Review Summary: Another slice of gloomy speed/thrash metal from an underrated band that would later evolve into something different. Rage at their thrashiest and darkest.
In the realm of underrated bands, Rage has definitely got a pretty shiny seat. Although, that seat is rarely occupied. The band's mastermind and only stable member, Peter "Peavy" Wagner, is unarguably a busy musician, always out touring or writing new music. Counting only Rage's full lengths, keeping Avenger and Lingua Mortis Orchestra out of count, we can already hold a highly impressive amount of 18 albums! Not only that, but Peavy really cannot be defined as a stale composer. Quickly coming to mind is the band's Lingua Mortis
, the first metal record to be written and recorded together with a full symphonic orchestra in 1996, namely with Prague Symphony Orchestra. The band's roots, anyway, are located in the teutonic speed/thrash metal scene of the mid 80s.
It is a pleasure to see how such an important band for power and symphonic metal started so strongly. After the solid Prayers of Steel
as Avenger, the first release under the Rage name takes all of its merits a step further. Always forgotten when listing speed metal from the 80s, Reign of Fear
is a balanced compromise between rawness and polish, for it both contains warm, catchy vocal lines and raw, galloping rides of thrashy goodness. Furthermore, the songwriting gets occasionally shaken up and a (very) little hint of the band's later progressive elements crawls in. Besides, the nine minutes long closer "Scaffold" is the first ambitious track recorded by the band, which starts with an acoustic intro and is then cradled by the intentionally repetitive guitar work, only to fade out in an atmospheric ending to close the album with gong sounds.
Having said that, the moments where the album really hits the spot are arguably the catchier ones. In that regard, the mid tempo rocker "Raw Energy" is definitely one of the highlights of Reign of Fear
, being a linear but addicting song that implements Peavy's vocals in a different way. However the true forgotten gem, a classic Rage track for sure, comes just after under the name of "Echoes of Evil". It is fast, malignant in its guitar work, and features a pounding rhythm section. Yet it is not only one of the album's heavier tracks but also one of the catchiest. Peavy is on fire here, both through his energetic bass guitar playing and especially in his vocal delivery. His impressive Halford-esque highs are the muscles of a chorus that calling 'addicting' seems reductive. In general, his driving vocals are an important part of the album's engine, another example being "Suicide".
Nothing bad needs to be said about the band's line-up in general, since the members all contribute to a vigorous sounding album even though no guitar virtuoso has joined the band yet. Peavy's bass is complemented with an entertaining drumming full of quick and simple fills, while the axemen press the accelerator on most of the riffs, without forgetting a melodic break here and there ("Deceiver"). Especially once joined with the lyrics, Reign of Fear
is a gloomy speed/thrash metal album, important because it shows Rage's awareness of the German metal scene, with them trying to differentiate themselves from the likes of Sodom and Destruction. In that regard, the opener "Scared to Death" is still one of Peavy's angrier vocal deliveries.
Fans of the symphonic or simply more modern sound of the band should not fear, because Rage was as accessible as it is nowadays. Actually, it is more likely for older fans to not fully enjoy the contemporary releases. What is served here is something that got transformed today, this type of cheese has undoubtedly another flavour, but it is still worth checking out for anyone who enjoys his daily dose of 80s metal.