Darkness Will Rise by The Raven Age

Release date: March 17, 2017
Label: BMG

Well, what a twelve months British metal hopefuls The Raven Age have had; support slots with the likes of Gojira, Anthrax and Iron Maiden and then winning best new band in the Planet Rock Awards last month, all with just a self-titled EP to their name.

And now, set to coincide with the end of their UK tour with Anthrax comes their full (very full at thirteen tracks and over an hour in length!) debut – Darkness Will Rise. It was recorded at Barnyard Studios in Essex with Matt Hyde, who has previously worked with top dogs like Slipknot, Bullet For My Valentine and Trivium. That last band give an indication of what to expect from The Raven Age, if you’ve so far failed to catch them. The band’s sound is a big, melodic, post-thrash chug, set out by mid-period Metallica and fine-tuned by acts like Avenged Sevenfold and, yes, Trivium.

Well fans of The Raven Age and Trivium may want to look away now, as I find both outfits pretty unexciting. The first time I put this album I had stopped listening intently after about three numbers, the music relegating itself to background noise. Metal albums should not be able to do this, especially debut albums by hungry young pups. The problems are twofold in that the material is not diverse enough in pace and that the production has flattened it all out to a sort of blue/gray aural wash of precision tooled, metallic stodge.

Michael Burrough is a competent enough vocalist, he has a bit of Chester Bennington about him, but the band’s sound has left him carrying the melodic thrust of every song, whilst the guitars riff away almost unobtrusively behind. The vocals and drums are very loud, but over produced, and to the detriment of the guitars. I suspect this is in the attempt to really push the melodies, admittedly pretty strong on many songs, whilst still sounding urgent and wild. It doesn’t work for me at all.

There are of course, moments where it all some to come alive, like on the atmospheric intro to ‘My Revenge’, which could nearly be Behemoth as it moves from harsh vocal intros into tumultuous riffs, although Burrough is no Nergal and once again the melodies smother any real sense of danger.

The semi acoustic ‘The Dying Embers of Life’ works too –  just because the music has more room to breath. The band do pile in at points, but there is much needed light and shade and points the way forward this band.

Best of the bunch is what is probably their theme tune ‘Age of the Raven’, it is more urgent and forceful, kicking hard with echoes of guitarist George Harris’ dad’s band Iron Maiden in the duelling guitars, and also a bit of the technical flash of Killswitch Engage as lots of twist and turns in the tempo keep your ears pricked. A few more tunes like ‘Age of the Raven’ and a tighter editing on the songs and shorter track listing and this could have been a much more impressive debut.

Well, I guess despite the big name production job and undoubted nepotism at work in the bands fortunes this is still the work of rookies, so despite not really sounding messy enough to be a debut album it contains all the promise and mistakes you would expect of one. I wish them well.

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