With a number of high-profile tours with IRON MAIDEN and ANTHRAX even before their debut album, Darkness Will Rise, has been released it’s clear there’s a lot of excitement surrounding THE RAVEN AGE. There’s clearly a lot of potential seen in this band by elements of the music industry. Unfortunately Darkness Will Rise doesn’t exhibit any of this potential and it’s difficult to see what this band really has going for them musically.
Musically, Darkness Will Rise sits firmly in the realms of the old school – there may be modern production sheen but with each song revolving around the vocals and a decidedly mid-paced stomp driving the album there’s little denying it. There’s certainly a small hint of modern influence in some of the guitar playing which takes influence from elements of metalcore like KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and PARKWAY DRIVE that, in turn, borrowed from the Gothenburg scene but musically there’s very little to place this album in 2017. There are a few musically satisfying moments; Winds of Change features a suitably cathartic emotional build while intro track Darkness Will Rise does a good job of creating anticipation but for the most part a lot of what THE RAVEN AGE seem to be attempting on Darkness Will Rise simply does not connect.
Another problem that Darkness Will Rise faces is that it is simply too long; especially for a debut album which should be acting as an introduction for the band. Most of the songs have nowhere near the content to justify their individual length. Apart from the opening title track none of the songs on Darkness Will Rise fall below the five and a half minute mark. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the songs actually had the ideas to support such extended song lengths but they’re just not present. With a runtime of over an hour there’s a lot more fluff than filler over the course of the album. Most of the guitar work is fairly forgettable and often just falls back onto basic chugs for large percentages of the song and when it does riff there’s not really much about these moments that are memorable. Several songs do feature some well-constructed dynamic builds over a middle section or bridge but this is about the only thing that THE RAVEN AGE can do well and you bet they abuse it. Indeed, by the end of the album even the best-constructed of these moments simply lose their impact due to familiarity.
Of course, as mentioned previously, Darkness Will Rise principally revolves around the vocals with the guitars often acting as nothing more than a grounding or bed for Michael Burrough. Here lies the final problem with Darkness Will Rise. While possessed of a good voice that suits itself well to the dynamic builds that THE RAVEN AGE do well in places there are very little of the subtleties that form a great vocal performance. Very few of the choruses are memorable, indeed, they often seem like an extra verse that’s just repeated throughout the song. Beyond the aforementioned bridges too Burrough rarely goes above one level of intensity with the volume of his singing and, put simply, there are simply no vocal hooks. In an album that’s centred around the vocals you’d expect there to be some more catchy moments to pull the listener in. Twin that with some often mawkishly overdramatic lyrics and you’ve got a centrepiece performance that often feels anything but.
Darkness Will Rise is out now via BMG.
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