REVIEW: THE RAVEN AGE – “Darkness Will Rise”
It is now time for my first album review in a little while. Reviewing established bands, whether in terms of their musical output or in terms of live performance, is always enjoyable because you’re seeing (or hearing) an already great band continue to be good at what they do. Perhaps the biggest pleasure, however, is having that same sort of feeling from more under the radar bands, because it means that the underground music scene is vibrant, but also that there will be more brilliant music to come in the years ahead. With that in mind, I’m reviewing the debut album from the UK metalcore act The Raven Age, entitled ‘Darkness Will Rise’.
The record spans the length of thirteen songs overall, and is the band’s first output of original music material since the release of their 2014 self-titled EP ‘The Raven Age’. The first track on ‘Darkness Will Rise’ is this album’s own title song, and surprisingly relies heavily on a piano-focused instrumental section along with significant usage of strings in its accompaniment – right from the get-go it is nice to see a let’s say ‘new band’ in a fairly bottle necked subgenre of heavy music implementing new ideas rather than relying on the same old techniques which have been done to death in recent years. The tracks that follow the opening song, namely “Promised Land”, “Age of the Raven”, and “The Death March” definitely all have their moments which should get their catchy infectious heavy grooves into you, but in general the songs unfortunately fail to really take off and be something really justifying of a highly positive reaction. They all qualify as above average hard rock songs, though.
“Salem’s Fate”, which follows directly on from the previously discussed songs, balances a fairly equal mix of mellow sung vocals alongside traditional rock instrumentation that becomes particularly prevalent in its later moments. This sort of composition is always welcomed, as some of the greatest songs ever written follow this general idea. It doesn’t take long for the electric guitars to come out in full force, however, following the subdued introductory section of the track. Up next is “The Merciful One”, and while the previous track gradually upped the heaviness after its introduction, this song goes right in with the hard rock vibes from the beginning, which is always nice to see. Aside from this, the track is just standard metalcore fare but with a noticeably more melodic vocal, which could prove to be one of The Raven Age’s underrated strengths when it comes to them finding something to make themselves stand away from the pack, so to speak. The more sombre sounding middle section is a nice touch, in addition, before the track builds back to its initial sound, complimented by a perfectly-placed guitar solo.
“Eye Among the Blind” initially presents itself as the most ‘metal’ sounding track on ‘Darkness Will Rise’ so far, with its thrash influenced drumming being particularly noticeable right from the beginning of the song. However, the vocals are still the same melodic fare that has been heard up until this point, and while they are entirely serviceable it would be nice to hear vocalist Michael Burrough do something a bit more adventurous with his voice as opposed to clean singing and atmospheric quieter moments – maybe that is something for this band’s future releases. The tracks that follow on from this vary considerably differently in terms of rhythm and general tone: “Winds of Change” possesses an undeniable musical bounce at specific points in the track whilst being complimented by Burrough’s unique vocal style, “Trapped Within the Shadows” brings back the dual-guitar and drum tactic in full effect which is always nice to hear when it happens, plus bearing one of the ‘biggest’ choruses on the entire record (more songs like this, please), and finally “My Revenge” balances the musical elements found on the previous couple of songs with an increased emphasis on the vocals more than any of the other components found on the track.
Now we’re onto the last few songs to be found on ‘Darkness Will Rise’. “The Dying Embers of Life” could definitely be interpreted as the album’s only power-ballad, with its more mellow sections dotted throughout the composition being joined by segments in which the entire band takes part alongside vocalist Michael Burrough. “The Dying Embers of Life” is one of those songs that when you hear it you can tell that the album is gradually coming to a natural conclusion, which is a surprisingly hard thing to do in music in my opinion, especially in a genre that has become as formulaic and relying on established musical conventions as modern metalcore.
“Angel in Disgrace” is the record’s penultimate song, and opens with the best and most instantly memorable opening on any song on the album – no question about it. Like I said earlier on with “Trapped Within the Shadows”, if The Raven Age can produce more music of this quality then they have nothing to worry about, and in an ideal world would become one of their genre’s most musically and creatively acclaimed bands. The rest of the track definitely is not too shabby either. It’s so good to see that this far into an album they’re still capable of surprising their listeners.
The final track on the record, entitled “Behind the Mask” is also the longest, clocking in at 8 minutes and 15 seconds long. I personally see this as being the band’s one final hurrah that they’ve tagged on at the end of the album, but being realistic it follows the same formula that a lot of the previous tracks do, only doing it for longer. Then again, the song retains the same level of quality as a lot of the other material purely because of this fact.
In summary, The Raven Age’s debut album ‘Darkness Will Rise’ is quite typical and heavily influenced by mid-2000s metalcore, which is by no means a bad thing. However, I feel that the step on the next album is to diversify and make The Raven Age stand apart and make themselves a creative force in a genre crammed with bands that frankly all sound the same, in one way or another. With that being said, if you dig the heaviness of Killswitch Engage and Parkway Drive, plus the melody of bands like Trivium and Bullet for My Valentine, you should enjoy this album. It’s definitely worth a listen.