Arguably Germany's best power metal band Rage must have interested metal fans at least during one of their phases. Starting out as a great speed metal outfit, they gradually morphed into a more thrashy power metal band, eventually taking on orchestral arrangements with incredible piano work, before they decided to return to their more straightforward melodic power metal route. If you were a fan of the band's Lingua Mortis, which they recorded with an entire orchestra, but thought the album could have used a bit more guitar work, like they did on the more recent albums Unity and Soundchaser, then their new album will be right up your alley.
Speak of the Dead is basically a culmination of the orchestra-supported stuff and their more guitar-driven, melodically engaging work. The first eight songs on the album were recorded with a real orchestra, the Suite Lingua Mortis, and contain five little instrumental pieces, penned by guitarist Victor Smolski. After a heavily orchestrated intro, we hear a few unique bass lines from Peavy Wagner and a killer drum fill by Mike Terrana whose drumming skills still remain unmatched in the German metal scene (perhaps only rivaled by the amazing Jorg Michael). The piece then takes on an entirely orchestral tone with some brief sweep guitar work by Smolski. "Innocent" is the first real track featuring Peavy's incredible vocals - it's a song with an awesome chorus and both synth and guitar leads, not to mention the ever-present bass arpeggios. Another short instrumental is "Depression", a painstakingly composed piece with gentle strings. "No Regrets" is a more midtempo song, perhaps slightly ballady, and it's also the most theatrical one. Smolski's melodic guitars and church organ lay down the foundation of the track, as the trio sings amazing multi-part vocals at the end. More brief instrumental stuff follows highlighting Terrana's incredible drum rolls and segues into the the semi-acoustic, semi-orchestral "Beauty", featuring a heavy blues guitar and heart-wrenching vocals.
From here on, it feels like a new album picks up. Gone are the orchestra and the 1-minute instrumental cuts. The band takes us by storm with their heaviest song on the album, "No Fear". The song is captured by fierce rhythms, strong vocals, and an energetic drum performance from start to finish before Rage offers us their classic power metal interpretation in the form of "Soul Survivor". Laden with a big chorus that is repeated over and over, this one's quite similar to most other German power metal bands' songs. Its follow-up, "Full Moon", isn't too different, except that it begins with nicely strummed acoustic guitars. There's again a huge chorus, and the melodic guitar soloing by Smolski must be heard.
Though not a huge turn from the others, Rage chose to close the album with relatively more compact and powerful cuts. "Kill Your Gods" and "Turn My World Around" are both perfect song titles, considering their content. Oft-changing rhythms, polyrhythmic drumming, chiming bass, and huge vocals bring to mind the band's stuff on Unity or perhaps Welcome to the Other Side. Don't expect any Black in Mind or End of All Days type of aggressive vocals with thrashy undercurrents, however. While Peavy does let out some really throaty vocals here and there, it's mainly either in the beginning or end of the songs, as he so perfectly does on "No Regrets". Last but not the least, the title track is another awesome piece that will make the crowds go wild when they play it live. The riffs are particularly devastating on this one.
Some will say this album rules, but some will say it's got no identity and they'd rather hear a full orchestra or power metal album. Well, Rage has delivered plenty of those homogenous records in the last decade. Though they've yet to reach the impact of Ghosts and XIII, I consider Speak of the Dead among their best of their last couple of releases.
- Mortituri Te Salutant
- Prelude of Souls
- No Regrets
- No Fear
- Soul Survivor
- Full Moon
- Kill Your Gods
- Turn My World Around
- Be With Me or Be Gone
- Speak of the Dead