Being romantic sometimes helps. Because when someone tries to write a few words about a band called Rage, it is mostly romance that guides him. It maybe is that I am missing the “old” days of Heavy Metal. The days, when I was waiting for new records from bands from the minute on I bought their latest release. And it was such a feeling. It was 1988. I remember when I bought “Secrets In A Weird World”. It was that year that the whole Heavy Metal music did its breakthrough. So many records this year. “7th Son of the 7th Son”, “Operation: Mindcrime”, “Transcendence” and just so many more. Along these monster names, Rage did their first step to world recognition.
But let us take it from the beginning. A child was born in Germany on the 22nd of December 1964. The new born child was meant to make glorious steps on the metal scene. He was Peter “Peavy” Wagner. Being raised in a musical family, both parents were teachers, it was unavoidable to start learning the 6-string, but in the classical notion of things. Having taken music lesson by Dirk Zdebel, music conductor at the University of Dortmund, Peter wanted to do something different. So, he started making his first steps in composing music with an electric guitar. His first influences, Police, Beatles and later Rush, Judas Priest, Motörhead and Sex Pistols. After seeing Lemmy from Motörhead, he decided that he liked the bass better, so he took the bass in his hands. Around 1980, Peter formed his first band, “Dark Lights”, of which only a few bad live recordings exist and they never made it to the light of day.
In 1983, Peter formed this first band that would lead him to a record deal. They were Avenger, and together with Jochen Schroeder and Alf Meyerratken, they recorded an EP called “Avenger” and the first album of the band called “Prayers Of Steel”. This was done in 1984. Raw metal comes out of the speakers when someone decides to listen to it. Metal the way it was played back in the early 80’s. Dirty and melodic. The top moment of the album is the title track that is a metal hymn to every metal-head in this world. Around that year, we had the breakthrough of the German thrash scene. Kreator, Sodom and so many others started making thrash known to the metal fans. Mr. Wagner could not be left untouched. By splitting Avenger, he formed another band – for reasons which I really don’t know - called Rage, name taken from the title track of Judas Priest. The band changed line-up and became a quartet. The members were now: Jörg Michael (drums), Peavy Wagner (vocals, bass), Jochen Schröder (guitar), Thomas "Guinness" Grüning (guitar), and soon the band released their first record “Reign Of Terror”. Heavily influenced by the thrash scene, there is a change in the musical style; however the band kept the melodic sound that was going to play an important role in their future carriers. The record did not meet any particular success, although it contained classics like “Suicide”. A year after, Gruning was replaced on the guitar spot by Rudy Graf and the second album was released. “Execution Guaranteed” was almost on the same style as the first album from Rage. Thrashy but melodic too. Here you can find classics like “Dawn By Law” and “Deadly Error”. However, the band couldn’t breakthrough again.
At this point, Peter made the most important decision for the group. Seeing that the current line-up was not working, he changed the whole band completely. The band became a trio and with the help of Manny Schmidt (guitars - former member of Grave Digger) and the Greek Chris Efthimiadis Rage recorded “Perfect Man” in 1987. The album was surely just an idea of what was going to follow. The band sounded refreshed on every single area. The sound was more melodic than thrash, and the turn of the band to more power metal roads was obvious. On this album you can find classics such as “Don’t Fear The Winter” (for many the best song of Rage up to now), “A Pilgrim’s Path” and the most crazy “Neurotic”. And the success has just begun.
1988. Rage releases with the same line up “Secrets In A Weird World”. One cannot write anything about this one. This album spread the name of Rage to the four corners of the world, in a period where all the big bands released great albums. Each song is a masterpiece and Rage seemed to have found their way. Somewhat experimental, but still melodic metal with still some thrash influences, the band kept the originality of their sound and produced maybe their most important release of their carrier. The single “Invisible Horizons” was a huge hit amongst the metal scene. On many magazines the record gained a place between the most monstrous releases and “Invisible Horizons” was considered one of the best songs of that year. But it was not only “Invisible Horizons”, it was also “Time Waits For No one”, “Make My Day”, “She”, “Light Into The Darkness”, “Distant Voices” and the epic “Without A Trace”. The band was ready for its breakthrough.
Extensive touring kept the band away from the studio for two years. However, in 1990 the band released “Reflections Of A Shadow”, which - what honours them - doesn’t follow the successful recipe of “Secrets…”. “Reflections…” may not be as good as its predecessor – remember my views are only objective -, but surely it is a hell of an album. The LP version I have on my hands contained 10 songs although CD versions had some more. I don’t know what the other songs are – the bonus ones - however this album had some classic moments like “True Face In Everyone”, “Flowers That Fade In My Hands”, “Waiting For The Moon” and the first “ballad” from Rage, “Dust”. Touring was extensive again, and the band had not said their big word yet.
Again, two years later, Rage came up with “Trapped”. The line-up was working great, so no need to change it. Completely new sound, fresh ideas and the masterpiece was here. Following a more melodic sound and completely power metal tunes, “Trapped” can be placed on to the most important records of power metal. This one is responsible for the big breakthrough of the band. If I name a song I will be really unfair to another. Just listen to it, buy it or whatever. The record is just amazing. Just a note to my personal favourite, called “Not Forever”. It is more close to a ballad, and it totally kicks ass. BUY THE RECORD!!!!
Would it be impossible for you to think that the band had still not released their best album? Yes, it was impossible for me to believe that, when I read the reviews for “The Missing Link”. But, the miracle happened. “The Missing Link” was just wonderful to listen to. If “Trapped” is difficult to explain with words, this one is impossible. Rage reached their peak of creativity and just amazed everyone with that release. Somehow following the road “Trapped” had opened, but not keeping the safe ideas, Rage just overcame themselves. “Firestorm”, “Refuge”, Certain Days”, “Lost In The Ice”, “Raw Caress”, some of the hymns from that album. If you need to buy “Trapped”, this one is a present to yourselves. Metal to the bones, melodies that travel us to unexplored areas of earth and universe, stories that have been left untold up to this point, new musical maps on the unexplored planet of heavy metal.
All these were done in 1994. At this stage, I was sad to learn that Manny Schmidt left the band to be replaced by Spiros Efthimiadis – the brother of Chris - and Sven Fischer. The band became a quartet again, and Rage moved to GUN BMG, since they became a quite big name. The second period of Rage had just begun.
TO BE CONTINUED…
EP’s worth being checked out from the first period of Rage: “Extended Power” (1991) with the amazing “Woman”, and “Beyond The Wall” (1993) with the amazing “On The Edge”.
PS: The first part of the history of Rage was written under the sound of Goran Bregovic’s soundtrack “Arizona Dream”, Giant’s Tunes, Rage tunes (of course), accompanied by many litres of coffee (I cant wake up), and lots of cigarettes (lost counting). God help me!!!!