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Rage - "21" (CD)

Rage - "21" CD cover image

"21" track listing:

1. House Wins (1:30)
2. Twenty One (6:16)
3. Forever Dead (6:20)
4. Feel My Pain (5:40)
5. Serial Killer (5:45)
6. Psycho Terror (6:57)
7. Destiny (5:13)
8. Death Romantic (5:59)
9. Black And White (5:20)
10. Concrete Wall (3:50)
11. Eternally (5:09)

Reviewed by on March 6, 2012

"On '21' the band has never sounded heavier and tighter. The listener is treated to an entree of soaring melody with thick gravy like groove over a bed of punishing riffs."

There are some bands that have been around for years that seemingly just go through the motions of putting out material not worthy of their own back catalog. Then there are bands like Rage that take the sum of its 29 years (26 as Rage, 3 as Avenger) and continually put out the highest quality pure metal. Rage has seen many stylistic changes in those years from the power metal origins of “Reign of Fear” to the ultra thrashy “Perfect Man” back to the power metal on “Trapped” and “The Missing Link” to the total classical/metal collaboration of “Lingua Mortis” (which came three years before Metallica even thought of “S & M”), then to the metal opera of “Ghosts” and now to power/thrash/groove of “21” (and all the albums in between). The one constant through it all is that Rage has been one of the mainstays of metal and the one band any metal fan can always count on to release albums that get better with age.

It takes just one pass to hook the listener into the Rage web (or “strings on a….”) of thrash, power, groove and melody on this album, which is one of the best the band has ever released. “21” represents not only the “blackjack” theme that the intro and title track suggest, but it is the exact number of full length releases the band unleashed since the 1984 Avenger release “Prayers of Steel.”

One thing is certain, Rage is at its most deadly as a three piece, which saw the band’s finest releases from 1988-1993 and again from 2001-present. In 2001, with the release of “Welcome to the Other Side,” Rage unleashed one of its biggest assets, guitar god Victor Smolski. Smolski’s combination of crushing riffs, blistering solos, and unleavened groove are some of the best in metal and simply made the band that much better. However, there would be no Rage if not for bassist/vocalist/founding member Pete “Peavy” Wagner. His vocals are as unmistakable as his proficient bass playing (check out “Eternally”) added to his already larger than life presence.

On “21” the band has never sounded heavier and tighter. The listener is treated to an entree of soaring melody with thick gravy like groove over a bed of punishing riffs. From top to bottom, there is no discernible flaw. “Twenty One” sets the crushing tone along with “Forever Dead” and “Feel My Pain” until you get to the album’s biggest surprise “Serial Killer.” Here is one thing I haven’t heard on a Rage album...Peavy doing near death growls on the verses following a woman’s loud shriek at the onset, which is silhouetted with riff upon riff and melody upon melody. It’s the wildest track the band has ever written. “Psycho Terror” follows it up showing the younger bands exactly how to properly choke a riff, lay on the groove, and make it an album favorite.

“Death Romantic” takes on the sore topic of love in a way only Rage can. “Destiny” comes very close to the sound of “Perfect Man.” “Black And White” and “Concrete Wall” fill the gaps with the signature Rage style. “Eternally” takes what would be an “average” power ballad for any other band and “Rage-ifies” it with chunky riffs and unprecedented melody.

Rage has been a model of consistency and power in a German scene that the group helped define. “21” is another in a stellar catalog of albums that span three decades and should be celebrated as one of the band’s finest.

Highs: One of the finest displays of German metal.

Lows: No discernable flaws.

Bottom line: Rage shows "21" and crushes the house with every track!

Rated 5.0 out of 5 skulls
5.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)