October Rage are a band hailing from Australia, a country that seems to have more than its fair share of great rock bands in acts like Tracer and The Alchemist, and now we can add October Rage to that list. A hard rock band, October Rage are the missing link between ‘core’-era Stone Temple Pilots and Load-era Metallica – boasting a HUGE guitar sound and powerful hooks destined to get under your skin and into your head faster than you can say “are you ready to rock!??!” ‘Outrage’ is the band’s debut album, although you’d be hard pressed to work that out given the remarkable quality of the production and the strength of song-writing and musicianship and when you factor in the fact that the band have already earned a support slot with Bon Jovi in their native land you can easily imagine October Rage becoming huge; and if that should happen, they unarguably deserve it.
There has been a real paucity of quality hard rock acts in recent years. A genre that used to be overpopulated now seems to have all but evaporated with the idea that rock can be both heavy and radio friendly equated with the nonsensical idea of “selling out”. The result is that the radio almost exclusively deals with the god-awful X-factor style rubbish endlessly pumped out by Simon Cowell and his devilish acolytes and rock music has been pushed into an enclave, cliquey and hidden from view. Yet anyone who grew up in the eighties will tell you that Iron Maiden were regular visitors on top of the pops; Def Leppard near permanent fixtures of the charts and images of Bon Jovi (amongst others) given away with cereal packets to find their way onto fridges, school books and bedroom walls across the country. In short, good music could also have mainstream appeal and rock music didn’t have to be a dirty word. October Rage hark back to this simpler time and their debut album is an absolute gem – a storming blast of great guitar riffs and massive hooks that deserves to be heard up and down the country.
Setting the scene is ‘lords of Wyrd’, an instrumental that brings in some short but sweet guitar work and a bit of atmosphere before ‘set you free’ detonates with all the force of a high-explosive round. It’s a great, classic rock style that the band utilise but filtered through the Bob Rock school of production with the guitars blazing away with real power and clarity. There is no star to October Rage – rather the band function as a complete unit with each member given a chance to shine in their own field. Hence ‘set you free’ sees Nick Roberts excellent voice offset by Tim Ciantar’s brilliant guitar playing, William Roberts’ pounding bass lines and Rory Bratby’s sterling performance on the drums. It’s high-octane, pulse-raising rock of the first order. Look for comparisons and you might look to Metallica’s ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ albums, STP’s criminally underrated ‘core’ album and Godsmack but there’s more to it than that – October Rage certainly operate in a realm where familiarity is part of the key, but they have their own distinct personality for all that – and their playing is never anything less than immense with Nick’s gritty, yet tuneful vocal always providing the icing on the cake. ‘Wayside’ proves to be a riff-tastic monster of a track, adorned with solos and played with crushing intensity and yet it is, at heart, a pop track with a vocal line that needs to be removed with turpentine. It’s no surprise that Bon Jove pulled these guys out onto the stage – October Rage are quite simply pulling off the same trick JBJ managed on the excellent ‘slippery when wet’ – combining hard rock credibility with high calibre songs that are ultimately incredibly memorable. You can imagine the crowd cheering and roaring their way through a set by October Rage, every vocal memorised from the get go, an occasional moment to raise a lighter high (free of any irony such a gesture might evoke at other gigs) and plenty of space for a violent mosh pit to break out. Hitting track four we reach the ubiquitous acoustic-led ballad and like everything else here the band approach it with a mixture of evoking memories of rock music past and pushing forward to put their own slant upon it. The result is a track that a decade ago would probably have topped the alternative charts for half a year or so. It’s unashamedly emotive and it has a glorious pop thread running through it that fans of Feeder will go a bundle on and it is certain that this wold be a perfect ‘lighter moment’.
Having dispensed with their obligations to the God of melodic rock, we’re back to the harder riffs with ‘rain’ – a mid-tempo rocker that sounds pretty damn immense. ‘Home’ is another softer moment which sounds eerily like the Foo Fighters, Nick’s voice even aping Dave Grohl’s intonation and vocal harmony style – it’s a grand track with a nice, gently rippling guitar line and suitably heavy drums but it is noticeable that as the power chords come crunching in and the song takes a more typically October Rage turn it improves tenfold. ‘Supernova’ opens with a riff that recalls nothing so much as the intro to Pearl Jam’s ‘black’ before taking a heavier turn and introducing a melody that even the aforementioned turpentine is unlikely to remove. ‘Eastern Road’ takes a heavier turn with a nice thrash style riff that sounds a little like Dave Mustaine jamming on ‘Cowboys from hell’ while the main melody line is somewhere between Godsmack and Fozzy. It’s another great track and it’s hard not to consider the possibility that every track on the album is a potential single such is the quality. It’s sugar-coated, for sure, but it’s also played brilliantly, with style and passion and it’s hard to think who else apart from the mighty Fozzy, is producing this style of music in our jaded day and age; it’s joyous, exciting and deeply memorable – you can sing it, play air guitar to it and even jump around… what’s not to like? ‘Two sided blade’ is a storming hard rock track with chunky guitars and a sing-along chorus while ‘into the night’ is the string-laden acoustic ballad – perfect for staring out of rain-soaked windows to – before the band throw in the seven-minute Guns n Roses style epic ‘reign of fire’ which takes in a slow-burning verse, a slightly countrified feel and a great Slash-esque solo before finally hitting its stride. Final track ‘under the wind’ rounds out the record in fine style with a piano-led ballad replete with strings, impassioned vocal performance and, possibly, a kitchen sink.
If you yearn for the days when the music world was less cliquey and when great rock bands were allowed to straddle the globe because they were great at what they did and not because they had some be-suited berk whose sole raison d’être is to sell a product backing them, then October Rage will offer much to satisfy you. They are simply a great rock band who specialise in hard-hitting, melodic rock which benefits from a perfect mix of hard rock crunch and mellifluous pop hooks. If your tastes run to the extreme, and to the extreme alone, then certainly October Rage are not for you, but for those of you who enjoy strong melodies and excellent performances then you should be heading over to the band’s website (here) as soon as possible for ‘outrage’ is a fine, remarkably enjoyable, debut.