Comprising vocalist Matt James, axe wielding duo Tony Maue and George Harris and a rhythm section of sticksman Jai Patel and bassist Matt Cox, The Raven Age hail from Harlow in Essex. Following their debut full length “Darkness Will Rise” in 2017 and winning the ‘Best New Band 2017’ at the Planet Rock Awards, the band have returned for their sophomore album “Conspiracy” and being known for epic tales with bold imagery to create conceptual works that could inspire fantasy films, we thought we’d see if it lives up to its impressive billing…
The Acoustic guitars and syths of instrumental opening “Bloom of the Poison Seed” build the atmosphere with a sound that brings to mind both Trivium and later career MachineHead with a sense of melody while also setting up the album proper by acting as a palette cleanser to clear the mind before it starts. “Betrayal of the Mind” allows Matt James (who replaces original vocalist Michael Burrough) to provide his first vocal input with some glorious clean vocals that again bring to mind Matt Heafy, especially as the guitars follow suit. Hook laden and wordy lyrically it’s a fine piece of metal that has the mass appeal of the likes of Iron Maiden. “Fleur de lis” brings some earlier career Avenged Sevenfold style guitar work and some later career M. Shadows vocals in places at which point it begins to dawn on you the way the album is going to play out. If Game of Thrones was a Metal album, it would be this one. The production quality is grade A with the guitars shinning while the drum sound is crisp and clean. “The Day the World Stood Still” is a more personal track lyrically that builds from the melodic before brining a bounce with some more energetic guitars. There is a tinge of Nu-Metal introspection in the lyrics but not in the vocals and a choice drop down to a harsh whisper in a verse bridge is a fine point of difference, as is the lead guitar flourish that brings things into the final verse.
“Stigmata” steps up the place with some more driven riffage and even a few short bursts of blastbeats to liven things up. Breakdowns? You might only need road side recovery rather than a tow truck for these but it does add extra headbang ability to the track. Perhaps the surprise, given how quick the tune is out of the gate is a drop off around the 2 minute mark for a glorious 60 second melodic passage that could almost be another song entirely. The band then build back to the Metallic guitars for a final flurry of epic proportions and having the musicianship and thought to pull it off shows a maturity beyond their years. “Surrogate” continues the vibe with a more linear tune with some glorious lead flourishes that hark back to the Metalcore of the early 2000’s without any of the unclean vocals. We probably shouldn’t say this at this point, but this is very much the way we envisaged Bullet For My Valentine to sound in 2019. They are a band that have (or perhaps had) the ability but never quite reached the anticipated heights. In years to come, The Raven Age could well be taking their spot on European Festival runs and rising up those billings pretty quickly, such is the impressive nature of the bands second album. Bringing back the melodic introduction “Seventh Heaven” has a lingering slow build that bursts into life with a riff that has just a hint of Tech-Metal about it while lyrically Matt James tells an epic tale not too far away from that of Rapunzel. It could well be a love song but rather than getting the point across with something that is cringe worthy and asks for some bread for the cheese, the band stick to what they do best and tear it up with some solid Metal guitar work for one of the albums longer cuts. “Forgotten World” has a distinct Killswitch Engage influence on the guitar side for the main riff with more bounce and energy across the pre-chorus while the sing-a-long that is that chorus will no doubt get crowds going in Arena sized venues.
Winning a prize for the longest song title on the album, “The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships” brings the vocal harmonies and melody that showcases the softer side of what the band have to offer. It is an obvious radio single, if one was needed that builds from the melodic start through an epic guitar solo to a hard rock esq closing. It offers something different in the context of the album and if it doesn’t grab you at first listen, it will by the tenth time around. “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” blows away the cobwebs with pacey licks that Matt James manages to keep up with by the skin of his teeth in places as they’re perhaps not best suited to the epic nature of his clean vocals. Not having uncleans in the bands arsenal means that James has plenty of work to do to keep the listener engaged with his lyrics. He achieves this by keeping this wordy and demonstrating not only an excellent clean range but also a wonderful storytelling ability. Starting with the sound of a sword being drawn from its scabbard “Scimitar” has uses the second guitar to staccato against the lead riff and create a punchy layering effect. There is an Asian mystical quality to some of the lead work that helps build that atmospheric as the lyrics cover off a tale in the style of the crusades. As if the album as a whole didn’t carry it off in some style “Grave to the Fireflies” is an 8 minute 9 second tale of epic proportions. From a melodic building introduction into some bigger guitar passages that allow the lyrics to breathe, the band incorporate a melodic drop to allow for some bigger vocals before and epic face melting solo. There is an argument that sometimes with this style less is more and a pair of tunes could be cut from the middle of the album that clocks in at just under the hour mark. That would give it more punch as by the end there is a sense that it gets a little repetitive, however that is made up for by the lyrical content that grows on you over time. Steering away from the unclean vocals opens up a wider audience and the lyrical nature will give Power Metal fans something to hold onto [7.5/10]
1. Bloom of the Poison Seed
2. Betrayal of the Mind
3. Fleur de lis
4. The Day the World Stood Still
7. Seventh Heaven
8. Forgotten World
9. The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships
10. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
12. Grave to the Fireflies