Raven Lord – Descent to the Underworld

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Review by Paul H Birch

Mausoleum Records

Recorded in Sweden, where it was masterminded by former Killing Machine vocalist Csaba Zvekan, Descent to the Underworld is a concept album in all but name, with lyrics picked from the Dio book of high fantasy and the Halford tome of dark hells.  The music also has feet in both those camps, featuring a band whose pedigree includes having played with former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin and Iron Maiden-er Blaze Bayley and assorted European metal acts.

That their natural inclination is to take up that musical gauntlet and race with it in the power metal direction doesn’t always serve in their best interests, resulting at times in drumming that could just as easily be the sampling of a helicopter’s rotor blades and wearisome guitar soloing that at turns covers the lack of a song structure or obstructs its intended epic nature.

When things come together as on ‘Let the Show Go On’ the pacing is admirable, with suitable pomp and grandeur mixed in with a constant meaty aggression. Initially extemporising in a Dio with a razor-blade like croon before reaching the heights of a wailing banshee by the end of the piece, Zvekan delivers his tale of glory and justification for battle emphatically. ‘Promised Land’ shows where the thunderous gallop of power metal works effectively, the drumming accentuating the sound and driving the band on with purpose, for – after songs of murderous deeds, bloodied wars fought and falls into the jaws of the Hell – the vocal cry of “I’m back!” sums it all up in this one. ‘Black Friar’ bludgeons you into submission during the verses then raises your spirits with a strong hook line chorus; its neo-classical loop-the-loop solo coming in appropriately as hard-edged chords cut and thrust at it underneath, courtesy of guitarists Joe Stump and George Karafotis.

While musically unrelenting, Zvekan utilises a diversity of vocal styles over ‘Metal Knights’ most notably in a choral guttural chant that skirts death metal territory even as a Halford-like scream pitches over them in harmonic counterpoint, but the most effective one being an AOR inflected tone used only for a single line here and there. Concluding with the slower grind of ‘Sun God’ and references to being “buried in sand” and “mummies” the assumption is that its concerns are derived from the ancient Egyptian mythologies of Osiris and Horus, so something of an esoteric departure from the more European medieval folklore and Cimmerian barbarianism gone astray that dominates the preceding pieces.

While Raven Lord is the band’s collective name it’s presumably also the character featured on the album’s cover and as such implies that Descent to the Underworld is his rock opera, as it were. Certainly, the record is best appreciated across the breath of its entirety with it rising to a big finish.

Ravenlord - Descent To The Underworld6.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. The Rebel
  2. Attila the Hun
  3. Let the Show Go On
  4. Seal of the Cross
  5. Promised Land
  6. Settle the Score
  7. Black Friar
  8. World out of Steel
  9. Revelation
  10. Metal Knights
  11. Sun God

 

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