Rage – Speak Of The Dead
Speak Of The Dead has a tendency to make the most recent Rage albums look somewhat dull in comparison, with its “Suite Lingua Mortis” dominating the first half of the record. Why the band hasn’t delved as deeply into symphonic works since this point is a mystery to me, but this album is split evenly in two, and is almost difficult to review as a whole. Tallying up to an impressive 16 tracks (Rage has never been a band to disappoint with an album too brief), This means two completely separate musical journeys, and so I will treat it as such.
The “Suite Lingua Mortis” almost features two introductory tracks. The first, “Morituri Te Salutant”, is more or less a brief fanfare which sounds excellent, but doesn’t in any way indicate the gravity of the offering to come. In this way, “Prelude Of Souls” is really a much better lead-in to the dark atmosphere of the suite as a whole. The sound and atmosphere of Smolski’s guitar work and the keyboards are surprisingly prog-tinged, and I’m reminded occasionally of works like Dream Theater’s symphonic efforts when listening to this track. “Innocent” introduces the characters, both the young girl and the nameless man who hijacks her dreams. After the brief melancholy interlude, “No Regrets” bursts onto the scene with a slow, heavy stomp, supported by electronic elements and symphonic melodies that will remind Rage fans of the later “Empty Hollow” suite. Peavy’s delivery in this song is powerful and impeccable, the best example being the threatening “You always thought your first man would marry you. Now, as it seems, he just comes to bury you!” Just when all is dark and hopeless, Smolski delivers a beautiful guitar solo, followed by some prog and even jazz-tinged instrumental madness in “Confusion”. “Black” simply exists to provide space, and “Beauty” provides a serene ending to the best symphonic composition that the band has put together to date.
The second half of Speak Of The Dead, on the other hand, is a pretty standard Rage-styled tide of melodic heavy metal, which is a recipe for whiplash in and of itself. Opinions seems to be spread as to the general effectiveness of the second half of this album, but I find it to be quite strong. “No Fear” and “Kill Your Gods” provide heaviness and aggression, while “Turn My World Around” and the title track itself offer some good old-fashioned rocking. The strongest tracks, however, are “Full Moon” (with its gentle introduction, face-ripping verses, and incredible vocal work), “Sole Survivor” (That chorus!), and “Be With Me Or Be Gone” (featuring a great jammy intro and sharp, crisp verses). Overall, the concentration of symphonic excellence and relentless energy makes this my favorite Rage record of the mid/late 2000’s. The songwriting is a bit more solid and consistent, the riffs more plentiful, and the melodies more abundant and well-conceived than those found on Carved In Stone and Strings To A Web.
I won’t conjecture as to how the band changed with Mike Terrana’s departure after this album, but I sure miss the glory days with him behind the drum kit. Regardless, with Speak Of The Dead, Rage has properly evolved into a band that not only handles its core sound well, but can excel with new sounds. It’s definitely got a dual personality, but it’s also one of the several high points in the band’s career. Highly recommended for nearly any fan of melodic metal, or if you’ve liked anything that Rage has ever done.
Dan’s Rating: 4.25 out of 5