Back in 2017, I reviewed an album by The Raven Age. Everyone knew about them. And in fairness I’d seen them support British Lion and they’d been rather good.
What we didn’t know, perhaps, was how good they actually were.
After beginning the review by asking: “Is this the best new metal band in Britain?” I finished it by saying: All of which leads to only one conclusion. this isn’t just another young band to keep an eye on. “Darkness Will Rise” proves The Raven Age is the band to watch.”
A lot happens in metal in two years, though and young pretenders come and go.
Things have changed in TRA’s camp, too and Singer Michael Burrough left last year, as did founder member Dan Wright. The vocalist they chose to freshen things up with was Matt James, ex of The Wild Lies and on “Conspiracy” he proves to be a stunning replacement.
In fact, lets get this clear shall we? There is absolutely no young metal band that gets close to The Raven Age. Either on these shores or beyond.
The reason for that is quite simple, they aren’t arsed with sounding like anyone else. They are part “modern” metal if you will – there are elements of Like A Storm and suchlike here – but equally, they have the epic quality of a power metal band too – for goodness sake, listen to “Bloom Of The Poison Seed, the instrumental opener – and they know their classic stuff.
Young bands, though, and I’ll stick by this, don’t often possess the class to pull off “Betrayal Of The Mind”, which honestly, is like a UK take on Iced Earth, and not many of them have the sheer chutzpah to pull of a tale of Joan Of Arc over drums that pummel enough to flatten small villages. The Raven Age do, they call it “Fleur De Lys” and it is a gem amongst gems.
Largely they do this through a prism of not caring less about what is expected. “The Day The World Stood Still” builds to something that soars and “Stigmata” has a sort of thrash overtone that firstly knows its way to the pit and secondly has echoes of former touring partners Savage Messiah.
Although this is heavy – in all senses of the word there is nothing lightweight here – The Raven Age understand they need hooks and choruses, and both are all over “Surrogate”. “Seventh Heaven”, isn’t too far away from the tight, taught rhythms of In Flames, perhaps, and like everything here it has designs on something far bigger.
There is a sense through the whole of “Conspiracy” actually, that no half measures were taken, no corners were cut and none of these five used the phrase “that’ll do” at any point. “Forgotten World” arguably is the harvest of that.
A musicianship abounds too. “The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships” changes pace effortlessly and is balanced out by an enormous “Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier” and although the riffs of “Scimitar” are suitably sharp, it perhaps has a more crushing, slower intent than many here.
If the feeling throughout this was that The Raven Age had a little something that most bands of this vintage do not, then it is exemplified by the phenomenal closing song, “Grave Of The Fireflies” a winding, colossus of eight minutes long, it neatly ties all the loose ends up and moreover leaves you wondering just how much The Raven Age have got to go.
You can have whatever theories you like on that. There is only one inescapable fact here: With “Conspiracy” The Raven Age are flying high.