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Right out of the gates, Rebellion didn't quite live up to the battle-hardened potential this aggregate of grizzled vets put forth on paper. The band is nowadays best known for their exhaustive reliance on conception and storytelling, both hallmarks most ironic if one is familiar with the back story here: Grave Digger, riding a respectable high granted by the three instant classics that made up The Middle Ages Trilogy, was looking to expand on literary/theology inspiration even further by implementing more confine-breaching templates that eventually brought us the likes of Clash of the Gods a decade later. Uwe Lulis was for some reason against Boltendahl's desire to press these themes, instead suggesting a safer approach that would continually recycle what made former albums enjoyable, ultimately for better or for worse.
Horns locked, and in the end Lulis was ejected from the band, followed for some reason by Göttlich. After trying to wrangle the Grave Digger name from Boltendahl with no avail (did he forget about the three albums with Masson before him?) Lulis settled into a groove with the attitude-spewing Michael Seifert on the mic and Rebellion was formed. Born a Rebel is the most conceptually atypical record by these guys, as it functions within a more predictable, rockin' blueprint without much of the pretentious excess that came to define Rebellion's thematic proper. Not necessarily a sour deal by any means, as I expect Lulis' diesel-radiating delivery to thrive in a more bare-bones structure such as on Born a Rebel.
Sadly, however, much of this fails to come of anything even approaching fruition. There is a marked volume of musical proficiency in these guys, but I can't help but view this songwriting as somewhat flat and uninspired. Perhaps one can attribute a measure of this to the oft-abhorred sophomore slump, but everyone save for Seifert comes off as nauseatingly restrained on this record. Although his riffs are by no means as catchy as Schmidt's, Lulis' style was rooted much more coherently in speed metal, and the overall lack of such neck-pulling velocity on Born a Rebel instantly puts him at a disadvantage. Despite a few above average solos, he and Eilen carve out what amounts to a depressingly meager hunk of distorted sirloin. Göttlich's tumbling, pluggy bass actually impressed me at many junctures, but the mix does him few favors, instead accentuating the over-loud drums and exaggerated vocal delivery.
Seifert's throaty mid-range approach oozes attitude, but his melodic appeal is decidedly mixed. He makes relatively high use of Halford-esque banshee wails, and through this one can definitely dissect a remarkable potential. Add the aggrandizing drum performance and Rebellion sounds quite close to Painkiller at times, which is in all honesty just as entertaining as one would theoretically envision it. All it does is make me pine for more consistent hooks though, as Lulis' forced reliance on older hallmarks long-spent truly decays long before the listener has a chance to slide out of first gear. "One for All" is the most consistent song here, and worth a listen if you are a fan of any of the collaborations these guys are/were involved with. In fact, from a certain point of view, Lulis and Göttlich deliver much of what they promise here, but the more grinding, brickwork rhythm section just fails to gel coherently with Seifert's guarded tenor.
Despite being the one Rebellion album I was truly hoping to adore, I actually believe that the band is better off pushing their Norse thematic. While overblown and pretentious in concept, it helps bridge many of the stylistic gaps with more of a catch-all appeal while concurrently giving Seifert more room to experiment with his range. He just plays it far too safe here, bordering on active annoyance at many turns ("Word Is War," anyone?) - so I can't even call Born a Rebel a no-frills ode to a style best viewed through the historical looking glass. It is smashing, clashing Germanic heavy metal, and in this case that ends up being just enough to earn it a passing grade. The problem is that I expected much more than "passable" from Lulis.
This album is until now the only Rebellion output that isn't based on any main topic and has no conceptual boundaries. That's why one should think that this might be their most diversified album where the band could have tried out everything they wanted to.
But instead of these expectations, "Born a rebel" is the band's weakest output by far. Let me explain you why.
First of all, the stereotypical cover already offers us a little glimpse at what lyrically is about to come. And this album fulfills all the stereotypes and offers songs that talk about being a rebel and being metal ("Born a rebel"), about being brothers and stand together ("One for all") or about metal music and its attitude or perception ("Devil's child"). The lyrics are not much more original than those of Manowar. And that's a really sad and ridicolous thing if I think about what great songwriters Tomi Göttlich and Uwe Lulis are.
The second negative point is the music itself. After only three songs, the band begins to repeat the same patterns and sounds like a stereotypical Teutonian metal band in the key of Grave Digger and company. Hard rocking riffs, epic and harsh choruses and a very charismatic and unusual voice lead through the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus patterns and miss out to surprise us. "Born a rebel" or "Adrenaline" are quite decent heavy metal or even hard rock songs without the glimpse of a doubt but most of the songs head in the same direction and the normally decent music gets quite fast boring and predictable.
The best and outstanding song is the ballad "Iron flames" where Michael Seifert delivers an incredibly emotional job and shows us his true talented that is only briefly shown in the other repeating patterns. He shows that he is one of the best of its kind and his high screams remind me of a Tim "Ripper" Owens. He is surely better than Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger.
All in all, this was surely intended to be a party metal album that should rock and invite you and your brothers of metal to bang your heads and drink some beers. From this point of view, the album achieves its goals and is easy to listen to. From an intellectual or more open minded point of view the album is quite traditional, repeating and filled with the worst kind of stereotypes and not at all comparable to the usual material of the band.
"Ride! Ride! Let the power take you away into the night- We were born to die!"
Guitarist Uwe Lulis and bassist Tomi Göttlich, both formerly of Grave Digger, leave the band and create the heavy metal beast known as Rebellion.
Born A Rebel is their second studio album, and is a stern kick in the face.
With a foundation of heavy and aggressive riffs and loads of memorable melodic soloing, the overwhelming guitarwork of Uwe Lulis and Björn Eilen is the albums most outstanding factor.
The vocal style in Rebellion is pretty similar to that of Grave Digger. Michael Seifert, like Chris Boltendahl, has a very gruff and aggressive voice, but his voice is more melodic and he has a somewhat wider range- although he lacks the advantage of Chris' clean vocals. He is, though, a terrific singer and gives the album the necessary power and works extremely well within the context of the music, and considering his gruff style he can hit some pretty damn high notes without going anywhere near a falsetto.
The music itself is straightforward heavy metal drawing obvious influence from power and speed genres. Songs like "Born A Rebel", "One For All" and "Through The Fire" are punishing, fist-pumping and headbangable tunes of high quality, and guarantee a good session of energetic rocking. Lots of double bass, intense riffs, aggressive and strong vocals, and powerful choruses. If you're into this kind of shit, you'll dig this. It's not original in the slightest, but it's good, catchy and a whole barrel of fun.
There is still some notable variation in the songwriting, and all the songs are very distinguishable from eachother. We have the blood-pumping fast paced tunes like "Adrenalin", "Word is War" and "Meet Your Demon", but there is also some midpaced anthemic numbers, like the metal-anthem "One For All" and the bass-driven Viking rocker "Dragons Fly". And at last, there is also a ballad called "Iron Flames". It features some very solid acoustic guitarlines and a heavy, powerful chorus but Michael Seifert's clean vocals during the verses are extremely weak and plain annoying. It's definitely the weakest track on the album, but it is also the only sub-par song on the whole thing. The rest is all killer stuff, I'd say.
To name a few highlights, I'd start with "One For All". The underlying melodies scream 'evil' like nothing else, and the metal-praising vocals are incredible. "Made of metal, of gleaming steel!" goes the excellent opening lines. "Dragons Fly" has some really groovy bass highlights, blood-pumping midpaced verses and riffs, and this short but extremely effective chorus. "Devil's Child" is another midpaced metal-praising tune with another powerful shout-along chorus- and actually features a sampling of the lawyer who sued Ozzy Osbourne for encouraging suicide on his anti-suicide song "Suicide Solution". It features a sampling of when he speaks his opinions on metal, with the funniest part being: "I'm telling you, it's not music. It's frantic, frantic noise." Classic, just classic.
And of course, "Meet Your Demon" is awesome. The riffwork alternate between high pace and speed metal mania underneath the verses, and the vocal lines get a melodic touch towards the end of the verses making for a truly powerful touch.
But the ultimate highlight is the title track. The riffwork is plain awesome. The lyrics and vocals are excellent, soaring and powerful. And of course the solo section- the first one is fast and outright awesome, classic heavy metal soloing (think Glenn Tipton, Wolf Hoffman, Paul Quinn...), the second takes a more melodic approach and slows down the song completely, and this is executed very well. But what needs to be said about this song, is that it captures the true essense of heavy metal like nothing else.
This is definitely one of the top albums of the year 2003. "Born A Rebel" is heavy metal in it's purest form, and should be a worthy addition to any self-respecting metalhead. At least I think kicking ass like these guys do is far more important than doing what hasn't been done already- I couldn't care less about the lack of originality when it's this good, and it is my personal opinion that if it bothers you, you are a pretentious progger.
"Born a rebel till the end!"