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INTERVIEW: George Harris – The Raven Age

Bands being tipped for greatness in metal is nothing new. Often as bands start to breakthrough into the metal world, both fans and critics alike rally behind the new blood and the usual taglines are thrown left, right and centre. THE RAVEN AGE are the latest band breaking through from the underground and as the band enter the spotlight, momentum is beginning to build. As the band gear up to unleash their debut, Darkness Will Rise, the band are building a reputation on the live front; serving as main support to thrash legends ANTHRAX. Before a show in Manchester, we caught up with guitarist and founding member George Harris to talk about their upcoming debut album, signing with BMG and their budding reputation.

So we are around the halfway mark of your opening performances to ANTHRAX, how has the tour been for THE RAVEN AGE so far?

George: It’s going really well so far thanks! This is gig number five, we had some bus difficulties, our bus broke down so that was a nightmare but we’re all good now. The tour is going really well, it’s the first time we’ve played in front of a thrash audience before so it’s a new challenge for us but I think we are getting received pretty well from the crowd, good merch sales and good comments so we’re really enjoying it.

THE RAVEN AGE are the only support band on this bill, by having a longer time on stage do you feel you have more of a chance to win over new fans?

George: Yeah definitely! I kind of thought we’d get a standard half an hour set as a support band but to find out we’ve got a 40-45 minute set, I’m over the fucking moon with that. It gives you that extra chance to get a extra few songs in there to win the crowd over. Also with people coming in a bit later, as they sometimes do, you’ve got that little bit longer to catch their attention.

And touring with a band on a size like ANTHRAX, did you ever expect to get a slot like this?

George: Not particularly, I mean straight after the stuff we were doing last year, when we found out this it was absolutely perfect. We had nothing in the pipeline so when we found out about this it was absolutely amazing! It also ties in really well with our album release so it acts as a great promo for that as well.

Talking about the album, Darkness Will Rise, it’s been a long time coming, about eight years. How come it took so long to get your debut out?

George: Well, the whole band didn’t start back in 2009, basically the idea of THE RAVEN AGE was myself and Dan, the other guitarist, that’s when we joined forces and starting writing together. We were doing that for quite a few years, just kind of mucking around and throwing ideas back and forth, so getting the other guys in took quite a while. We were quite selective so we didn’t do our first shows as THE RAVEN AGE until February 2013. Then we got our EP out in 2014 and it’s taken us up to now to do that, it’s basically been every time we’ve really gone to crack on with it we’ve had stuff come up, like touring. So it’s put it back and put it back and also, after last year’s tour we had plans to release it independently and we were going to get it out in December, people were pre-ordering it and everything. Then BMG got onboard and it just kind of worked out, I mean we were a bit like we want to do it ourselves as we didn’t want to get involved with a label and have someone come in and change this and that, but how it’s worked out with BMG they’ve not really done that. They’ve left us to our own devices in terms of creativity and we’d already created all the artwork, the whole booklet, obviously we had the songs mixed and mastered and ready to go. So they’ve kind of taken a step back and let us do what we are doing because that’s what they said, they liked how we are running our band and them doing that has delayed it a few months but we’ve now had this tour to promote.

And signing to label like BMG, where did the interest first come from? Was it completely unexpected for you guys?

George: Yeah, we were sending the album around to a few labels, I think a few were interested beforehand but again, the thing they were coming back with was the sort of thing we didn’t want to do. Straight away it was saying stuff like “change your artwork”, but yeah we had a couple of label interests which is obviously really cool, I didn’t expect anything like that. But when BMG came in they said they basically wanted to partner with us and they wanted us to keep our creativity and the terms of the deal seemed really good. Obviously the size of the label is one thing but it’s how the relationship is working with them is what drew us to sign up with them.

Moving on to the themes and messages on the album, what sort of areas and topics are you looking to address?

George: Lyrically I guess a lot of it has a dark sort of theme, a lot of it is historic stuff. Generally, I get a lot of inspiration from things that have happened which are nowadays kind of crazy! Like The Death March for instance is about Auschwitz and then a lot of the other stuff is about more personal things on there but it’s all metaphorical. I don’t know, it’s weird, I never really planned on being a lyricist. Back when myself and Dan were writing, back from 2009 onwards, we just assumed we’d get a band together and we’ll get a singer in and they’ll start doing this and taking over. But because it took such a long time I thought I’d give it a stab, so yeah I guess that’s just the sort of theme that comes out, it’s not like a concept album or anything. But I guess when you read the lyrics there is a vibe going on.

And sonically, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole THE RAVEN AGE into one style. For people who may not have heard of you before, how would you best describe the sound of the band?

George: We sort of stamp ourselves as melodic metal. There are so many sub-genres and stuff and I think we sort of cross genres a little bit, we were inspired and grew up listening to modern metal, more like metalcore bands really. Like TRIVIUM, BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, that sort of thing, that’s where I think a lot of our music is inspired from but we didn’t really want to copy the bands we looked up to. We wanted to do our own thing which is why we stuck with the clean vocals, it sort of makes it sound a bit more classic in elements. It almost sounds a bit American sometimes in certain ways, almost like STONE SOUR. But in terms of our actual music, it’s dynamic I would say. The album is like 77 minutes long, we just about managed to squeeze it on one disc! There’s a lot of ups and downs.

So do you think by not aligning yourself to one style or sub-genre you can appeal to everyone across the board?

George: I think so and well, it definitely helps. Not only from a fan perspective but from us as well, it enabled us to support a wide range of bands. We can get away with supporting ANTHRAX, a thrash metal band, but then we can support GOJIRA and other really heavy bands. But then, also some really soft ones and we can still sit within that sort of element. It’s like a sweet spot for us.

And really, just to close off, following the album release later this year, what plans does THE RAVEN AGE have for the rest of the year?

George: Well the album drops literally a day after the last show of this tour. After that, I think we’re going to try and tour the hell out of the album, I’m not too sure what plans are there yet but in the summer we’re going to try and get more festivals, probably around Europe. We’re also going to be shooting another music video pretty much straight after this tour for another single so we’re just going to see how it goes. This is a first for us, first debut album and we’ve never been signed to a record label before so we’re just finding it out as we go along.

Well thank you very much for talking to me and Distorted Sound, best of luck for the rest of the tour and the album release.

George: Cheers man, thanks!

Darkness Will Rise is set for release on March 17 via BMG.

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Distorted Sound Issue 24 COVER