By far one of Germany’s more unsung traditional metal exports over here in North America-lagging unfairly far behind fellow Teutonic titans Helloween, Accept and The Scorpions-the story of Rage nonetheless chronicles a band whose unwavering dedication to the iron cause is nothing if not inspirational for those faithful whose souls still bleed denim and leather with pride.
Kicking things off way back in 1983 under the name Avenger, this early lineup of Rage was, as always anchored by fearless leader, singer, bassist and songwriter Peter ‘Peavy’ Wagner, releasing the Prayers of Steel full length and Depraved In Black EP in ’84 and ’85, respectively, before finally morphing into the Rage we all know and love sometime in 1986.
The sound shift from Avenger to Rage wasn’t terribly drastic. Although Avenger favored the dark, leather ‘n spikes image fixation of the time, the music Wagner was writing always tended to dwell somewhere in that nebulous realm between power metal and thrash, often dubbed ‘speed metal’ by those seeking a firm differentiation. Still, however, both Prayers of Steel and Depraved In Black showcased a far speedier and more aggressive side of Peavy’s songwriting, a tendency which would be further focused on early Rage efforts such as Reign of Fear and Execution Guaranteed, both of which would find a quick and appreciative audience in Germany, as well as those American metal fans who had the foresight and presence of mind to peruse the ‘import’ racks of their cool, local record store.
It was after these two efforts where the wheels began to spin a bit more quickly for Rage, however, specifically with the release of their next efforts, Perfect Man in ’88 and Secrets In a Weird World the following year. Both of these records featured what could be considered the first proper ‘hit’ singles for the bands, including live favorites “Don’t Fear the Winter,” “Invisible Horizons,” “Supersonic Hydromatic” and “Time Waits For No One.” Musically, this early-to-mid period of Rage could be quite easily compared to the creative arc of their countrymen in Blind Guardian, not only due to their shared love of double bass runs and melodic, slick guitar work, but also the orchestral, symphonic fetishes which would eventually encompass their (invisible) horizons.
While Rage would roughly continue this melodic metal streak for a bit longer than The Guardian-releasing LPs which would include Reflections of a Shadow, Trapped! and The Missing Link throughout the 80s and early 90s-the band would eventually collaborate with Prague’s Lingua Mortis orchestra on a trilogy of releases during the late 90s , with 1998′s XIII serving as a memorable high point for the musical marriage, resulting in the poignant and epic sounding single “From the Cradle to the Grave.”
Although Peavy has remained a constant throughout the existence of Rage, the band’s lineup has shifted multiple times over the years. With 2001′s Welcome to the Other Side, however, a new solidified lineup of Rage emerged: that of Peavy, guitarist Victor Smolski and drum machine maven Mike Terrana. This revitalized version of Rage would compose a number of efforts which nicely combined the traditional metal sounds of old-centered, as always, by Wagner’s pleasantly melodic vocals-with a modern day production and sense of heaviness.
These ambitions would best be serviced on 2002′s Unity LP; a prime LP of Rage tunes performed by a tight, charismatic unit. While Terrana would jump ship after 2006′s Speak of the Dead, both Smolski and Wagner remain to this day-alongside new skinsman Andre Hilgers-still holding true to their ideal of true, unabashed heavy metal…their way. The band is still an adored draw over in Europe, as well, particularly in their German homeland, despite the fact that true crossover success never really crossed their path.
Regardless of this fact, Rage remains a well-worthy investigation for traditional metallers seeking to broaden their 80s (again, invisible) horizons.