Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
One of the joys in music is to see an artist grow and the development of The Raven Age has certainly been a hard won and intensely pleasurable one for those who first caught the fledgling band as the opened for British Lion some few years ago.
Since then they’ve toured the world, supporting Iron Maiden in front of stadiums full of rabid fans of the headliners and won huge swathes over, their commitment to the material and live performances showing a determination to succeed against the odds.
With further tours with the likes of Tremonti, Anthrax, Alter Bridge and Shinedown, numerous festival appearances they’ve not shirked in doing things the hard way.
All that work is certainly paying off and the release of this new album, featuring two new tracks, arrangements of some older numbers and four scorching live cuts, shows just how much the band has grown.
Whilst the pair of freshly minted pieces may be the main attraction, this is so much more than just a stop gap for the band or a ‘greatest hits thus far’ and the remainder of ‘Exile’ shows the level of maturity in song writing and arranging the band have arrived at but also their visceral power as a band, honed from months on the road.
Kicking off with recent single ‘No Man’s Land’ and ‘Wait For Me’, there is a real cinematic and melodic quality here that has always been at the centre of what the band do but has now been given the opportunity to really shine.
The more stately and spacious arrangements bring out new depths that are sometimes lost by the sheer force of their more frentic material, the vocals of Matt James and the fretwork of George Harris and Tony Maue balancing power and nuance.
With the five reduxed tracks from 2019’s ‘Conspiracy’ album, they’ve taken a similar approach, stripping back the bombast in deference to a more thoughtful route.
The Spanish feel to ‘Fireflies’ and strings and piano on ‘A Look Behind The Mask’ all add rich colours and even when there is an undercurrent of electricity and speed that crackles along, it’s there to emphasise rather than drive.
All this peaks with ‘Hold High The Fleur De Lis’, its soaring and widescreen grandeur matched by some truly heartfelt vocals by James, everything coming together as the song takes off into another realm that is at once otherworldly and intensely personal.
The closing run of ‘Seventh Heaven’, ‘Angel In Disguise’, ‘Surrogate’ and ‘Forgotten World’ see the band at their most feral, the stage their natural environment. Recordings are taken from sets ranging from the stadiums of Santiago and the halls of London as the quintet rip things up in no uncertain style.
Powered by the locomotive express that is rhythm section Matt Cox and Jai Patel this is the clear indication that the Raven Age certainly know how to rock with a very modern sound, always with one eye on their handy knack of killer hooks.
With another full-blooded album on the way, ‘Exile’ is both a perfect introduction to those late to the party and a welcome addition to the already converted. On this form, the world truly is theirs for the taking.
Pre-Order ‘Exile’ & get tickets for our UK tour now – https://theravenage.lnk.to/Exile