Sunday, June 3, 2018

Album Review: Refuge - Solitary Men

At a certain point, following a band's history can be a bit absurd. Rage has been around for decades, and has undergone numerous lineup changes, but they were always Rage. Now, however, the mastermind of the band has teamed up with some former members to form.... a band that isn't Rage. Refuge is the rebirth of the 'classic' Rage lineup, together for the first time in over two decades, which now puts Rage in rarefied air. While bands like LA Guns and Queensryche have had competing versions feuding over a name, this is the same person (Peavy Wagner) essentially having two versions of his own band. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but this is heavy metal, so what ever does?

I missed out on covering the latest Rage album, mostly because Rage has made so many albums that stick in their comfortable wheelhouse that there isn't much to say about them anymore. Rage albums are Rage albums, and if you like one you're bound to like them all to some degree. That's the same case here. Refuge is a new name on the same product, and the music we get is the same Rage-style heavy metal that the fans will certainly enjoy what they hear, even if the rest of us wonder exactly what the point behind all of this is.

Refuge came to life as a result of a surprise reunion show the members played. If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that fans rarely want to hear new material from old bands. There's a reason why new material is often joked about as being the 'bathroom break' during a concert. So I'm not sure why there was a market for new material from a nostalgia act that hadn't even run its course as such. If Refuge goes back out to play more gigs, these songs aren't what the fans are going to be screaming to hear. Sadly, the majority in the crowd won't even know this album exists.

But what of the songs themselves? Refuge is firmly in the old meat-and-potatoes style of Rage. A few simple riffs and Peavy's shouted melodies sound no different now than they did back in the day. If you were looking for growth and evolution, you're in the wrong place. This album is entirely about bringing the past back to life, and to that end, they do a good job. This is material that can fit in well with the back catalog, so they have done what they set out to.

However, if you aren't already a Rage die-hard, this isn't going to do a whole lot for you. This record sounds like so many other Rage albums that I swear I've already heard most of this before, and I'm not even that well-versed in their history. Their style is so straight-forward, and they are so happy to be living the old times again, that it isn't exciting to anyone who wasn't around at the time. Music has evolved so far in the years since that hearing what we've already heard so many times is tiresome. That doesn't make the music bad, but it does mean it's hard to be excited about another helping of something familiar.

Refuge started as a way of celebrating Rage's past, and this album continues on with that. Unfortunately, it also means this album is a bit like a spare tire. It's necessary if it's for the ride you're on, but it's never thought about by anyone else.

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