Refuge – “Solitary Men” (Frontiers Records)
Anyone who loves Rage is gonna go ape for this. Why? Cos it is Rage!!! Remember the classic line up of Peavy Wagner, Manni Schmidt and Christos Efthimiadis? Well, this is Refuge!!! Confused? Well, the deal is that Rage (with Peavy) is a full time band and Refuge is part time, fitting in with the day job commitments of Schmidt and Efthimiadis with none of the hassles of being full time musicians – just friends brought together to play good heavy metal and that’s just what this is. Originally intended as a one off reunion in the band’s hometown of Herne, things as you can expect mushroomed with the demand to play songs from 1988 – 1993 at festivals and even gigs in Japan. Inevitably labels approached the band to start writing new material and what started as a fun thing has resulted in “Solitary Men” – the first original album since 25 years of the most successful Rage line-up to date! Despite all the mention of friendship and a seemingly laid back approach, this is a serious album, composed and played with conviction as you might expect from the veteran names here so don’t be expecting any foolin’ around. With blazing tremolo comes in ‘The Man In The Ivory Tower’ with that classic Rage mix of heaviness, melody and most of all catchiness. Peavy’s voice is incredible, ever so youthful and when adding in the harmonies, the passionate chorus is just irresistible even with all the shredding from Manni Schmidt and pounding from Christos Efthimiadis! Bringing in the darkness on ‘Living On The Edge Of Time’ Peavy sounds a different tone, brooding away until the crushing heaviness hits in from his bass and Efthimiadis’s power drumming while skillfully not losing the underlying melody which comes to the fore in the uplifting chorus – not forgetting Schmidt’s far out solo heading well and truly for the stratosphere – strewth, no wonder this trio still remain a big name in Germany! Still, my fave had to be ‘We Owe A Life To Death’ with Schmidt’s raw n chugging guitar dominating the up tempo number as the musclebound melodies hit home during the anthemic rock chorus, finally screaming out in a crescendo solo full of soul to send my heart fluttering. An excellent release from 3 friends who despite decades apart clearly still haven’t lost their collective magic!