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Ravage
Spectral Rider
December 2005
Released: 2005, Karthago Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

While the rest of the metal dudes their age are busy applying eyeliner or writing breakdowns, Massachusetts’ Ravage are not only writing REAL metal but they are doing it well, too! Brothers Al “Ravage” Firicano (vocals) and Eli Firicano (guitar/keyboards) planted the seeds for Ravage in 1995 as a retaliation against the shoe-gazing flannel-mongers of the grunge era and after playing musical chairs (quite literally, as Al started out on drums and Eli on bass) and trudging through the eastern seaboard underground, the band in its current incarnation finally came to fruition in 2001. The CURSE OF HEAVEN E.P. (raved about in an October 2003 review by our esteemed former colleague, JP) was released in 2003 and generated enough buzz to have several labels clamoring to sign the young band. Eventually choosing the small German indie, Karthago Records, Ravage self-financed the recording of SPECTRAL RIDER, which, in itself, saw personnel changes within the band, delivering eleven new tracks and a remix of the title track from the CURSE OF HEAVEN E.P..



As a new band with an average age of 22 years old, one would expect Ravage to be seeking the fast road to Ozzfest and MTV but SPECTRAL RIDER is a slab of good old-fashioned, mid-paced, dark American power metal with enough Maiden-esque inflections to infuse a powerful Euro gallop to the proceedings. Thankfully, the keyboards are used sparingly and are never used as a replacement for guitar riffs or solos (an instant drop in grade for me) to have the music reach Helloween/Stratovarius levels, either. Even the vocals of Al “Ravage” Firicano do not hit the “balls in a vice” falsetto screech that plagues so many power metal albums. Imagine Blaze Bayley or Biff Byford singing for Jag Panzer and that is a good indication of Ravage’s sound.



“Turn The Screw” builds from a muted intro to a galloping groove and catchy chorus with Firicano’s vocals stretching from low-end snarl to a few modest wails. The playing of Eli Firicano and Nick Izzo remains controlled and never strays to over-the-top wankery or unnecessary showiness. In other words, the elements are displayed here without knocking the listener over the head with a ten-ton “look at us” hammer. Nice job, guys! The groovy title track could easily be taken from Judas Priest’s DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, while its solo and that of follow-up track, “The Wicked Way,” are dripping with Iron Maiden influence. The dual-guitar riffing on either of these tracks will have heads banging like mad in the live setting, too. “The Masque of Black Death” continues with an infectious gallop and lyrics that embody all that is metal (“fire and brimstone, blood and hellfire”). Watch out for “Ravage: Part 1: Damage,” the heaviest track, as it breaks out from the mid-paced familiarity that begins to form and takes things to a new level in a mere two-and-a-half minutes with a snappy groove. The intro of “The Wasteland” (they stole my name!!) instantly reminded me of Dio’s “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” while the equally haunting and majestic lead-in to “The King Forgotten” eventually kicks into a riff at the 4:30 mark that owes heavily to Iron Maiden’s “Revelations” and “The Trooper.” While I’m not familiar with the original version, the remix of “Curse of Heaven” is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. Melodic yet still heavy enough, there are moments of double bass coupled with tight riffing and an amazing solo that, with the help of an excellent chorus, really make this track stand out.



On the negative side, the band does, as stated earlier, tend to fall into a bit of a mid-paced tedium at times. The first four tracks follow basically the same structure and pacing and can blend into one another quite easily. The band is by no means going through the motions however a little more variation in songwriting will alleviate this problem. With a new lineup on board for album number two, the added input will undoubtedly be felt in a positive way. Another, and perhaps more nit-picky, thing that really stood out was the hideously cheesy album cover. The flaming hammer and MAD MAX-style motorcycle cliché is toppled only by the fact that the band’s name is spelled backwards across the “spectral rider”s chest…how did no one catch this??



Ravage’s full-length debut really took me by surprise since power metal is really not my thing and I am usually put off by the bland sameness of it all. Granted, there is not a lot of flash to be found on SPECTRAL RIDER but the fact that the band keeps themselves in check instantly makes me pay attention and avoids them being lumped into the dreaded “sin bin” found in the dark corner of my desk. Riffs and solos are played well without all the showiness that usually comes along with power metal and Firicano’s controlled vocals are a welcome change from the glass-shattering Halford/Kiske wannabes. There are a few North American bands that play a similar style to Ravage—Feinstein, Antiquus and Twisted Tower Dire come to mind—so they haven’t reinvented the wheel either, but for those who still like to break out the leather jacket/denim vest combo and air guitar along to albums like SACRED HEART, POWERSLAVE and even sturdier fare like Saxon’s DENIM AND LEATHER, look no further than the REAL metal of Ravage.



KILLER KUTS: “Turn The Screw,” “Spectral Rider,” “The Wicked Way,” “The Masque of Black Death,” “The Wasteland,” “Curse of Heaven”
Track Listing

1. Turn The Screw
2. Spectral Rider
3. The Wicked Way
4. The Masque of Black Death
5. Ravage Part 1: Damage
6. Wyvern
7. Incantation of The Necromancer
8. Wake The Dead
9. The Wasteland
10. Bring Down The Hellhammer
11. The King Forgotten
12. Curse of Heaven (Bonus Track)

Lineup

Al “Ravage” Firicano—Vocals
Eli Firicano—Guitar/Keyboards
Nick Izzo—Guitar
Howie Snow—Bass
George Bellofatto—Drums


Next review: » Ravage - Spectral Rider
Previous review: » Ravage - FREEDOM FIGHTER

Ravage
Spectral Rider
December 2005
Released: 2005, Karthago Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Waspman

As 2005 draws to a close, it is obvious that one of the major…trends (I don’t like that word, but I guess it fits) of the year was new bands looking back, creating sounds that are heavily influenced by the dirtier, rawer sounds of the 1980s. Bands like Ignitor, Icarus Witch, and many others made waves with their slightly retro sounds. Boston’s own Ravage also claim roots/influences in this vein, and their debut disc SPECTRAL RIDER drives home this point.

Slogging it out since 1995, Ravage can definitely not be accused of riding any trends, and the extra work they’ve put in is obvious in the polish of this disc. Though a limited EP came out in 2003 (CURSE OF HEAVEN), this is their first “official” release and they immediately show they can play with the big boys. Opening with the catchy “Turn of the Screw”, Ravage quickly kick you in the balls with their NWOBHM crossed with Jag Panzer sound, guitars buzzing like AMPLE DESTRECTION, Al Ravage wailing like he’s from Birmingham, 1979. The rest of the album continues this formula, throwing in some classic Iced Earth-styled (circa STORMRIDER) riffage for good measure.

Even though “Incantation of the Necromancer” is a complete waste of a minute and a half, the rest of the album is 51 minutes of pure 80’s ass kickery. “Ravage Pt. 1”, the vicious “Wake the Dead”, the title track, it all bleeds into a cacophony of pure classic metal. Yeah, Ravage may not be reinventing the wheel, but SPECTRAL RIDER is too good to be ignored. Traditional metal fans should do themselves a favour and seek this out.
Track Listing

1) Turn the Screw
2) Spectral Rider
3) The Wicked Way
4) The Masque of Black Death
5) Ravage Pt. 1: Damage
6) Wyvern
7) Incantation of the Necromancer
8) Wake the Dead
9) The Wasteland
10) Hellhammer
11) The King Forgotten
12) Curse of Heaven

Lineup

Al Ravage: Vocals
Eli Firicano: Guitars, Keyboards
Nick Izzo: Guitars
Howie Snow: Bass
George Bellofatto: Drums


Next review: » Ravage - Spectral Rider
Previous review: » Ravage - FREEDOM FIGHTER

Ravage
Spectral Rider
December 2005
Released: 2005, Karthago Records
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: EvilG

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.
Track Listing

1. Turn The Screw
2. Spectral Rider
3. The Wicked Way
4. The Masque Of Black Death
5. Ravage Part 1: Damage
6. Wyvern
7. Incantation Of The Necromancer
8. Wake The Dead
9. The Wasteland
10. Bring Down The Hellhammer
11. The King Forgotten
12. Curse Of Heaven (bonus track)

Lineup

Al Ravage - Vocals
Eli Firicano - Guitar
Nick Izzo - Guitar
Howie Snow - Bass
George Bellofatto – Drums


Next review: » Ravage - The End of Tomorrow
Previous review: » Ravage - FREEDOM FIGHTER





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