Ravensire – “A Stone Engraved In Red” (Cruz Del Sur Music)
If true metal be thy calling, then look upon “A Stone Engraved In Red”! Hailing from Portugal, this 4 piece have impressively forged their epic quest over the course of 2 albums, 2 EPs and 2 splits and now on this latest release, show their full measure impressively! Right from the sound with its twin powering guitars laced with reverb to the medieval folk melodies and tons of epic passion exuded from not only the music but Rick’s impassioned vocals, there’s plenty of soul to match the steel on the 8 impressive and catchy tracks here. A tad melancholic in places, it comes as no surprise that “A Stone Engraved In Red” is dedicated to Mark ‘The Shark’ Shelton (Manilla Road) and Hartmuth Schindler (Barbarian Wrath), the latter a longtime friend and supporter of the band who is currently in a vegetative state with very slim hopes of ever recovering! Undaunted despite the loss of their comrades, Ravensire have soldiered well in their composing, executed with flair in their musicianship, and capitalised upon the album’s theme of ‘perpetuity’ that was driven by Rick’s background as an archaeologist. Galloping in on ‘Gabriel Lies Sleeping’, the power of the heart stirring epic melodies is undeniable as the guitars riff hack and solo slash in classic heavy metal style, where the altar of the fretboard reigns supreme, as can be said on the equally deep ‘Dawning Of Darkness’ as Rick bears his soul to match the epic guitar melodies adding even more passion power to the song. Still, the 6 1/2 minute ‘After The Battle’ truly surprised me with its dramatic contrasts of sombre ambience, galloping pieces, heavy doom rawness and tranquil acoustics – wow – not forgetting Rick’s own singing taking different forms to match – impressive! Indeed, as inspired by Shelton, there may be little focus on magical effects or spell bounding technical wizardry, but the honest reliance on the power of the riff to create memorable songs has been truly achieved here.