Never, perhaps, has the term “debut album” been so multi-faceted. On the one hand, yes, this is the debut album from Refuge. On the other, it is the three men who formed Rage making their first record together for 25 years.

After 1994, the three musicians moved on to work in different bands and continued to follow their musical paths with Peavy continuing on with Rage – and responsible for some of the finest music to come out of Germany too –  Manni going to Grave Digger, and Christos off to Tri State Corner. Now -after first reconnecting in 2014 they are back with an album. And, it’s a cracker.

It is not Rage MKII. That would be boring, and these men are too skilful for that. That said it is heavy and it is metal. But there is more going on here, than mere rehash.

There is something of a melody, and a modernity about “Summers Winter” that suggests that although horns are up and proud, there is a modernity and a crunch that takes it apart from the current new breed of trad. And, my how Manni enjoys the solo.

“Man In The Ivory Tower” cheerfully renders most of the power metallers who think they’ve got chops rather pointless and if you think that’s good then “Bleeding From Inside” – the same type of hard rock that Megadeth do on their latter day albums – is sensational.

Actually, the whole record is pretty much flawless. “From The Ashes” is heavier, thrash metal drumming, and Peavy’s unmistakable vocals, but my goodness these boys can write a hook. There’s even one in the darkly brooding “Living On The Edge” which begins with ominous sounding doom licks before becoming something else altogether – all in the space of five glorious minutes.

“We Owe Life To Death” is another hard rock masterclass, a chug, life in the fast lane all at once and Peavy’s bass rumbles for all its worth on “Mind Over Matter” as this comfortably avoids the usual “deep cuts” lull.

Frequently there is a real melody about Refuge. Melody through clenched fists, maybe, but there’s a glee about the likes of “Let Me Go” where you can almost hear the cobwebs being blown off and just in case you think the one thing that is missing here is a proper old school gallop, then “Hell Freeze Over” remedies that.

Whether this is a one off or a long-term project is open to question, but you’d guess that the lengthy “Waterfalls” which works itself up in to a crescendo after a slow, meandering start, is the stuff of a band that is in this for the long-haul.

You certainly hope so, because call it the old alchemy, the old magic, the easy way that old friends can begin pick up where they left off where they left off – hell, you can even call it the fact that trio’s just make wonderful music if you want. Whatever it is, though, “Solitary Men” is a stunning piece of work. Whisper it, if you like, but this might be the best thing these three have done together, whatever they are called.

Rating 9/10

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