From the Cradle to the Stage (SPV Records)
By: Vinnie Apicella
It's not often a band that began back in 1984 can still remain relevant 20 years later let alone still release time-tested music. Where many such groups were dismissed long ago into an age of extinction that saw them either pushed aside by more aggressive newcomers or simply self-destructing and disbanding never to be heard from again, there's a much different character to the European-bred bands that made their mark and still thrive to this day. Rage is amongst the latter and "From The Cradle To The Stage" is proof positive. Integrity is a trademark of German metal. In spite of their ongoing personnel changes, the roots of the music and the founding figures remain entrenched in tradition that speaks volumes to their continued successes and strong presence on the scene.
Peavy Wagner brought Rage to life, first in the form of Avenger, then to become Rage in 1985 with the release of "Reign Of Fear." At the time the German Metal scene was fledgling with the rise of forthcoming greats like Running Wild, Helloween, Gravedigger, Sodom, and so forth. Some 20 albums, a few EP's, a Best Of, and a classical album later, their third live recording is a culmination of their history and perseverance, displaying 27 tracks over two-discs presented by what is arguably their strongest line up to date.
Today's Rage also includes guitarist Victor Smolski and drummer Mike Terrana, members since 2000, neither of which are household names on the German front, but their talents are evident from the earliest moments from the driving "War Of Worlds" from the recent "Soundchaser" album, and none more so than the ripping version of the "Black In Mind" classic "Sent By The Devil." Half the fun is hearing the latest line up shred through the old classics like an audible DSL-led download dusting the dps of the old phone line. There's much to be said for advancing technology, but even more for the evolving of the art and thus the advancement of technique -- the double-bass drumming intensity, searing solos and recording dynamics place the listener dangerously close to deafness, albeit in resoundingly clear surround sound production.
Peavy's voice remains as grating as ever, the perfect argument for Death grunts and piercing screams, with an occasional Paul Di'Anno likeness at the extremes, relevant to the identity of Rage as anything. Nothing is lost on any one part - the trio's delivery is effective to the end, which doesn't arrive for some two hours later, all perfectly matched, loud, harmonic and instrumentally precise. Amongst the 27 tracks there are naturally a few unexpected surprises, including Avenger's "Prayers Of Steel" and "Suicide" from their "Reign Of Fear" follow up blazing back to back, along with the sensitive onslaught of "Set This World On Fire" from the "Unity" album in 2002.
Released simultaneously with a double DVD set, "Cradle" proves a winning formula in plowing through the years and pulverizing many worthy competitors as well as the naysayers, not to mention the misinformed bore of the "Machine" mentality. The real "Rage" stands as one of the German Metal greats and amongst the upper echelon in Power Metal circles, period.