“Raw and passionate” is a self description provided by Portugese epic metallers Ravensire. We March Forward, the band’s 2013 debut album and my first exposure to their music, clearly demonstrated this to be the case with its no-frills approach. A few years later and we saw the release of the band’s sophomore album, The Cycle Never Ends. Ravensire were more ambitious with this sophomore effort and it manifested itself with a bigger emphasis on songwriting and storytelling. Three years later and the band is set to release their third album titled, A Stone Engraved in Red, with intent to continue in the steps of its predecessors and prove indeed that the cycle never ends.
Ravensire represent the next stage evolution of Omen’s Battle Cry. The songs are generally mid paced with a bit of a bounce to the riffs and like Omen, the song are simple and straightforward. You won’t find any crazy techniques or elaborate song structures. Instead, what you get with Ravensire is storytelling and a sense of deliberateness. Since the songs are relatively simple, each riff has to have impact and meaning. Of course, what really helps set apart and distinguish Ravensire from other bands are the signature vocals of Rick Thor. Sharing some similarities with Ironsword’s Tann and Omen’s J.D. Kimball, his barbaric vocals aren’t for the faint of heart and take a bit of getting used to, but they add an extra dimension to the music that really defines Ravensire’s approach to music.
Their approach to music hasn’t shifted drastically from release to release, but there has been a natural evolution in the Ravensire sound over the years. A Stone Engraved in Red slots in nicely with the band’s last two albums with its excellent riffs, emphasis on rhythm, gruff vocals, and prominent low end. Yet there’s a hint of something a bit different here – melody. It’s not that Ravensire has been devoid of melody prior to this effort, but rather that the melodies play a more central role to the music this time around. The core Ravensire identity is very much still in tact, but the more melodic effort is nice to see and places them a bit closer stylistically to Slough Feg, an influence the band has cited on numerous occasions.
I don’t typically like discussing individual songs, but I would be remiss if I didn’t set aside ample time to discuss “After the Battle”, Ravensire’s tribute to the legendary Mark “The Shark” Shelton of Manilla Road fame. This track is broken up into two very distinct segments. The first half of the song (the battle, if you will) features heavy, mid-paced riffing with a chorus consisting of Rick’s thunderous voice shouting “AFTER THE BATTLE”. This is then broken up by one of Ravensire’s best solos to date, a slow and incredibly emotional affair, before breaking into a brief acoustic section with a special guest on vocals – James Beattie of Northern Ireland’s Terminus. James’ calm demeanor, representing the calm melancholy and sorrow that comes after the battle, provides a sharp contrast to Rick’s rough vocals and provides us with a reprieve before Ravensire pick it up again with yet another fantastic solo. The song is then finally closed out with a brief chorus. “After the Battle”, particularly the second half, is perhaps my favorite Ravensire song to date. It’s a tasteful tribute that stands as a testament to the tremendous legacy and influence of Mark Shelton.
There aren’t really any major, glaring flaws to A Stone Engraved in Red. The production suits the music, it’s an appropriate length, and Ravensire continues their tradition of strong songwriting and storytelling, but there are still things to nitpick. The album opens and closes very strongly, however the middle section doesn’t quite meet that mark. There’s a bit of a mid album lull where the songs are great, but not excellent like the opening and closing sections of the album. Overall though, it’s an enjoyable listen and a worthy addition to Ravensire’s catalogue.
Album rating: 90/100
Favorite track: After the Battle