The second period of Rage had just begun. As a quartet the band records in 1995, the first album on GUN BMG, called "Black In Mind". Again, I have the LP version on my hands, but there are more songs on the CD. The LP has 12 songs. For the CD, just check their website. The band sounds completely different musically. The power metal gives its place to more straight roads. The hyper-speed songs gave their place to mid-tempo songs. Somehow, this album reminded me of Megadeth, for no apparent reason. But it is a good album. Some of the top moments "Black In Mind", "The Crawling Chaos", "Sent By The Devil", "Forever", "Until I Die" and a pure ballad called "All This Time". The pretty amazing thing is that I didn't like "Alive But Dead" that much and I will explain shortly why this is strange, later.
After a year of touring, the band decided to do something, that no doubt for, Peavy had wanted his whole life. By arranging recordings with the symphonic orchestra of Prague, Rage tries to do the impossible. Mix their songs with the beauty of classical music. But not in the way Angra or Rhapsody did up to this point. After all, anyone can see the arrangements of the two mentioned bands are made through samples sometimes or they only tried with quartets. Either way, "Lingua Mortis" hit the stores in 1996 and became the first ever try of metal band to marry Heavy Metal with Classical Music. This was something that the bad had already tried with "Lost In The Ice", but to a smaller extend. So, I really don't have the words to explain what is going on in "Lingua Mortis". Forget Metallica's or Scorpions' or even Deep Purple's tries to do this. This is the real and the best thing. "Alive But Dead" is my favorite moment from this one, and this is the strange I was talking about. The songs have been changed so much, that sometimes it is too difficult to recognize them. Simply amazing, simply a masterpiece. Again, if you don't have "Lingua Mortis" in your record collection, do yourselves a favor and buy it. Every note, on this recording is simply worth listening. ["It was amazing to discover how much music is in our songs" / Peavy Wagner on the back cover of "Lingua Mortis"]
The success of "Lingua Mortis" was beyond belief, and the band would surely try something like this again. However, the next album was in order to be released. On the same year with "Lingua Mortis", Rage released their 11th full-length album. "End Of All Days" is simply very good. Following the roads of "Black In Mind", this one gives us a pleasant hearing hour or so. It is better than "Black In Mind", but surely cannot be compared to the masterpieces of the first period. Some of the top moments, "Higher Than The Sky" (the best for me), "End Of All Days", "Fortress", "Talking To The Dead" and "Deep In The Blackest Hall". A different mention to the ballad. "Fading Hours" was done with the help of the symphonic orchestra of Prague (if I am not mistaken). This song is simply amazing. It seems like Rage, and especially Peavy of course, have found the magic touch to do heart-beating ballads. "Fading Hours" is a ballad that does not look to the charts with so much as half an eye. It is a song made by a pure soul and it is like "The Silence" from Gamma Ray. Songs that are made straight from the heart.
Two EP's followed. In 1996, "Higher Than The Sky EP" and the next year it was a live EP, again from Japan, "Live From The Vault". Extensive touring, as the release of the live EP can witness, kept the band away from the studio for 2 years. But it was the time for Rage, to continue their experiment with the symphonic orchestra of Prague, named now "Lingua Mortis Orchestra". "XIII" was released in 1998, and it gave us a lot of surprises. The album again is good, but signs of saturation have begun to show. However, this album contains, in my opinion always, the best track ever recorded by Rage. It is called "From the Cradle to the Grave". It is the perfect marriage of classical and heavy metal music. Guitar riffs that are classic music, classical arrangements that are heavy metal can be found on this song. I believe that Peavy manages to bring the perfect equilibrium between the two genres with that song. On the other hand, generally the album moves to good standards, with top moments "Days Of December", "Turn The Page" and the very good cover version of Rolling Stone's classic "Paint It Black". The rest of the album moves to mediocre standards, however it satisfied me, up to a point of course.
More touring with the "Lingua Mortis Orchestra" and few EP's out, together with a release that I didn't understand. I am talking about "In Vain I-III", that I haven't bought and haven't heard. Check Rage's website for that one if you are interested. In 1999, Rage release "Ghosts". This was to be honest a big disappointment. It seemed that the experimentation with classical music had somehow saturated the band. Some good ideas now and there, and after almost 17 years Rage couldn't follow the standards that they have set. Sometimes the "Lingua Mortis Orchestra" comes to save things, but this is not enough. On this album, Victor Smolski makes his first appearance with Rage as a guest, a man that will play an important role to Rage. The band cannot keep up the standards of GUN BMG, so they leave the record label and sign with Phantom.
2001 finds Rage as a trio again. Spiros and Chris Efthimiadis, depart from the band (to my sadness of course) along with Sven Fischer. Victor Smolksi and Mike Terrana get the guitar and drum spots respectively. The band releases "Welcome To The Other Side", tries to give us something good. Although better than "Ghosts", the album again cannot satisfy me. However, there are signs of resurrection on this album. Some ideas that seem to bring the band back to the old days.
The band enters the studio really soon after "Welcome To The Other Side". First signs for the upcoming release say and talk about one of the best Rage albums, from their new record label SPV. Surprised to hear that, I expected it with much interest. 20 years after the first release of Peavy with Avenger, he brings to us one of the most creative works he has ever done, with the help of Victor Smolski on the composing part. In "Unity", the band sounds refreshed, like the bad moments had never existed. This album is the perfect mix of the first and the second period. Although, not as speedy as they used to be, Rage remember their past and give us a masterpiece to the standards of "Secrets...", "Trapped" and "The Missing Link". Each song has its own identity and its own personality. Although the album is great, I need to comment on three songs.
The track that opens the record is "All I Want" and is one of the best chorus parts I have ever heard, without exaggerating. While many new bands try to be fresh - and they are supposed to be - Rage did a song that sounds like was written by enthusiasts that are on their 20's. What can I say, that every single hair on my body (don't get dirty minded) pops-up to the sound of that song? That I wished I was able to write something like this? That I wished many other bands to give us songs of that quality? Everything is just to damn little to say. I just wish I could catch them on concert to play this song. Surely, my throat will close after this one. And it goes on. The title track is an instrumental that I haven't heard from Rage before. Around 7 minutes, Rage gives us their full potential as musicians. Pretty amazing song. Finally, the last but not least, "Dies Irea", comes to take my whole soul and mind away. Heavily influenced by classical music, the song is simply something like "From Cradle to the Grave". Perfect mixture of classical music, played by guitars this time and a choir that couldn't have been better. I hope there will be more like this. And if "All I Want" has one of the best chorus parts ever listened to, "Dies Irea" has the best.
So, this is Rage. The child of Peter "Peavy" Wagner. Almost 20 years of history and the band keeps going. One of the most important bands on the European metal scene. Not so known, but with great contribution to the music we love. I have no words to thank Peter "Peavy" Wagner for all the moments he has given me with open hand, through his music. I wished more bands had the quality of Rage and most importantly most musicians had the quality Peter "Peavy" Wagner has as a human being. If you haven't listened to Rage yet, please do so. Remember always, what I write here is subjective and maybe you will like things that I didn't. This special that is divided into two parts, due to the long history of the band, is just a guide for you the get familiar with Rage. The world is more beautiful with bands and people like Rage.
NOTE: Worth checking, the video out in 1994, called "The Video Link", a concert recorded live on the "Power Of Metal" festival, in Germany.
PS: The second part of this special was written with the help of 3 cans of Amstel, lots of cigarettes (again), coffee (it is morning now), Primal Fear's "Black Sun", Rage's "Unity" and I must have listened to "Woman" from "Extended Power" more than 30 times. I think I will get a break now.