Album: The Cycle Never Ends
Label: Cruz del Sur Records
The Cycle Never Ends is Ravensire’s sophomore effort, and it comes after what I believe to a fairly strong debut. So, given that I feel they set the bar fairly high right out of the gates, this one had a lot to live up to. And initially, I thought that it fell flat. Nothing was overtly bad about it, but nothing was really drawing me in either. But there was something lurking under the surface that I couldn’t quite place my finger on, so I spun it again and a third time, still not quite finding much to latch onto.
My first impressions of this album basically came down to the fact that much of it sounded generic. At this point in time, we’ve all heard a thousand and one songs with galloping riffs and as cool as they can be, they aren’t exactly head-turners in and of themselves. And it wasn’t until I started to search below the surface of the commotion of the jumping riffs that I started to hear the appeal of this album, and suddenly it started to click.
I have heard some them compare to Maiden, and they certainly have a bit of that influence in here, but that’s hardly the first thing I would think of. I think what they have more than any overt influence is the use of the Maiden template. Their songwriting and composition is very much their own and their delivery is sufficiently different that I think such comparisons are more accurate than they are helpful.
The first thing that most people will notice about Ravensire is the vocalist, who is nothing short of incredible. He is unique in that I think he actually could be the harshest vocalist I have ever heard who still technically sings a specific pitch with which the other band members can actually harmonise. I think I have only heard a few other vocalists who come close to his gargled approach. And that’s one of the things I noticed about this album after a few listens that I hadn’t picked up the first time: the rest of the band meshes absolutely perfectly with his voice. The
other clean vocals, the heavily distorted guitars, and lead fills especially all layer on top of the vocals creating an uncanny chemistry that is not often heard.
Probably the most unlikely influence I expected to hear was Bathory. “Procession of the Dead” sounds like Blood Fire Death-era Bathory with a main riff that sounds like it was ripped right out of “A Fine Day to Die”. Shoot, after a Latin spoken word section taken from Psalm CXXIX (de profundis clamavi ad te, Domine), the lead guitar comes firing in almost exactly the same way Quorthon does in that very song. And whilst a Bathory influence might seem out of place, in this case, it totally works. But the oddities don’t end there. You also have “Eternal Sun”, whose intro plays like the vocal line to “Greensleeves” run through a blender with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” And even though that particular juxtaposition is something I’ve grown to appreciate, it was also one of the many things that kept me scratching my head during the first few listens.
Long story short: this is a solid album that has much to offer, both musically and lyrically. So if you’ve heard thisonce or twice and you’re still on the fence about this one, don’t give up on it so quickly. If you haven’t heard it yet, be prepared to invest in it a bit, because there is a real depth to this album that I believe warrants all the time spent to gain a proper appreciation for it.
© 2016, Dave Hodges