Rage – Strings To A Web
Rage’s return to the studio for their seventeenth studio album (Seriously, not counting compilations here, whew!) resulted in Strings To A Web, proving that they are far from dead. By now easily the equals of their early German metal contemporaries like Helloween and Blind Guardian, Rage has never quite made as profound a mark on the scene. Always notable for consistently pumping out quality heavy metal, I didn’t really expect Strings To A Web to differ greatly from their past couple of efforts. The album is pretty standard fare for the band, but you might get freaked out if anyone else put a skeletal spider with iron jaws on the cover of their new record.
Well there’s the good news, and then the really good news. Yes, Rage can still romp around like they’re in their 20’s and slam you up against the wall with a metal-clad fist, but more than just that, I’m convinced that even better is just how consistently good and fresh their new material is. You won’t mistake tracks like the ripping opener “The Edge Of Darkness”, the malevolent charge of “Hunter And Prey”, and the eerie “Empty Hollow” for anything the band has accomplished in the past. Sure, Smolski’s abundant riffage is just as strong, catchy, and unrelenting as ever, and Wagner’s throaty growl dominates the soundscape, but this is new material that doesn’t feel like a half-hearted rehash.
The only exception being perhaps the tail end of the album. “Hellgirl”, while seeming to be a touching story of a child, is made rather stupid by the combination of its title with the lyrical content (although it does boast some catchy melodies). While “Purified” is a respectable track, and the acoustic “Through Ages” lends a mellow touch, the closer “Tomorrow Never Comes” seems a bit unnecessary given the strength prior to it, and the album almost threatens to fizzle out at the end. I do, by a reasonable measure, prefer the first portion of the album, since the initial launch straight through the end of the five part “Empty Hollow” suite is good to excellent all the way through. Admittedly I thought that the reprise of the aforementioned was pointless until I actually listened to it as a cohesive whole, but I learned!
So what sets Strings To A Web apart? Well, not a whole lot I suppose; it’s a veteran band doing what they’ve been doing for so long, without adding anything that might disappoint to the mix. There’s the signature dose of symphonic elements to refresh the sound, and more than a few touches of prog. However, well-crafted heavy metal, masterfully executed, is the order of the day for Rage, now and forever. Falling asleep to this work, I repeatedly find myself grateful that, unlike so many other acts, Rage has simply made pleasing themselves and their fans their number one priority.
Dan’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5