A lot of superlatives and hyperbole have been chucked around about The Raven Age – saviours of metal, the best new hope and all that. I don’t know if I’d go that far as there are so many great acts out there, but on the strength of only two main releases there’s no doubt that The Raven Age have what it takes and then some. The shift in vocalist from Michael Burrough to Matt James has done nothing to reduce the impact of their brand of melodic metal either. His voice fits in perfectly with the racket the rest of the lads are making.
What’s also noticeable is a change in tone and sound compared to their debut album. It just seems a bit better produced, more well rounded. Thematically, there are still some historical nods (“Fleur de lis”, “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”) but now we have songs covering topics such as mental health (“Betrayal of the Mind”).
Conspiracy opens with a great pairing of “Bloom of the Poison Seed” and “Betrayal of the Mind”. The former an atmospheric instrumental number which is promptly counterpointed by the abrupt intro of the latter. Track three is a highlight of a very strong album, “Fleur de lis”. It just has the feel of a live song, with elements of folk metal, being belted out in your front room, begging you to get involved.
Elsewhere we have the choppy heaviness of “Forgotten World”, “Scimitar”‘s driving rhythms (with some sneaky keyboards in the background) and epic finisher “Grave of the Fireflies” which, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, reminds me of Skalmold or Tyr when the heavier section kicks in.
I don’t often come across an album that grabs me the way Conspiracy has. A lot I’ve listened to recently has been of the “that’s OK” category, or has grown on me over time. Conspiracy had me by the danglies after the first listen and it’s not let go yet.