Written by Alex Stojanovic
Bloom Of The Poison Seed
Betrayal Of The Mind
Fleur De Lis
The Day The World Stood Still
The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships
Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier
Grave Of The Fireflies
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Label: Corvid Records
Matt James - Vocals / George Harris - Guitars / Tony Maue - Guitars
Matt Cox - Bass & backing vocals / Jai Patel - Drums
It kind of goes without saying that The Raven Age came on many people's radars, including mine, when they opened for Iron Maiden in 2016 on the Book Of Souls tour. By this point, everyone knows that one of the band's guitarists and founding members is George Harris, son of Iron Maiden's Steve Harris. I had the opportunity to see them open for Maiden when they played Toronto on that tour. Going in, I didn't know what to expect because I didn't have the chance to listen to any of their material. However, by the end of their set, I was impressed with what I saw and heard. After having the chance to listen to some of their music and checking out their debut album Darkness Will Rise a year after that show, they earned themselves a new fan with me.
George Harris has said that most of their influence comes from the modern metal bands of the 2000s, like As I Lay Dying, Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch Engage and Avenged Sevenfold, but the Iron Maiden influence is heard as well, especially with the guitar harmonies and soaring vocals. On top of touring with Maiden, the band have also had the opportunity to go open for Anthrax, Killswitch Engage, Tremonti, Savage Messiah, Mastodon, Gojira and Shinedown. In late 2017, the band announced that they parted ways with vocalist Michael Burrough, and they were on the hunt for a new vocalist. Come 2018, in stepped new vocalist Matt James, who has proved himself as a more than worthy replacement, and the band announced the release of their sophomore album Conspiracy. When comparing the new album to Darkness Will Rise, you can hear the band's evolution as songwriters and players. I wouldn't call it a night and day difference, but certainly a step up.
As the album begins with "Bloom Of The Poison Seed", we are greeted by a mellow acoustic melody, and when it's joined by what sounds like violin and cello, you feel a sense of melancholy come over you, and it would be fitting as the soundtrack in a mournful scene in a movie. We then head into the first dose of powerful riffing in "Betrayal Of The Mind". Packed with incredible melodic hooks in the vocals and the music, the song is a great indicator of what to expect with the rest of the record. Another noticable difference between the two albums is that while Darkness Will Rise was spectacular, one of the things that seemed to be lacking was variety. Just about every song sounded similar to one another. That changed on Conspiracy, as they were able to add a couple more slower songs, along with a couple of faster ones, some mid-tempo stuff, and songs that are a good mixture of all the speeds.
Ever since the release of their EP in 2014, The Raven Age has mastered the art of writing material that's captivating and memorable. Much like on the EP and Darkness Will Rise, listeners will have no issue finding something to sing along to on this album. Just about every chorus is memorable in its own way, but some of the standout choruses include "Betrayal Of The Mind", "The Day The World Stood Still", "Forgotten World" and "Grave Of The Fireflies". In addition to the heavy riffs and powerful vocals, the harmonies between George Harris and new guitarist Tony Maue help elevate the songs to greater heights. The melodies will be stuck in your head for days. The soft vocal section in "Stigmata" reminds me of "The Dying Embers Of Life" from Darkness Will Rise.
Strong riffs that utilize melody and heaviness are as much at the forefront as the vocals, especially on tracks like "Fleur De Lis", "Stigmata", "Surrogate", "Tomb Of An Unknown Soldier" and "Scimitar". On top of the melodic hooks, there's also an abundance of intense hooks. Drummer Jai Patel delivers outstanding performances, and he even manages to sneak in some blast beats in certain areas.
Many of these songs beg to be played live. They're designed to be played in arenas and stadiums, and that's mainly due to the huge melodies in both the music and the vocals, and the huge choruses. At the same time, The Raven Age have a sound that is capable of appealing to both metal fans, and people who have never bought a metal record in their lives, or even thought to give metal a chance.
Highs: High-quality songwriting, top-notch performances
Lows: If melodic metal isn't your thing, then steer clear.
Final Rating: 9/10