Victor Smolski likes to push the Power Metal boundaries, he’s been doing that since he recorded his first Rage studio outing back in 2001. It’s possible Lingua Mortis Orchestra has come about because Rage founder Peavy has thought it was a step too far from his band’s true sound to be a Rage album. It’s basically Rage + two female singers + two orchestras + a few guests. It was either going to be modern day Therion, or an orchestral Rage with two female singers. Nope, it’s not Therion…
I like Rage, I have done since I bought “Perfect Man” as a teenager. I totally approved of Peavy dropping down an octave or two vocally around their “Black In Mind” era and Victor Smolski really did breathe new life into the band, pushing them into musical territories that they’d only previously viewed from afar. I will admit that I haven’t religiously bought everything Rage ever recorded but still dip into their catalogue on occasion.
I guess an obvious clue to this project was given with the 1996 semi-orchestral Rage album “Lingua Mortis” (and with 2006’s “Speak Of The Dead” having ‘Suite Lingua Mortis Parts 1 to 8’ as it’s first 8 tracks). It’s of course a concept album and deals with the Geinhausen witch burnings of 1599 with music by Smolski and lyrics/story by Peavy.
I don’t want to be one of those people who, when reviewing musical works that have taken the writers and performers months of preparation and effort to craft what they and their fans see as a masterpiece, to simply state that I feel like I’ve heard it all before. So I won’t. I WILL say that Savatage were creating albums like this with opus’s like “Dead Winter Dead” and “Wake Of Magellan” around 15 years ago, and really there is no difference apart from bunging in more orchestration and a couple of female singers. That “Epic Musical meets Metal Opera” feel, coupled with an obvious Metal singer, pounding drums and some healthy riffs really is nothing new. Avantasia and Ayreon are covering the multi-vocalist angle and the aforementioned Therion have taken the male/female vocals with theatrics to another level. So what you are left with is basically, Rage’s take on the style.
No messing around either, the opening track is over 10 minutes long! It smacks of Savatage from the word go, but as soon as Peavy’s vocals kick in it’s totally Rage – the vocal lines are so Peavy, as you’d expect from a guy who has sung lead for nearly 30 years. We also get an impressive taste of the soprano half of the female vocal duo. I can’t help feeling it’s all a bit by-numbers though. It’s all very elaborate, but a little safe too…until a rather ill-placed Pantera-style guitar break around 8 minutes leads a tad uncomfortably into a synth solo and a neoclassical guitar solo. I applaud the bravery…but just not sure it worked. ‘Scapegoat’ weighs in at over 7 minutes, has some token grunted vocals over the intro and bridge and I worry it’s “Kitchen Sink” time. Is it a weakness of actual “song”, or just a wish to explore all avenues without being limited by the Rage tag? You decide. ‘The Devil’s Bride’ is more solid but highlight’s Peavy’s dubious habit of accenting certain words – Bride becomes Brahyeed, Hide becomes Hahyeed etc. and I’d never really noticed it before. Maybe Rage’s Power Metal normally hides it? I’m sorry to report that ‘Lament’ is one those awful Disney-style duet ballads that I really dislike so I’ll quickly move on. ‘Witches Judge’ has a nice pounding riff that runs throughout, but Peavy doing his “Nasty Jon Oliva” voice over her pleas for mercy again seems a little predictable yet probably essential given the concept. ‘Eye For An Eye’ (or “Anahyee for a Nahyee” as Peavy insists on singing it…) is a commendable, classically drenched epic that has plenty of twists and ‘Afterglow’ reminds me of Shadow Gallery which I’ve no objections to. The punchy 4 minute groove of ‘Straight To Hell’ would be the top track for me…if Savatage hadn’t pretty much written it first on “Poets and Madmen”, and then we close with the I’m-melancholic-reflective-and-angry track that you would expect from the storyline, ‘One More Time’.
And there you have it. I’m not going to pass comment on whether I like it or not, it doesn’t matter. It is, as stated earlier orchestral Rage with two female singers, perfectly executed and exactly what you would expect or hope for as a fan. If that all sounds great to you then I’m sure you’ll love it.
(6/10 Andy Barker)