“The skull is a creature that has been on our album artwork since 1988 and it is actually a skull that I made myself,” explained bass player/vocalist for German’s Rage, Peter ‘Peavy’ Wagner, talking about the artwork adorning the cover of their upcoming album Seasons of the Black. The cover features a row of crucifixes in the background with the skull in question in the forefront in all of its macabre glory. “I study taxidermy, and in that job, you also learn to make casks of things. I took a skull from my own collection – I have been collecting bones and skulls my whole life – and it’s an old skull from Peru from the eleventh century which is elongated already. Back then, the skulls were fashioned like that in the Incan society and to grow the skulls really long they did so by binding together the heads of babies so the skull would grow long and because of this it already had an alien type look about it. I got the idea to make a cask from this and mould the jaws from a creature so it looks pretty scary now and it is actually a real object. It’s not something just photo shopped, it’s actually real (laughs).”
With the release of Seasons of the Black on July 28 via Nuclear Blast Records, Peavy says the band is eagerly awaiting releasing their next opus on their fans, coming just over a year after The Devil Strikes Again.
“I’m really happy and proud,” he gushed. “It’s our 24th album and comes only fourteen months after the last one so it’s like a twin to its predecessor as they were both pretty much written in one go. It’s a great album and I hope people appreciate it. We’re having a really good run in the band right now. We are still constantly writing songs and they are coming out very naturally. It’s not like we have to force ourselves (laughs). We have the luxury of having our own studio so we can record stuff right away. Already now we have a couple of songs that we can use for the next one but I don’t think it will be so quick (laughs). We’re actually working on a world tour which will take a while and lead us to parts of the world we haven’t been to yet, among this there’s a good chance we will come to Australia next year by probably March.”
After being around for over thirty years and twenty-four albums, Rage has pretty much defined their sound and as such Peavy admits when they go in to write and record an album the objective is seldom different.
“We basically just focus on the trademarks of the band and the brand of the band which was already established by the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It’s just great power metal with thrashy riffing and great melodies and catchy choruses. This album is just a continuation of the sound the band is known for.”
As a special treat for fans, Rage is releasing an additional six track bonus CD with the album, featuring re-recordings of some of their earlier material.
“This is some special stuff,” Peavy beamed. “It’s re-recorded versions of some of the very first songs I released in 1984. It was the band that Rage developed from which was called Avenger back then and these songs have been kind of lost over the years. I was seventeen when I wrote them (laughs) and we did remakes of them and they are killer songs. They sound like they were freshly written for this album and it shows how timeless these songs are and I’m really proud of these versions. They really kick ass.”
When Peavy first put the band together back in 1984 he was just a fledgeling musician with stars in his eyes and as such had no eye on the future.
“Back then, the band was not even called Rage,” he laughed, “so obviously I didn’t have that big of a vision. I was a fan and decided to start a metal band with my friends. We were pretty much influenced by the bands we liked back then and we just did it with a fresh delivery. I wrote the songs based on how I felt and the whole thing developed from there. It was like the seed we put in the ground and it grew up to be quite a big plant (laughs). We were just kids loving what we were doing so I don’t think we actually had a vision.”
Although the practice had been replicated successfully by bands such as Metallica, Rage was actually the first metal band ever to utilise a full symphonic orchestra on their album when they enlisted the help of the Lingua Mortis Orchestra on the album, Lingua Mortis. It was an experiment that at the time had no precedent and was an unknown commodity that really shouldn’t have worked but somehow did.
“I was into classical music,” Peavy shrugged. “When I was growing up my parents listened to classical music and I always liked it. Back then we got the chance to do it because the head guy of our record label was a fan of the crossover type things and he gave us a special budget for it to try something like we did. I had an idea to do one of the songs from the previous album Black in Mind like that and he liked it very much so he gave me the chance to do a whole album which I am very grateful for. We were actually the first metal band doing it. It was a lot of work. You have to orchestrate your songs first and know about all of the instruments and how they work and how to arrange them otherwise you couldn’t play your lines. Then, of course, you have to find an orchestra that is willing to work with you – in this case, it was an orchestra from Prague in the Czech Republic. At that stage, they were still affordable. Nowadays I think they would cost so much we couldn’t afford them anymore (laughs) but also too many bands have done it now so I think we’d better concentrate on our metal side in the future.”
Since recording their debut album Prayers of Steel, Rage has been through thirteen members, a number made even larger when you take into account the band has always been a three piece, but Peavy is dismissive when asked if the higher than usual rotation has affected the continuity of the band.
“Every different musician plays differently and has a different interpretation of the stuff,” he offered “but in the end, it always fell back to me as I was always the main songwriter in the band. Of course you hear a bit of stylistic differences and the different playing styles if you’re getting right into it but in general, I would say it didn’t have such a big impact.”