The longer a band creates music; there is a higher probability of the release being a bad album. Many bands, after performing music for decades, eventually began to falter with the release of a poor album; such as from Iron Maiden
(No Prayer For the Dying
(Pink Bubble Goes Ape
), and Iced Earth
). With hundreds of other examples of these flaws (and occasional collapses) in music, it is no wonder that Rage’s
twenty-first album, creatively titled 21
, has a lot to hold up to. After creating almost two dozen albums, and following the fantastic Strings to a Web
, it is a surprise that they strike gold once again. With a modernized sound from their The Missing Link
era, the trio of Wagner, Smolski, and Hilgers succeed in spades.
The first thing most fans would notice from 21
is the heavier and more progressive sound compared to some other Power Metal bands. Like a shark hunting through the sea, the sound is an unrelenting force of screaming, chaotic heaviness. Each of the ten songs brings something new to the table, while still bringing heavy environments on a song-by-song basis. Multiple songs have harsher vocals from Peter Wagner to bring back the band’s earlier heaviness, and the instrumentals are top-notch and perfectly fit this sound. Only the ballad, “Eternally,” is a moment of relaxation amongst the brutality of 21
, offering relaxation as the album fades out entirely. Lastly, the majority of these songs on 21
are around the five and six minute lengths, allowing for more creativity and unique passages per song. All songs branch out by adding more and more to separate from the bunch, and make a remarkable mix of a heavier sound with the creativity that I would expect from very few other Power Metal bands.
As a whole, very few of the songs from this are comparable to the melodic predecessor, Strings to a Web
, and overall is a bit more consistent. The previous release is closer to something Gamma Ray
would release, and felt closer to the realms of normal Power Metal instead of the incredible speed and chaos usually present on Rage’s
material. The material feels much stronger in comparison, and can easily be described as the modern-day successor to their classic The Missing Link
. Peter Wagner’s vocals have only become more powerful and varied with age; still able to sing the melodic choruses of “Forever Dead” while using an even harsher style of singing in some cases. Songs like “Serial Killer” have an enhanced mood of heaviness and darkness thanks to Wagner’s rough singing, and makes both of these songs mandatory listens for differing reasons. Victor Smolski conceives powerful and crushing riffs from his guitar, carrying songs like the title song well, while Andre Hilgers’s own playing on the very same song also represents his skill on the album as well as the drum set.
does have a few flaws, despite the extraordinary highs of the album. Two songs near the album’s middle, “Destiny” and “Death Romantic,” feel boring and unnecessary compared to the songs surrounding them. They feel like generic Power Metal songs played with a slightly heavier tone, and lag in comparison to the rest of the album. Along with these flaws, the album also lacks a remarkable song in the same vein as “Lost in the Ice” or “Empty Hollow;” a minor fault from this release in comparison to those two earlier standouts.
With these in mind, 21
is overall a magnificent release by these German virtuosos. Song after song is played impressively, and their heavier style brings back the sound of their classics from the 80s and 90s. Individual performances shine brightly through the album, and outshine the imperfections of a few filler tracks and a lack of another Power Metal classic. Though Rage
may have released twenty one albums, this album shows that they have plenty of life and rage to energize many more; and are thankfully one of the few consistent and awesome Power Metal bands to this day.