Rage - Strings To A Web
Nuclear Blast
Power / Speed Metal
14 songs (54:48)
Release year: 2010
Rage, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Kyle

For a band that’s been around for nearly 30 years now, Rage has aged extraordinarily well. Not only have they been releasing (mostly) consistently good albums since 1986, but they’ve also managed to evolve with the times in a way that hardly any bands have successfully managed. Think about it: When was the last time a metal band turned “Poppy” without causing unanimous cries of “Sell-outs!” to spew forth from their fans? Not many, I’d say; but while their melodies have taken on a mainstream quality over the years, Rage has somehow held onto every ounce of their aggression, creating an incredibly effective one-two punch that proves that an old dog CAN learn new tricks, and possibly even win best in show (or at least runner-up) at the same time.

So now, almost exactly two years after the solid (but hardly spectacular) album Carved in Stone, Rage brings us Strings to a Web, the band’s seventeenth studio album, and a fantastic one at that. It’s easily the poppiest sounding Rage album to date, and while not near as heavy as, say, Soundchaser, the level of technicality here is certainly impressive. Victor Smolski is absolutely one of my favorite guitarists in metal today; he ensures that there is always something interesting going on, never ever letting a power chord last longer than two seconds, and his soloing is absolutely phenomenal, often incorporating killswitch usage tastefully and effectively. The controlled chaos of his shredding is still clearly the framework for the band, and Andre Hilgers returns for a second time on a Rage album to assist him; while he’s far from the most technically impressive drummer around, he at least manages to get the job done in speedy fashion. Peavy Wagner once again gives a solid bass and vocal performance, and while his voice continues to grow croakier with each album, fans would agree that Rage simply wouldn’t be Rage without his pipes.

As for the songs themselves, this is by far one of the most diverse Rage albums to come along in a long while; You’ve got your traditional power / speed metal songs here with tracks like the technical feast Hunter and Prey and the very aggressive Purified, but Rage throws a lot of curve balls at you on this one. Speedy opener The Edge of Darkness as well as Into the Light give you a taste of a cheesy and melodic side of the band that hasn’t been heard before – at least not to this extent, as the choruses on both of these could easily wind up on your typical Top 40 pop rock track, though the riffs definitely make up for that. The contrasting styles of mainstream and metal really do blend together much better than expected here, though on first impression it didn’t seem so to me. Rage also treats you to a couple of bluesy rockers with The Beggar’s Last Dime and Hellgirl, and even gives you a taste of groove with the wonderfully heavy Saviour of the Dead.

The highlight of this album, though, is Empty Hollow, a five-part, 15+ minute series that shows off the best metal Rage has to offer and more. The first track in the series, simply titled Empty Hollow, is typical heavy metal Rage (IE: Awesome), albeit with a symphonic orchestration. Wagner even gives a vocal performance here that’s packed with raw emotion; something that’s very rare for him. This is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Empty Hollow, but the rest of the songs aren’t half bad, either; directly following it is Strings to a Web, an immensely proggy song that’s the absolute peak of Rage’s technical abilities. Then comes Fatal Grace, a short, instrumental acoustic ballad that’s gorgeous despite its length, and then Connected arrives as a quieter atmospheric section before the Reprise kicks in, ending the five-part series with the chorus of Empty Hollow. The concept of these songs is similar to X Japan’s Art of Life; though the lyrics present are minimal other than in the first part, they deal with a man who feels his life is empty because it is filled with anger and hate, but he’s saved in the end by love, and he eventually (and reluctantly) reaches out to the person that creates a metaphorical web that ties them together. Slightly clichéd lyrics aside, Empty Hollow makes for a sort of an album within an album that really fleshes out Strings to a Web.

For some reason I have a feeling that Strings to a Web is an album that, in the future, will be sorely overlooked in Rage’s catalog. I don’t have any evidence to justify this premonition, but whether or not this album turns out as successful as it really deserves to be, devoted Rage fans will hopefully cite it as one of the band’s best in the future for pumping fresh blood into the German trio after the failed attempt made on Speak of the Dead; people disappointed by the “Play it safe” record that followed, Carved in Stone, will hopefully find a lot to like here, as Strings to a Web feels like a successful experiment that still retains Rage’s classic sound. It may not be quite as heavy as I would have liked to hear, but that clearly wasn’t the goal in mind when this album was written. Whether or not we’ll receive a Soundchaser II in the future remains to be seen, but either way, it sounds like Rage is here to stay for at least another decade or two. Well done, boys!

Killing Songs :
All, but Empty Hollow is the major highlight here.
Kyle quoted 88 / 100
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Rage that we have reviewed:
Rage - Seasons of the Black reviewed by Andy and quoted 82 / 100
Rage - The Devil Strikes Again reviewed by Andy and quoted 83 / 100
Rage - 21 reviewed by Chris and quoted 90 / 100
Rage - Trapped! reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Rage - Reflections Of A Shadow reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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