Angelrage is a hardcore metal band from Los Angeles, California, best known for their internet sensation Fight the Devil, and for the controversy that seems to follow their every move, centering on the intense music and controversial artwork which has brought the group to the attention of several unlikely sources including European radio stations and music publications and led to a heated debate over their meaning. 1
Angelrage first surfaced in 1995, the creation of guitarist Garland Triest (Deadbyday, Lunatics On Parole). Declared "a soundtrack for the apocalypse," the band was immediately a subject of controversy for secular and Christian sources alike. The band members were initially anonymous, taking upon themselves the names of the Archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. The group has been described as a 'parable and a riddle; and a warning to a dying world.' 2 Whether or not their music is Christian Metal is a topic for discussion. Many religious groups have condemned them for their music and have tried to put an end to it. Like all heavy metal bands, they have endured through all the criticism and have gained fans from the added exposure. The metalJet.com editor who interviewed the group recounted, "I recognized the name right away, for I had a very strange experience with it. While making the list for The War, I visited both Christian and Black Metal link lists. Angelrage was listed on both types of sites and I had them listed on both sides of my page!" 3
The material for the original Angelrage demo, entitled Fight the Devil, came together very quickly, and Triest himself says it is some of the most inspired music he ever wrote. Unfortunately, on July 25th, 1997, a head-on car accident put an end to the ill-fated Fight The Devil sessions. The guitarist was severely injured, and after months of physical therapy, doctors told him he would never perform again.
The album was well under way, but only the title track was finished. "It was very creepy, the song was still in my machine when I got home from the hospital. It was a very black time for me. I was very bitter, and swore I would never release the material. I wouldn't even talk about it. Some people thought the whole project was cursed, that my accident was an evil omen. It became local legend, and for years there were fans begging me to hear it, they knew about it and were curious."
One fan wryly remarked in a play of words of the ill-fated album's title, "Well, I guess the Devil fought back."
Despite his doctors' gloomy prognosis and battling severe pain, internal damage, and depression, Triest began his long and grueling rehabilitation. The recordings sat collecting dust until August of 2002 when he quietly put 5 of the tracks on MP3.com.
Within weeks, the title track (Fight The Devil) went viral and hit #1 on the International MP3.com Christian Metal Charts, with the each of the other 4 tracks occupying a spot on the top 5 above such venerable heavyweights as Bride, King's X, and Michael Sweet (Stryper). Fight the Devil was downloaded from the band's mp3.com site over 15000 times before MP3.com temporarily closed it's doors in January 2004.
At this point, Triest had an internet sensation on his hands, a followup CD already half written, and no band to perform it live. After a long and frustrating search, he and longtime drummer Matt Rutherford (Hell's Children, Lunatics On Parole, Swig) found what they were looking for in vocalist Steve Braun (Aslan, Ashent, Halcyon Way) and bassist Jonah Lewis (X-Sinner) and began intensive rehearsals for what would become the Omega CD.
The group attracted the attention of Hollywood investors before the original lineup famously disbanded in 2005. Triest explained in a 2011 interview, "I started writing Omega in 2003, as soon as Fight the Devil hit, actually. I had half the album done very quickly. The original lineup was supposed to record it together. The problem was that I had half an album in a hardcore metal style that really didn't suit Steve's voice. He is a world class singer, right up there with guys like James LaBrie and Geoff Tate, and this material was just wrong for him. We both knew it. We kept trying to change the songs to make them work, but they just didn't. At the time, he was also involved with an Italian progressive metal band called Ashent. They were perfect for his voice... It was clear what needed to happen. He went on to record 2 incredible CDs with them. I highly recommend you check them out. And I was happy he had found such a perfect vehicle for his voice because I regretted that the material I had wasn't working for us." Bassist Jonah Lewis went on to play with Christian heavyweights X-Sinner, while drummer Matt Rutherford returned to his old band Swig. Guitarist Garland Triest went into seclusion for 2 years, finishing the CD by himself and eventually releasing Omega in October of 2009. In December of 2010, the original lineup announced a reunion, and Triest put sessions for the followup to Omega on hold, writing a new song under the working title ARRU (an inside joke. While many wondered if it was some mystical word from a forgotton language, it simply designated AngelRage ReUnion); but the reunion failed to materialize, and Triest returned to work on Unicode, a loose concept album set in the future as well as a multimedia project including a graphic novel titled Genesis. The new material sees Angelrage going in a much darker, heavier direction, more than living up to the tagline, "The soundtrack of the Apocalypse."
Triest and Rutherford are also producing an unplugged version of the band's song Oceans of Sorrow, a tribute to their late friend Manuel Francisco Velarde.
Angelrage continues to captivate the imaginations of people all over the world, and the musical evolution of this legendary band was perhaps best described by LA's Rock City News: "Is LA ready for this? ...music at once so brutal and beatiful it takes your breath away...they are totally unique, playing Christian and secular crowds with ease, leaving us to wonder about who they really are and what they really stand for." 4
The long awaited full length debut from this enigmatic band features innovative effects, sparkling musicianship, and elaborate soundscapes and runs just over an hour in length.
The disc takes the band in a much darker and more aggressive direction, featuring extensive soundscapes developed with award-winning Sound Designer Karen Vassar over a solid collection of spiritually and socially charged songs. Featured on the album is the haunting For the Least of My Brothers, a song the band penned to try to help raise awareness of the growing problem of homelessness, and to raise donations for legendary Pastor Bob Beeman's homeless ministry, thebridgebunch.com. Beeman also contributed to the CD's liner notes, saying, "I am excited about Angelrage. These guys rock! Not only are their lyrics scripturally based and thought provoking, but their music is outrageous! You will love these guys!"
Elements of the band's sound include thundering double bass drums and brutal guitar riffs set against chanting choirs and orchestration and vocal styles so varied that it is hard to believe they all come from one man. The songs vary greatly yet share an intensity that has become the band's trademark. The music of Angelrage pulls from both modern and classic influences in the heavy metal and progressive rock genres, utilizing other modern influences as well as classical influences such as Bach, Beethoven, and DeBussy. It is in a word, intense, and was perhaps best described by LA's Rock City News: "at once so brutal and beatiful it takes your breath away!" 5
The bandís sound is at once familiar and fresh, being compared to progressive artists such as Queensryche, Symphony X, and Dream Theater, Pantera, and Cradle of Filth, as well as classic metal bands such as KISS, Iron Maiden, White Zombie, Merciful Fate, and Black Sabbath. In an interview, the band was asked to describe their sound. "Our new stuff has been described as sounding like each instrument is a weapon," said Triest, adding "...I like that." 6
Angelrage's theologically charged music and artwork elicited a very strong response from the start, with critics arguing whether the band was Christian or Satanic. Early interviews did little to clarify as the members refused to address the issue, preferring to let the music speak for itself. This resulted in a backlash from fundamentalist Christian groups who burned CDs and protested radio stations who played the band, causing several performances to be cancelled. In 2011, Triest told Metal For Christ's Larry Versaw in a rare radio interview, "I view Angelrage more as a soundtrack for the end of the world. I don't consider my music to be a ministry or myself to be a minister at all. I just enjoy the subject matter. I have always been fascinated by theology and I've studied every major religion in the world; the battle of good versus evil... angels, demons... possession... the antichrist... the end of the world. It touches such a nerve in people. I thought it would be fun to do an album of stuff like that. By the way, this isn't a new idea at all. Black Sabbath did it 30 years ago! Some of their songs were about God and the devil, but you couldn't quite tell where they were coming from. Sometimes it seemed to go back and forth. I found that intriguing, and that was the initial inspiration for the ambiguity aspect. The simple truth is that nearly everything about Angelrage is a double entendre - the logo, the songs, the artwork - everything. It's designed to have more than one meaning, and usually diametrically opposing concepts. I wanted to see how far I couple push that. And it's not easy to pull it off." 7
Rock City News perhaps best summed up the band' s sound in a 2010 review of Omega: "Angelrage has taken the darkest, scariest, most shocking and controversial parts of the Bible and made them into an hour long horrorshow, with plenty of thunderous riffs and ear candy to keep you interested. Pretty cool stuff whether you are a theology enthusiast OR a horror movie addict!' 8
1 - Rock City News, January 9, 2003
2 - Christian Edge, April 14, 2003
3 - Metaljet.com June 15, 2004
4 - Rock City News, January 9, 2003
5 - Rock City News, January 9, 2003
6 - metaljet.com Interview, June 20, 2004
7 - Metal for Christ Interview, January 27, 2011
8 - Rock City News, January 2010
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