Released: 2013, Metal Blade Records
It is not often that I run across Australian doom metal bands. Yet, that is what I have here to sample, Raven Black Night being a doom metal band in the classic style. Formed in Adelaide, Australia back in 1999, Raven Black Night is a four piece that plays a traditional style of doom close to Candlemass, Trouble, and Sabbath rather than the sludgy more stoner style of doom. The band released their first album CHOOSE THE DARK in 2005 and kept busy playing festivals and touring relentlessly. The hard work has paid off, with Metal Blade picking the band up and releasing their second album, 2013’s BARBARIAN WINTER.
Vocalist Jim White sounds truly mournful, a cross between Ozzy and Bruce Dickinson as the band kicks off with a Sabbath-laced crusher in “Fire In Your Eyes.” The guitars invoke Iommi’s penchant for milking a massive riff for all its worth before playing a nice clean picked passage to set up the tasteful and very metal solo. And man, Jim White can wail, showcasing impressive range as the opening track intensifies near the end. “Mystery Woman” actually has more of a Dio-era Sabbath feel, with a more upbeat pace and a riff that leans more gothic than doom. For a Candlemass tribute, the title track delivers worthy nod to the doom masters. Not surprisingly, the band also pays homage to Sabbath by covering “Changes”, not my favorite Sabbath track and not rendered in a way to make a lasting impression here. The production is vintage doom though, if a bit raw, Metal Blade providing that big label weight that can help separate a good album from a great one because of superior budget and production values. White is the secret weapon here, so his vocals are upfront in the mix, everything else being placed back a bit but it works. Guitar work here is definitely adequate, not overly complicated or technical, White sharing guitar duties with Rino The Raven. Together, they forge catchy and lumbering riffs and power chords of doom magic.
When all is done, we have 12 doom metal tracks delivered with reverent worship of the past. As a doom band, it is hard to offer anything new and so Raven Black Night do not even bother, focusing on tightening and revisiting some key doom metal tendencies. The production is good as I mentioned, but the guitars could stand to be louder in the mix, sounding almost tentative and unsure here. Other minor complaint is that the similarities between tracks make it difficult for many songs to stand out. In other words, depending on your disposition, BARBARIAN WINTER might be one you take small bites from, listening in small doses upon revisits. Assessing from start to finish, BABARIAN WINTER is a fine doom metal release that will please, but not blow away long-time doom connoisseurs and more than likely not bring in any new converts. Recommended for fans of Black Sabbath and Candlemass.