Rage - From The Cradle To The Stage (2CD) 2004 SPV reviewed by: EC
CD 1 1. Orgy Of Destruction (Intro) 2. War Of Worlds 3. Great Old Ones 4. Paint The Devil On The Wall 5. Sent By The Devil 6. Firestorm 7. Down 8. Prayers Of Steel 9. Suicide 10. Days Of December 11. Unity 12. Anarchy (Drum solo) 13. Enough Is Enough 14. Invisible Horizons 15. Set This World On Fire CD 2 1. Flesh And Blood 2. Rocket Science (Guitar solo) 3. Soundchaser 4. Straight To Hell 5. Back In Time 6. Refuge 7. From The Cradle To The Grave 8. Black In Mind 9. Solitary Man 10. Don't Fear The Winter 11. All I Want 12. Higher Than The Sky
"From The Cradle To The Stage", a title that is very appropriate for Rage's first official live album in it's twenty year career. This live "greatest hits" package chronicles the band from its beginning under the band moniker Avenger, all the way through last year's "Soundchaser" record. On any given day of the week, Rage could be considered my favorite band of all time. There truly is no other metal band that has a discography like Peter "Peavey" Wagner. I can pull out their stack of albums and analyze in detail logo differences, lineup changes, and the band's many musical platforms, from sharing the studio with orchestras to streamlining as a three piece, Rage always entertain. Eventually I want to do a whole piece on the band, possibly even motivating my tired little digits to key up a whole book. Just look at the many phases and facets of the group:
Four different band logos if you include their original Avenger insignia. Sixteen full studio albums. Nine EPs. Four record labels. Three compilations. Two full orchestra albums (included in my 16 studio records). One full orchestra thingy that isn't considered an EP or a studio album, just a bonus disc in my opinion. Two live albums, the one currently being discussed and a "bootleg" available in Japan. Three home videos. Twelve band members (remarkable!). Most importantly is the five shifts in sound, originally created from speed metal, then a turn to power, then the evident shift to thrash, then off to classical orchestra experimentation, back to power presently. All of that, and they still haven't lost me or their core audience. Through all of that changing chaos, the heart of Rage stayed intact.
With that being said, "From The Cradle To The Stage" is born, celebrating Rage's twenty year anniversary with a live recording. Recorded on January 25, 2002 at the Zeche in Bochum, Germany, Rage played a three hour set consisting of tracks spanning their entire career. On this recording we get 2CDs, over two hours of German metal magic, which coincidently was also filmed for a DVD (not reviewed here). I have several issues with live albums, the most important being they don't really serve much purpose in my opinion. You could look at something like "Alive In Athens" from Iced Earth for example. Sure, it looks nice in your collection, with beautiful packaging and hours of live entertainment. But at the same time, the engineers have tinkered with it so damn much that it sounds exactly like a studio effort. Yeah, you get the "atmosphere" of a live recording, but it really just sits well as a compilation or greatest hits package. The same can be said for the Priest live albums, Maiden's live efforts (other than Live After Death), and bigger acts like Pantera. They just don't have that live feel to them, instead they are too polished and clean for my liking. I am the rabid metal fan that will search the globe for raw bootlegs of my favorite bands, catching the groups in the flesh so to speak. With a bootleg you get the real deal, an unedited, unscripted example of a band's live sound, depending on what was used to record it. Call me crazy, but I prefer bootlegs over "official" live records.
The really great thing about this particular live recording is that it sounds like a bootleg. Don't get me wrong, it sounds fantastic and was professionally done, but what I'm explaining to you is the fact that this hasn't been spiced up. To my ears, it doesn't sound like the sound scientists have spent any time on this. They haven't overdubbed anything (I'm sure they have but it isn't noticeable), and this really sounds like three guys on stage performing a three hour set. The band sounds REAL, so much that Peavey's voice starts to fade on the second half of disc two. That could be a problem for those of you looking for a flawless live performance, but for me it sounds great. I love musical acts that sound human, that aren't just mechanical machines that refuse to show weakness. With this record, Peavey shows he isn't capable of performing for three hours, but he does it for the fans in attendance and those listening at home. Cheers to SPV for putting this out knowing it could offend today's fans and their "neat and clean-cut" standards.
With most bands I don't care to hear live albums, but with this one it peaked my interest simply because we get to hear guitarist Victor Smolksi cover the old stuff. I like to hear how older bands treat their earlier material, especially when they have new members in the fold. In my opinion Smolski does a fantastic job here, really playing the original stuff true to form, but occasionally drifting away from the original arrangement to make it his own. I think he does best with Manni Schmidt's material, ripping through mid-era cuts like "Refuge", "Firestorm", and "Solitary Man". It was interesting to hear him play "Black In Mind" and "Sent By The Devil", with those cuts coming from "Black In Mind", an album that featured two guitarists. Smolski still manages to create that wall of sound vibe that was clearly evident on the "Black In Mind" record, showcasing his thrash riff mentality as well as his neo-classical skills.
As I mentioned before, Rage covers all the basics here, from band staples like "Invisible Horizons" and "Don't Fear The Winter" to orchestra classics like "Days Of December" and "From The Cradle To The Grave". The band even stop to recapture the early days with the Avenger era "Prayers Of Steel". The band do stay modern as well, going through the group's last three albums with cuts like "Soundchaser", "Great Old Ones", "All I Want", "Down" and Germany's newest hit, "Straight To Hell". The atmosphere of the record is very pub-like, with the Zeche sounding like a small concert hall, which I prefer over the big arena sound of 80s live records.
"From The Cradle To The Stage" is a must have for all Rage fans. It is not only the ideal live album, with it's genuine authentic live sound, but a collection that can be looked as a great compilation piece much like the ten year anniversary album "Ten Years In Rage". It's good to see Rage recognize the fans and celebrate these moments with them. If you are a power metal fan that likes to have live albums sound like studio records then pass on this. If you are the metal fan that wants to enjoy a truly live experience, then this one comes highly recommended!
Happy Anniversary Peavey!
Note - This album shows a different band logo, one that seems to combine the group's curved Gun-era logo with the straight logo that appears on the two SPV records. Quite strange.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
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