Written by Alex Stojanovic
Changing Of The Guard
Essence Of Time
Forgive & Forget
War In Heaven
Tears Of Stone
Release Date: July 7, 2023 / Label: Sony Music BMG
THE RAVEN AGE IS:
Matt James - Vocals
George Harris - Guitars
Jai Patel - Drums
Matt Cox - Bass & backing vocals
Tommy Gentry - Guitars
During the nonsense of Covid, the band released the Exile EP as an appetizer for what was to come for album #3, and as we sit here in 2023, the band are ready to unleash their much-anticipated third album Blood Omen. My first thoughts as I was listening to the album is that it seems more like an amalgamation of the straightforward approach of Darkness Will Rise with the more mature and ambitious approach of Conspiracy. The dual guitar attack of George Harris and new guitarist Tommy Gentry is on full display with tons of harmony leads and chugging riffs that bleed both heaviness and melody.
Opening with the eerie instrumental "Changing Of The Guard", the mood is set with an ominous vibe which includes keyboards and Spanish guitar before slamming head-on into the modern-yet-classic vibe of the first main track "Parasite". The riffing is fierce, and when combined with the melodic vocal hooks, it makes for a powerful combination that makes this track a highlight of the album. When we arrive at "Essence Of Time", this track is without a doubt one of the catchiest cuts, and it's one where Matt James really showcases his masterful abilities of crafting potent vocal hooks. Everything from his pacing, the construction of the melodies and his tonal colours is a recipe for some gigantic vocal goodness, and his harmonies are like an extra dash of deliciousness on top of a cake that already tastes amazing as it is, but that extra element only enhances the pleasurable taste rather than overpowering it.
"Forgive & Forget" contains what I think are the most potent verse vocals. The lead guitar melodies pack so many emotions from melancholic and sorrowful to uplifting and hopeful. It's quite clear where George Harris gets it from. "War In Heaven" feels like an outtake from Conspiracy with the intricate guitar work and massive vocal hooks, while closer "Tears Of Stone" has "epic" written all over it. The main guitar melody in the latter is literally one of the greatest moments on the entire record. It's one of those melodies that literally causes the goosebumps to go into overdrive. Trust me, you will have the hardest time trying to escape this melody once it gets inside your head. It's also the track where you can hear the most Maiden inspiration. Everything from the riff compositions to the tempo shifts and harmonies, they all conjure up the Maiden spirit on what is an unbelievable closer.
I said this in my review of Conspiracy in 2019, but I'll say it again. To all those who think The Raven Age constantly going on tour with Maiden is just a form of nepotism and that they're an industry plant just because George Harris is Steve Harris' son, do you honestly think that Steve would ask his son to open for Maiden if they were mediocre or bland? Absolutely not. Given the fact that they've gotten to also tour with the likes of Tremonti, Anthrax and Killswitch Engage proves that they're doing something right. The Raven Age is a band that takes pride in their work when it comes to songwriting and crafting. With Blood Omen, the British blokes consolidate their style and split the difference between the previous two discs, making for another collection of modern heavy metal in its absolute purest form, exactly how it's meant to be done.
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