Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rage - Strings To a Web

Strings To a Web
Sonic Unyon

I’m the hunter and you are the prey, growls Peavy Wagner on Strings To a Web, the latest album from Germany’s quarter of a century old metal trio Rage. Let’s face it, it takes NĂ¼sse of steel to sing lyrics that bluntly cheesy in 2010 and not have your tongue protruding from your cheek. But Rage hails from the land that gave us the Scorpions, after all, and Wotan knows it almost sounds fresh in a field full of angst, sarcasm and inchoate anger. Besides, this is old school metal, when riffs ruled all, string sections made the choruses more majestic and hairy chests, bullet belts and (yes!) melodies were still di rigueur for proper headbangers. All of which sounds like I’m damning the band with faint praise, but what I really mean is this: tunes like Edge of Darkness, Hellgirl and even Hunter and Prey make me wish I had an old Kramer or BC Rich axe to replace the air guitar I’m slashing as I jump around the office banging my head. Even the progressive epics Fatal Grace and Saviour of the Dead and the genuinely pretty acoustic ballad Through Ages inspire swaying, air picking and singing along. Strings To a Web evokes a timeless era of metal magic, no guilty pleasure excuses required.

- Michael Toland
The John Henry's - White Linen
True North

'Hwait, yon verily wandering traveller, note-taker and attention defying audience and dispel fears of a flea-bearded, fleck-shirted folk show their use of the legendary old hammer-yielder's name may imply for, on this third tilt of the tankard, this Canadian coterie crawl through a well-appointed though somewhat barren suburban streetmap of laid-back steel-laden ballads and mild-mannered bar-hymns. They manage to sidestep the cloying self-satisfied pall that cakes West Coast shamericana so prevalent among many unseasoned coast-clingers, yet they miss by a cow'n' a tree or two the Southern soul-suffused, raggedy-assed resplendence and twisted laments of a Deadstring Brothers or Slobberbone are steeped in. Not to suggest it sounds unduly studied or contrived, or they should have a car-boot sale and take the proceeds into town to the Quick!-A-Cliche arcade but it resembles an elder relative absently doing a crossword in the back-room table before dinner's served, as they'd always done. A roll call of many usual names crop up in articles - Tom Petty, Neil Young, Elvis Costello - there's also vague flutterings of The Byrds, The Coal Porters and maybe The Band (without the weight, oh pun me Peter) as well. Ok, that isn't criticism from expecting some cow-punk, bonkersbilly, wonky tonk (and hell, it ain't remotely in Powderfinger's wet keg) or wannabe Tom Waits 'I smoked Marlboro Red for a week once and my voice is all but shot', or expecting anything much to plunge Parsons' canyons of numberless heartaches or the spellbinding narratives Steve Earle used to mop the floor with but some character, essence and presence is deficient, as is a real lyrical largesse that would lift and sear these into your soul or scrape seashells across your sternum rather more stridently. With that it remains to be seen, and evidence casts doubt upon it, if these still waters have any depths.
Stu Gibson
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