Terrible Name, Good Music

I know it's difficult to think of a new band name. It has to look good on T-shirts and concert posters, and be easy for gig goers to chant when calling you back on stage for your seventh encore. Yes, all of the best ones have already gone, but for the love of God, Redkey? What the hell is that supposed to mean? It has to be one of the least exciting names for a power metal band ever.

Anyway, Germans Redkey (ugh!) are formed around the core of vocalist Thomas Rettke and guitarist Sascha Paeth. Long-memoried fans of obscure late 1980s/early 1990s German heavy metal bands might recall that this duo previously played together in the now-defunct Heaven's Gate, although Sascha Paeth is better known nowadays as a producer, having lent his studio skills to Kamelot and Rhapsody's back catalogues, as well as recent releases from Epica and Edguy. Don't expect Redkey (terrible name!) to specialise in the keyboard-heavy 'orchestral' pomp of those bands, however - "Rage of Fire" is a harder-edged proposition altogether, with nary a tinkly synthesised violin in earshot. This is old-fashioned European heavy metal, taking a massive influence from Judas Priest and mixing it up with a dollop of the 1980s American bands inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Tempos are generally maintained at a steady headbanging pace and the riffs are appreciably thick and chugging. The vocal melodies are strong and Thomas Rettke sounds a hell of a lot like Rob Halford (duh...), but although he has a scream to match any of the genre's most potent eardrum piercers he generally sticks to his lower register rather than screeching his way through the album like a helium-powered banshee.

Of course, in his capacity as producer Sascha Paeth is one of the primary architects of the modern heavy metal studio sound, and "Rage of Fire" benefits from his well-trained ear. The production on this album is clear and heavy and stops the whole enterprise from sliding into a total retro-fest. On the whole, Redkey's (yuck!) songwriting is strong enough for me to recommend this LP to committed fans of the genre, although it's a little overlong and padded out with a few too many fillers towards the back end of the CD. 'Be My Guide' also commits the cardinal sin of rhyming 'rain' with 'pain,' although no-one buys a German heavy metal album looking for lyrical brilliance.

But once again: terrible, terrible band name.