Rage - Strings To A Web (Nuclear Blast/Riot)

German metallers Rage string up their latest effort within a musical web comprised of classic Rage material alongside some different and experimental elements.

Sometimes it can be hard to place a band like Germany's Rage under a certain genre, as they combine elements of power, speed, traditional and thrash metal, infused with melodic elements, delivered only as Rage can.

Their latest release, Strings To A Web, carries on the solid path they have set over their storied career, and delivers some material that stands up against classic Rage.

When listening to Strings To A Web, it seems that the album has two sides - the well established classic Rage sound and the more experimental side. The classic side is well represented in cuts such as the groove-laden thrashers Hunter And Prey and Purified, the melodically infused Into The Light, and the anthemic opener The Edge Of Darkness with its catchy chorus.

Where the experimental side is represented is in cuts like the The Beggar's Last Dime, the Black Label Society-like Saviour Of The Dead, and the Empty Hollow suite, which incorporates orchestral backing alongside alternating tempos. The slower paced Connected sounds reminiscent of a ballad from an 80s rock album, while the title track, Strings To A Web, is of a faster nature within the suite.

From a performance standpoint, it has always amazed me how big Rage sound in their three-piece configuration. Guitarist Victor Smolski's fretwork can alternate from simple rhythm playing to a complex solo passage with the greatest of ease, while sounding like more than one guitarist at any given time. Drummer Andre Hilgers's performance is well executed and, in comparison to Smolski's guitar work, he too is able to alternate from simple passages and rhythms to playing complex fills. Vocalist/bassist Peter "Peavy" Wagner is a solid bassist who holds down the low end well, but his vocal performance is where he shines, sounding like a melodic version of Metallica's James Hetfield but with a higher range. Wagner's clean vocal work is quite impressive as well.

One of the things that could work against Strings To A Web, even with its diversity, is that it does tend to sound the same at times over some of the tracks, especially in sticking to similar or established riffs and drum passages. However, it just could be Rage are sticking to their guns with a formula of what they know and what works, and that could either be perceived as a good thing or a bad thing depending on the listener's point of view.

Hardcore Rage fans will love this album, but casual fans and newcomers may find they like a specific style on the album and skip through the others. An example of one that might be skipped over is the Empty Hollow suite in the middle of the album.

Strings To A Web is a decent album. It seems to warrant more than just one listen to soak it all in, and I suggest that some of the cuts will definitely translate well into Rage's live setlist.

Rage's Strings To A Web is out early February through Nuclear Blast/Riot.