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Lingua Mortis Orchestra - "LMO" (CD)

Lingua Mortis Orchestra - "LMO" CD cover image

"LMO" track listing:

1. Cleansed By Fire (10:37)
2. Scapegoat (7:07)
3. The Devil's Bride (6:11)
4. Lament (6:20)
5. Oremus (2:17)
6. Witches' Judge (6:15)
7. Eye For An Eye (9:49)
8. Afterglow (6:03)
9. Straight To Hell (Orchestra Version) (4:05)
10. One More Time (Orchestra Version) (6:51)

Reviewed by on August 15, 2013

"Smolski employs a “Beethoven meets Malmsteen” orchestra style, incorporating piano and woodwind instruments around his overpowering guitar play, re-writing classical music as if it was always meant to be that way."

Here it is 2013…and right after releasing one of the band’s most perfect albums “21,” just a year ago, Rage is back under a clever new moniker – Lingua Mortis Orchestra, the incarnation that ditched the “featuring” label and became its own full project earlier this year. Right, so here we are again…faced with another in a never ending stream of “orchestrated bands,” right? Well, unlike what you may have heard in the near past (Avantasia, Orphaned Land, Nightwish, Sirenia) what Rage does that nearly all of the rest do not is deviate from the centerpiece of the music: the burning hot guitar of Victor Smolski. While this may be packaged as an “orchestra,” this is a perfect blend of grace, groove, and grit that fans have come to expect from Rage. Smolski, Wagner and Hilgers always deliver the goods. The band is the originator of the classic orchestra mixed with metal (no disrespect to the classic rock acts that preceded them – i.e. Deep Purple) and has come to reteach the lessons of 1996’s “Lingua Mortis,” 1998’s “XIII” and highly forgotten and underrated masterpiece “Ghosts” in 1999.

“LMO” is a conceptual release, with lyrics written by bassist/vocalist and Rage founder Peavy Wagner. The story is one steeped in history near the tail end of the 16th Century and the burning of Elizabeth Strupp, widow of minister and great reformer John Strupp in Gelnhausen, Germany. Musically speaking, one of the most striking features is the lack of overpowering keyboards and synthesizers. Though present, they keep mostly at bay from the meat of the music, relegated for the atmosphere in intro pieces. Instead, Smolski employs a “Beethoven meets Malmsteen” orchestra style, incorporating piano and woodwind instruments around his overpowering guitar play, re-writing classical music as if it was always meant to be that way. And rather than switching denim for a frilly laced crevice, L.M.O. attaches the woodwind orchestra to the sides of Smolski’s Yamaha RGX and steamrolls through the album like the Greeks in the scythed chariot Battle of Gaugamela.

“Cleansed By Fire” is the prototypical Lingua Mortis Orchestra sound established in 1996 with string instruments bookending Smolski’s guitar and beautifully scripted melody, but then the masterpiece of “Scapegoat” hits as a classically arranged groove accented with death and highlighted by the guest appearance of the great Henning Basse (Ex-Sons Of Seasons/MaYaN). Sweeping choruses harken to all the modern Rage classics . “The Devil’s Bride” slows slightly, but keeps pace (especially that breakdown at 4:10) and showcases the first real glimpse of the stellar vocal performance of Jeannette Marchewka, who carries that through the melodious ballad “Lament.”

“Witches’ Judge” lays down more of the technically proficient groove, mixed with a little speed as the progressive mid-section, and of course the distinctive and immense presence of Peavy Wagner’s gravelly pipes. Long time Rage fans cannot help but be pleased again with the band's unyielding ability to drive a person to headbang. Ever since joining Rage, Victor Smolski has provided the punch with richly heavy riffs (as in “Straight to Hell”) and some of the best played solos (as in “Afterglow”).

Now I wrestled with the notion of going down the road of “no respect” for Rage yet again, but I believe I sufficiently covered that time and time again. This band proves that all it releases is quality – and for all walks of metal fans. In its 30 year history, there have been times of thrash, power, traditional, orchestrated, rock opera, groove, and even a touch of death. Every amalgamation Rage throws at the metal world is solid, memorable, melodic, and always metal. You can call it Lingua Mortis Orchestra…but make no mistake about it – this is Rage to the core. Who can argue with twice as much Rage?

Highs: Perfect blend of classic orchestra and metal, by the originators.

Lows: Songs might be a tad too long for some.

Bottom line: One man's LMO is another man's Rage. Either way, the result is the same.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)