the piano holds more sway over the overall feel and attitude of Ghosts than arguably any other album the band has produced (I say this because much of the neo-classical and symphonic influence of later albums is provided by guitarist Victor Smolski, and so its composition is often quite different). This makes Ghosts a particularly remarkable and bright thread in the tapestry that Rage has been weaving since its inception. There are even a couple of songs here that I could describe as downright bouncy (especially the chorus of “Love And Fear Unite”).
I think this album is unique mostly because I think that many melodic Euro-metal fans would find it quite accessible (or at least, more so than Rage’s standard fare), Ghosts might trip up some of the band’s more straightforward fanbase because of its comparative lack of aggression. However, it’s just as memorable, if not moreso, than most of what Peavy churns out. Personally, I enjoy it as a break from a lot of the band’s other work, but I don’t know that it’ll ever be a regular player for the simple fact that I miss the frenetic energy that crops up more often in the rest of the band’s repertoire. By no means is this weak or insubstantial though, and I admit a certain bias by having accessed the band when I did. In any case, it is at the very least an essential for the Rage fan, and a very solid piece of surprisingly well-crafted melodic Euro-metal (I can’t in good faith call it symphonic power metal, because it tends to cling rather tightly to most of the band’s regular structural norms. As a complete album though, it’s as close as Rage ever comes to that descriptor).
Dan’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5