Released: 2005, Karthago Records
Here’s one for the ‘do not judge an album based on its cover art’ files. Looking at the cover, you’d think this was an album put out by complete amateurs. The guys in this Boston area band might not be old (most are in their early 20’s) but the music contained on this album is anything but amateur. This is classic heavy metal, or as the band calls it, US power metal. Think of bands like Twisted Tower Dire, Jag Panzer, Slough Feg, Omen, etc and you’ll have an idea of the style of music played by Ravage. As such, it might have a slightly limited appeal, but with their signing to Germany’s Karthago Records, the band will hopefully receive exposure in a market with this style of music is much more accepted.
Despite being able to trace their roots back about a decade, SPECTRAL RIDER is the first full-length album by Ravage. The sound of this album is good when viewed in terms of a band that is either independent or not heavily financed. But in today’s crowded metal market, it’s just not as well produced as some of their peers and as such is something they need to improve upon. Maybe the band was going for an 80’s production sound since the material on here is definitely classic heavy metal. Good production is not the only thing a band needs; talent and song writing ability is often lacking and hidden under layers of overproduced music. Such is not the case here where despite having sub-par production and cover art, the music still shines. Another ingredient that will attract some is the undeniable fact that vocalist Al Ravage sounds a lot like Blaze Bayley…and not in a way in which the vocals don’t suit the music, but in a Blaze solo album way where the vocals and music fit together. Al is not just a Blaze copycat though, you’ll hear his own style throughout the album and he has a unique voice.
“Turn The Screw” opens the album with clean guitars and Al sounding a lot like Blaze. It’s when he sings in a deeper voice over these mellower moments that you’ll clearly notice the Blaze comparison. Sometimes he tries to sing a littler higher than his range is suited for, not much of a problem but something for any singer should be aware of. “Spectral Rider” has a great build up before moving into standard classic metal sounding riffing. The chorus on this one is one of the strongest on the album. One of the heavier tracks on here, “Incantation of the Necromancer” has a more thrash metal feel with the riffing making it one of the stand out tracks. Some more speedy tracks would not have gone astray on here as well. “The Wasteland” is a diverse piece with some Maiden tinged riffage and harmonies. Even though I’m not one for clean intros to songs, Ravage to it very well, perhaps my favorite clean intro being “The King Forgotten”. The album’s closer, and bonus track, “Curse of Heaven” should be on all copies as it’s one of the stronger tracks and has some nice memorable melodies.
If a heavy metal album from an 80’s timewarp sounds appealing, Ravage deliver the goods in spades. From the artwork, to the sound, and the music, SPECTRAL RIDER is something of a rarity to uncover. While it’s not a perfect album, its authenticity and spirit of true heavy metal is undeniable.