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It seems that "Perfect Man" was the best thing that could happen to "Peavy" Wagner, since the band was almost disintegrating due to the disastrous results of their earliest albums. However, the hustle and bustle was not exactly what Wagner wanted for his band, and actually, they would never release something similar to "Perfect Man". Conversely, they shifted the energetic and happy speed metal sound of said album into a darker, reflexive, serious and progressive sound, trading some of its catchiness for a more technical approach, in an apparent aim of bringing some of the features of the classical music into their sound going forward, as proven by the opening track "Opus 32 - Nr. 3", which is precisely a cover of the Sergei Prokofiev composition.
Some other songs attempt to bring back some of the musical freneticism of their previous album in a very exciting way. "Make My Day", a track that recalls "Supersonic Hydromatic", but played in a thrashier way. Its haunting speedish and harsh riffs bring however a rougher sound. On the other hand, "Invisible Horizons", which is a forceful thrasher that combines Judas Priest's riffs and Helloween choruses with their own sound. It is perfect from every perspective, and the guitar solo is one of the craziest things ever heard. Then, the mid-paced "Light Into the Darkness" features a very haunting intro-riff in which Schmidt played an interesting sequence of hammer-ons and pull-offs, not to mention the very catchy chorus which almost in the end of the song becomes quite intense due to a sudden speed-up.
However, it seems that Wagner did some strange lyric selections for some songs, mainly "Talk to Grandpa", and due to that, the song became forgettable rather than an attractive thrashy number, not to mention how the bad lyric selection for "She" affected their ability to engage the listener. The remaining songs are still consistent, but they could have more production and composition work in order to make them more solid. Actually, the closing track could be much better than that.
Despite of their little flats, the band did an excellent work on this album. Along with "Perfect Man", Secrets has been part of a selective and reduced group of European power metal albums that gave greatness to this subgenre. Even though certain songs needed a little bit more of production work, the album is still balanced on this regard. Unfortunately, the band has polished excessively the sound of their further works, and as a result, they lost some of their heaviness. Therefore, this album and its predecessor are valuable pieces that should be enjoyed to the extent possible.
Along with Trapped! in a close second, this is Rage’s best work in a long and very consistent career. Secrets in a Weird World took the framework of previous album Perfect Man and expanded in a heavier, progressive and more cohesive direction. Gone were some of the goofy song structures and melodies. In place was a cohesive concept of unexplained mysteries and top notch song writing. Considering only a year or so had passed since the last album the growth displayed by Peavey, Manni and Chris was truly impressive. The compositional strength along of opener Time Waits for No One is better than any previous Rage song written. And this isn’t even the best track on the album.
Any review of Rage must begin with Peavey Wagner’s vocals. His vocal range on early albums was often times in the high range. Especially evident and sometimes double tracked in many song choruses (see Make My Day, Invisible Horizons). I prefer his lower vocal range that he has used most effectively since the mid 90’s, for at times his vocals seemed strained. Unmistakably recognizable however is his voice and the melodies on this (or any Rage) album. I don’t believe there is a band out there that more consistently writes catchy vocal melodies. That being said, the melodies have a very European flair, which may be one reason the band never really made it big in the United States. The choruses of Invisible Horizons, Light into Darkness & Distant Voices are instantly memorable.
Musically the band veered away from the speed metal presented on Perfect Man. Most songs are up-tempo and fast, but I would hesitate to call this speed metal. The riffing was heavier and the use of dynamics in the songs was superb. Were past songs seemed somewhat cobbled together, each riff on SIAWW flows with the next to create a much more cohesive whole. A great example of this is the song She. Slower in pace and more brooding than most of the album, the transitions between verse and a faster chorus are seamless. Production also benefited the songs on display. Full of mid range crunch, this allowed the vocals and melodies to soar over the top.
There is not one bad song on the album. My highlights are She, Light into Darkness, and the grand finale Without a Trace (not counting CD bonus track Lost Side of the World). Without a Trace is a three part song that covers the Bermuda Triangle, the lost city of Atlantis and UFO’s. Each section of this song is a unique segment, but then tied together with a reoccurring chorus.
With eleven Rage albums in my collection and nary a bad one, Rage has had an incredible career. Unfortunately Rage has never received the recognition from the metal world that I believe is deserved. If you like classy, catchy heavy metal, do yourself a favor and pick this up, you will not be disappointed.
A really odd Rage album, sandwiched between two classics. "Perfect Man" was a good album, but most of the songs were pretty short and there really wasn't much of a progressive sense, like on "Execution Guaranteed". They try to restore that here, but end up failing at times.
There are some really good songs here. "Time Waits for No One" and "Make My Day" are typical Rage, with the second being a total thrasher, and the first somewhat more epic and melodic, though both are about 4 minutes long.
"Invisible Horizons" is also pretty nice - it's the type of song that would go over well on "Reflections of a Shadow" - not nearly as fast and heavy as some of their previous works, but still not bad.
Then, there is the rest. "Without a Trace" is ambitious, but comes up just a tiny bit short. It tends to get a bit repetitive for an 8 minute song. "Talk to Grandpa" is just completely silly, and "She" is pretty horrible as well.
Overall, this has grown on me the last few years... not bad, but that "she takes sweet revenge" chorus is just a bit grating. Oh well - gotta love that thrash break in Make My Day!