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No Stealth check needed when you're rocking guns like these - 92%

autothrall, January 13th, 2021
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Noise Records (Reissue)

Although the full-length Avenger record album, Prayers of Steel, was enjoyable, it wasn't until Peavy Wagner and company had undergone the name change to Rage that they strung together one of my favorite metal recording streaks of the 80s (spoiler alert!); one that I listened to with nearly the same reverence as the Golden Eras of Metallica, King Diamond, Coroner, Voivod and other favorites of that period. There are a number of camps within this band's fandom, some prioritizing the era that they were first exposed to the Germans' music, others attracted to the particular studio aesthetics of their more polished, measured mid-period of the 90s, their handful of conceptual 'rock opera' style efforts, or even the most modern sounding of their output. While I enjoy a few albums or songs from all of these epochs, none has come even close to this early run of Noise Records classics, full of shrieking abandon, raw ideas and aggressive, memorable riffing that was a creative fusion of thrash, speed and the budding European power metal sound.

Even as far back as this 'debut', the band was writing rhythm guitars that sounded like nothing else out there...not because they were a massive stylistic departure from the parameters established by genre staples like Judas Priest or Accept, but they were just really imaginative and epic, while retaining an almost workmanlike, steel-mill execution due to the rough yet clear mix of the vocals and instruments. This was a sound which could hang with the heavier edge of the NWOBHM, or some of the emergent thrash and speed metal from both their native Germany and North America. A dark atmosphere is imprinted as soon as you lay eyes upon the blue-tinted cover ninja, and maintained through the structure and savagery of the lyrics and riffing. Since this was the same lineup as on Prayers of Steel, certainly there is some carry-over of those elements from before, but Reign of Fear is just a step beyond, an album I've admired since my first spin as a young teenager, but only come to appreciate even more in the wake of their even more impressive output yet to arrive.

The focal point is the vocal point: Wagner's hoarse, wavering, accented intonation was a treasure at the time. From a lot of his more recent material, it'd be hard to imagine he once had a range like this, but for years the Rage catalog was replete with Halford like screaming that was a great contrast for that blue collar anger in his mid toned barking, and he could use it to great purpose in the song choruses, although this particular album isn't quite where he would flaunt that the most. Cuts like "Hand of Glory" or the opener "Scared to Death" are fine examples of him going off the hinges while still keeping it catchy and slightly under control. That he's also a great bass player is of no small consequence, the faster tracks on this album keep him busy, or the power thumping of a mid-paced fist-raiser like "Raw Energy", where he once again is using those screams to maximum potency.

There's a lot of dynamic variation in the track list here, from the outright blazers to the aforementioned arena stompers, to the ambitious if flawed track "The Scaffold" which is 9 minutes long, with acoustics leading up to a slower, melancholic 'epic metal' track that you might almost expect out of a band like Manowar. "Machinery" is pretty much an all out speed/thrash attack, with some infectious fucking riffs. The guitars have just the right level of rusted steel strength, whether splayed out with open chords or exploring the more agile patterns; the leads shift between moody and sporadic, but all sound just awesome seated within their respective riff-sets. The legendary Jörg Michael's drums are powerful, splashy, benefiting highly from the reverb-washed mix. The band was also trying to level itself up with the inclusion of some synthesizers, as in the opening march to "Scared to Death", or the timpani and other percussion visited in that swollen bonus track I mentioned above.

The lyrics can oftentimes come off a bit weird or cheesy, like the sleazy sex anthem "Chaste Flesh", but who am I kidding, the dorky 13 year old virgin me absolutely fucking loved all of this, as it helped his balls drop...and for the most part, it...still does?! Reign of Fear is an album that has aged so well for me...or maybe it's more appropriate to say it hasn't aged at all. While not my favorite in their catalogue, there is just no possibility of me putting together any Rage playlist without including half of the gems on here..."Echoes of Evil", "Suicide"...of the nine core album tracks, there are none that I dislike. "The Scaffold" has its ups and downs but it certainly serves as another testament to their ambition, to try things and see what sticks. Thankfully, so much of it did stick, and it's never been flushed out of these earholes.


No Need to be Afraid - 78%

InfinityX, March 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Noise Records (Reissue, Remastered)

After listening to the Prayers of Steel album repeatedly it was only natural to continue on to listening to this next, and perhaps since I was in an analytical listening mood from those listens, I began to pick this album apart a bit more (hence this review being written). I’ve owned this album for quite a while at this point, and I revisit Raw Energy and Hand of Glory a lot, but the rest of the album didn’t really click for me in the past. The reason for this may be the album closer, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The Scaffold is the more experimental song of the lot, and wasn’t even on the original vinyl release (but it is on nearly every subsequent release, so I am counting it as part of the album) which likely contributes to why this song is so different from the rest. It features clean guitars, a very slow pace, and much more measured, restrained, vocal delivery. And it is so so so boring…. Nothing interesting happens at all, and it is almost double the length of any of the other songs on the album. The song does serve as a sort of progenitor of the more progressive songs that Rage would go on to write in the 90’s, and I can’t help but think that this same song idea would be better handled in that environment, but here the song is a big sore thumb.

Here is the part where I tell you the other songs are actually good to great, for doing the opposite of what The Scaffold did. Biggest stand out to this album is how unhinged Peavy sounds. The raspy barking rapidly switching with a high-pitched shriek is a ton of fun to listen to, particularly on Scared to Death and Raw Energy. Every word is belted with such abandon that gives this album a manic charm that no other work in their catalogue quite matches. Suicide features a bit more melodic control in the chorus that sounds like how he would perform on the next few albums. Peavy may have had better vocal performances since, but this is the gold standard for early primitive Wagner singing.

The music is straightforward. This album is more of a pure speed metal album then the more power metal style of future albums, so don’t expect too much on the melody front. Raw Energy and Scaffold are the only songs that aren’t very fast, oddly enough Raw Energy is my favorite here and the Scaffold is terrible (that’s the difference in vocal performance folks). Other then that the songs pretty much blitz beginning to end. Hand of Glory is a great example of the general sound of the songs on here, with its’ fast rhythm guitars and fun chorus sections. Side 2 has some songs that aren’t quite up to snuff with the first half (but not outright bad like the Scaffold), with Machinery and Echoes of Evil lagging a bit on quality riffs and memorable vocal lines.

For a direct comparison with its’ predecessor, Reign of Fear has higher highs and lower lows. As a whole experience it is less consistent for it, but when it comes to revisiting highlight songs, this album is better. Score-wise they’re about the same to me, I’m putting this slightly lower because artists need to learn that putting filler songs at the end is a bad move, since that’s what’s on our mind as listeners when we finish the album! As for which album you should start with, hopefully my reviews will help you decide. Both are certainly worth a listen though! Inconsistent song writing isn’t enough to hold back this manic old school speed metal by too much. So, Reign of Fear gets a 78 or a 4 out of 5.
Raw Energy
Hand of Glory
Scared to Death

The reign of speed - 84%

DesecratorJ, July 19th, 2018

I decided to write a follow-up to my previous review of the band's first full-length album "Prayers of Steel" back when they were known as "Avenger". Changing their name to "Rage" in late 1985, they also got a record deal with the very well known "Noise Records" to release new material, thus making the first album of Rage being already a full-length. Despite the name change, the guys were pretty much still playing the same musical style, but even more focused on the speed, making the early albums of Rage mostly speed metal oriented till the end of the 80s at least. However, even if they were one of the first German speed metal band, their musical approach was still very different from what some other bands were doing at the time. They had a more accessible and well-produced sound without having that primitive feeling in the music while still being aggressive of course. Let's just say that the music is more relative to bands such has early Helloween or Blind Guardian than other German speed metal bands like Iron Angel, Angel Dust, Vectom and stuff like that.

Well, the first album of Rage, called "Reign of Fear" was released back in 1986, one of the biggest year of heavy metal history. This record has nine tracks and runs for more or less 38 minutes. There are no introduction or instrumental tracks on this one, but the beginning of the first song, which is "Scared to Death" actually serves as an introduction for the album I guess. To me, it is not a highlight, but not a bad song either. It has this sort of classic heavy metal vibe to it with its mid-paced guitar riffs, but I unfortunately didn't find it memorable enough for a kickoff song. The things are getting real when the second track begins, "Deceiver" is actually a favorite Rage track of mine and set the right pace for the album. A real classic speed metal blast with catchy and intense chorus is the right definition for such track, starting with the high-pitched scream of Peavy that bring the main fast-paced guitar riff of the song. Even though the album can be considered by some generic speed metal, there are some musical variations at times, which can be seen in the self-titled track "Reign of Fear". It has that heavy as hell riff based structure that fits perfectly with the vocal style, and it's actually very original the way it was arranged, from my point of view.

The most popular song on this record is the awesome "Echoes of Evil", a track that was played live mostly in every concert during the 80s. It's probably also the fastest track of Rage even if it has the typical speed metal structure. However, in early albums of such band, you have to expect such material, especially from a German band. Except other tracks like the original "Hand of Glory" and the vicious "Machinery", there are nonetheless some less interesting songs on this album unfortunately. The one titled "Suicide" does not bring much on the table actually, compared to the other tracks mentioned above. Its lack of energy and memorable passages did not attract me that much to be quite honest, despite having a cool and melodic instrumental part. Speaking of instrumental parts, the guys of Rage were not at the top of their playing abilities here, but still able to show-off some great guitar solos at times. The real talent of the band in song writing will be shown at later records like "Perfect Man" for instance. The same situation apply for the lyrics too, but unlike in the Avenger days, which was writing satanic lyrics on purpose, the band opted for a more serious approach on future material. The "Reign of Fear" album is the debut of a long journey through progression style-wise, and you can consider this album as their heaviest record.

Finally, Rage has never been one of my favorite bands of Germany, but I always come at times to listen to their old stuff like this album. It has its flaws and quality, but overall, the highlights tracks are worthy of being great speed metal classics. Most people I have seen listening to this band preferred the power metal era of Rage though, which is their stuff beyond the 2000s, thus making these old school records forgotten. For such reasons, I have to recommend giving "Reign of Fear" a good listen if you like aggressive and original speed metal like featured on that album. However, if you are used to listening to their most recent stuff, hearing this will sound primitive and raw, but let me tell again that this album is actually pretty well produced compared to many other releases of 1986. The great thing to remember about Rage is their originality, taking not much influence from other acts and staying true to themselves!

Best tracks :

Hand of Glory
Echoes of Evil
Reign of Fear

Of rage and speed - 87%

Felix 1666, March 1st, 2015
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Noise Records

The guys of Rage can be proud of the fact that they were among the pioneers of the German speed metal awakening. After their first promising steps under the banner of Avenger, they made a restart and debuted with "Reign of Fear". The band's compositional approach differed from that of the majority of their German compatriots. In contrast to Sodom or Kreator, the songs of Rage did not focus on brutality. They did also not concentrate on pure thrash so that they could not be easily compared with Tankard or Destruction. Rage preferred on their first full-length a sinister kind of speed / thrash metal without avoiding traditional heavy sounds. The debut left its mark, because the band was obviously full of energy and the song material scored with its dynamic and liveliness. One might be of the opinion that the high-pitched screaming of lead vocalist Peavey does not match with the listening habits of today. But we have to consider that it reflects the zeitgeist of the mid-eighties. It might be hard to believe, but this kind of singing was more or less en vogue. The vocals did not sound very masculine, but Peavey did his best. Despite his efforts, he did not appear as a natural born singing talent. Overall, the vocal performance was fair to middling.

The songwriting itself indicated the real strength of the band. Two thirds of the tunes excelled with brilliant ideas. The first highlight was marked by the straightforward "Deceiver". It was swift as an arrow while offering a fantastic bridge. The part after the second chorus also convinced all along the line. Against the laws of gravity, the whole band seemed to fly. To cut a long story short, this song functioned as a prime example in order to demonstrate Rage's understanding of thrilling speed metal. On the whole, energizing tunes like "Hand of Glory" with its dynamic staccato background vocals at the end or "Echoes of Evil" followed the same path. The lyrics of the latter deserved particular attention, because they addressed the Christian dogma in a differentiated manner. I did not fully agree with the song's message. But the lyrics were thoroughly thought out so that they could not be mentioned in the same breath as that of lyrically irrelevant groups like Destruction or Sodom in their early days. The same applied to the lyrical content of the socio-critical "Machinery", the furious finish of the album.

The title track showed a darker side of the band. A tricky rhythm and bone-dry guitars generated a ghostly scenario. The riffing was effective, powerful and a bit bulky, while the nightmarish lyrics increased the atmosphere of discomfort. In short, the "Reign of Fear" entered your living room in a matter of seconds. Without question, a worthy title track. Admittedly, two or three songs could not compete with the rest so that the album did not reach the absolute top. So what? The general impression was shaped by the band's joy of playing as well as the directness of the predominantly excellent compositions. It was striking that the songwriting had not been heavily influenced by the then modern trends. Rage went their own way. Finally, I have to mention the production. Due to the fact that it fulfilled the expectations, the output met all the criteria for a more than convincing debut. Too bad that Rage slowly but surely focused on less heavy songs. Over the years, I was losing all the interest in the formation's further evolution. Nevertheless, this debut is one of the best and most well-grounded albums of the German scene of the mid-eighties.

The birth of the true 'Rage' - 83%

slayrrr666, June 4th, 2013

The first true full-length for the newly-christened Rage, “Reign of Fear,” is an album full of power metal and thrashing speed metal mixed together into a coherent, competent whole that’s vastly underrated in their catalog and remains enjoyable throughout.

While initially appearing to belong to the German thrash scene that attempted to mimic the Bay Area material, the band here goes for a different route in adopting more of a power metal approach as the fledgling genre was gaining hold in their home country. Most obviously this is found in the high-pitched screams and near-falsetto wails that are delivered in the vocals which are more of a typical power metal style far removed from the gruff-and-tough thrash singers in the scene, but are still perfectly in keeping with the style on display and are melodic and memorable. Aside from the vocals, the most obvious difference here is the tone of the guitars, which don’t generate any of that dark, thumping chug associated with thrash but are more lighter and open-ended, reminiscent of NWOBHM-style heavy metal but amped up to a much faster pace and sense of urgency. With those elements molded onto a framework of speed-metal riffing as none of the songs are really overloaded with the riffing intricacies found in thrash at the time, that allows the band to come off more of an equal mixture of power and thrash than would be expected of participants in the genre. The first half of the album is filled with such songs that display the full, charging attack of the band as they’re propelled by the competent mixture of power and thrash with some dynamic drumming found within as well as those wailing vocals, creating the albums best collection of songs.

On the surface, the second half of the album is really no different. The songs are still the same hybrid of power/speed metal riffing with dynamic vocals and a charging tempo, but there’s one minor trait that starts to bleed through the songs. While the top half features a more straight-forward and unwavering sense of thrashing abandon, the second half is slightly slower and more mid-tempo balanced which in turn results in the grievance of the band being unable to really write appealing songs in that format at this point in their career. Several of these songs would’ve been better suited to end up on later efforts as they’re quite out-of-place on this material, the abundance of speed and power metal really making the few heavy metal-like tracks feeling quite obvious and stick out like sore thumbs. As well, there’s hints of the band’s exploratory future to come with one multi-segmented epic that mixes in several unique and intriguing ideas around a slow dirge-like march which is a novel concept and is better than it sounds. Fear not, it still has the band firing away with their raging melodic speed-metal assault as the backbone for the songs, as a whole this is a slight downturn from the front half.

This has some absolutely fun tracks in this one. Opener ‘Scared to Death’ features an ambient-noise intro before becoming a total thrasher with great energy and up-tempo abandon featuring some amazing vocal displays and a catchy chorus thrown in. The same goes for the next two tracks in ‘Deceiver’ and the title track,’ both charging mid-tempo power/speed-metal mixtures with great vocals that build into decent thrash numbers due to the sterling performances abound. The noisy, rocking thrasher ‘Hand of Glory’ is one of the album’s highlights with great energy and sterling power metal riffing meshing completely with the bombastic drumming and spectacular vocals that alternate between the shrieking wails and a more traditional-thrash approach that is essentially a band classic. ‘Echoes of Evil’ is the other classic, a blazing up-tempo thrasher with an effective power metal atmosphere with the vocals employing a series of shrieking wail that reminds many of the prototypical hellish vocals of heavy metal at the time, all wrapped up together with a stand-out solo in one tight, raging package. The groovy, catchy ‘Suicide’ has some memorable melodic riffing with a decent tempo behind it, and the charging thrash of ‘Machinery’ generates some enjoyable power with its spacious melodies and great energy. While the experimental ‘The Scaffold’ doesn’t really get above the lower-end of the tempo scale, the multiple segments, acoustic intro that sets off an epic feel and thunderous bridges might seem out-of-their-element now but sets the tone for their future exploratory phase to not feel like a total departure. About the only missteps would be the two songs that feel more like they belong on later efforts, as they completely clash with the formula in this one. ‘Raw Energy’ on the whole is littered with uninteresting riffing, a bland sense of energy, and the sing-a-long chorus and start/stop riffing pattern seems to be built for the live show experience but fails on an album. ‘Chaste Flesh,’ meanwhile, is a bland standard speed-metal chug without much going for it in this capacity but feels more like it belongs on a future album where the decrease of speed and the more thumping chug could work well for its favor instead of the up-tempo, thrashing found elsewhere.

As the band hadn’t transformed themselves into their more familiar heavy/speed/thrash metal style yet and are still firmly rooted in the old-school thrash movement, this is really quite enjoyable for what it is. Apart from the two clunkers that really don’t work in this power/thrash metal formula as the band is performing, there’s not a whole lot that’s really disappointing about the album overall. The strong production is the main factor which allows for a predominantly guitar-driven sound that allows the speed and sterling riff-work to come through at full power, the drums have a resonant chug and sound distinctly heavy in the mix, and the charging, roaring vocals are allowed to become a dominant factor in the atmosphere and vibe of the album. There’s no mistaking this one as a mid-80s heavy metal album with this mix, and it’s a fun, enjoyable ride for those used to the more modern band and want to take a dip in their past or for most of the traditional power/thrash/speed metal fans out there.

Pretty good, yet they would get better. - 82%

IWP, March 17th, 2008

This is Rage's debut under this name. As Boris stated, they released an album under the name Avenger, though I haven't heard that one yet so I can't judge it. However, judgeing by how this album sounds, it must've been decent. This album, however, is where the band really got started. For the most part, it's pretty fucking good. About the only problem I have with album is that Peter's voice while it's still good does get pretty annoying sometimes. Especially when he does those high pitch shrieks. Other than that, this album has nice riffs, nice melodic solos, and lots of speed. This album is straight up speed metal (except for Raw Energy and Chaste Flesh). Though, unlike Exciter who were on the more thrashier side of speed metal, Rage is on the more power metalish side of speed metal. Similar to fellow german bands, early Helloween and Blind Guardian, it focuses more on melody than on heavy riffs while still having plenty of speed.

The songs on here are great for the most part, they have plenty of speed, and most of the riffs are kick ass. My favorite songs on here would be Deceiver and Suicide. The formal is probably the fastest and heaviest. The riffs are top notch, and that solo is simply amazing. Then, the latter is the catchiness song on the album. It has a nice sing-a-long chorus which sounds slightly power metalish though still being a speed metal song. It's just nice straight forward. Then you have other songs like Scared to Death, Hand of Glory that are also pretty nice speed metal numbers. Raw Energy has a pretty catchy riff, and while not speed metal, is still pretty good. Chaste Flesh and Echos of Evil lag a little. The formal is pretty mediocre and boring, and the latter's chorus is pretty annoying.

For the most part, this album is pretty good. It sums up how Rage mostly sounded during the 80s. Though, htis is just the beginning. They would get a lot better by Perfect Man. This album is still solid though. It's worthy of any metal fans collection.

Decent, if a bit uncreative at times - 69%

UltraBoris, August 18th, 2002

This is "Rage"'s debut album, even though the same band had released two albums under the name "Avenger". It's pretty competent German speed metal, with a few thrash moments here and there. The songwriting isn't quite as refined as on some of their later works, and some of the songs do tend to get a bit repetitive.

The good: "Scared to Death" - AAAAIIIEEEEE!!!! I'm scared to death! The enemy is brutal! Peavy sure manages to hit some nice fucking screams on this album. This is a pretty nice speed metal song to open the song. "Deceiver" - continues in the same way. "Raw Energy" is a bit slower and thrashier, with more crunch, and has a nice chorus too.

The average: "Suicide" - speed metal too, nice chorus, though this is pretty representative of the meat of this album in that the verses are a bit too short and the same main riff is used over the entirety of the song. "Hand of Glory" and "Echoes of Evil", same thing, and also the title track.

The below average: "Machinery" is kind of boring, and "Scaffold", while it has some great ideas, is a bit overlong at 9 minutes - somewhere in there is a great 6 minute song. "Chaste Flesh" is boring in the chorus.

Overall, this is not at all a bad album. If you're a speed metal freak, you will enjoy this, as most of the songs on here are above midpaced. Some nice and catchy stuff, but overall not as good as some of their later efforts.