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A return to form and a safe bet. - 87%

Empyreal, May 1st, 2012

Finally, a Rage album that doesn’t suck. After the underwhelming Carved in Stone and the annoying Strings to a Web, I didn’t really expect anything from this except one good song and a bunch of poppy crap. But the venerable German bastards in Rage, still boasting the indestructible duo of Peavy and Smolski, apparently had another good album in them with 21.

This is just easily their best since Soundchaser. Finally we have longer, heavier songs again and less of the experimentation the band has been indulging in as of late. Let’s face it…what this band is good at is the pugilistic, stripped down, heavy-fucking-metal songwriting with powerful choruses and slamming riffs. It’s a testament to how good this is when I can say there are several songs on here that would fit right in on Unity.

This album has a clear, ass-stomping guitar tone and some of Peavy’s best vocal lines in years. On the super-catchy title track or their best song in years, “Forever Dead,” the band is simply on fire with huge hooks and huger riffs. “Serial Killer” is a dark and mean song with an out-and-out harsh screech from Peavy during the verse sections – diabolical! “Psycho Terror” has some of the best riffs on the album, mightily headbangable and forceful, and “Concrete Wall” is a balls-out speed metal number like they used to do in the 80s. “Destiny” shows off their power metal side with a speedy riff and a soaring vocal hook for the chorus. A great song.

There are a few filler cuts, but then, even their old albums had fillers, so it’s not really a big deal. The lyrics are pretty awful at times, but hey, what do you want? These guys were never really lyrical poets anyway.

Now, of course this isn’t a genre-transcending work, but it reinforces what’s good about Rage and about power metal in general. If you’re tired of all the genre mixing and moving away from metal that a lot of power metal bands are doing, Rage is here to allay your fears and deliver a mighty, spiked-boot foot to your ass in the form of 21. I really hope we get another album or two this strong from this veteran band. Definitely one of the most fun albums I’ve heard this year.