It was a remarkable opportunity for the young Londoners, 72 shows in 36 countries, at once a chance to witness first-hand the transformative force of heavy metal as a true global religion, a platform to showcase their own explosive, dramatic, dynamic craft and a tantalising vision of what might be.
“It was an amazing experience,” admits guitarist Dan Wright, “a tour we’ll remember forever. It was an insight as to what can be achieved with hard work, the right attitude and brilliant songs. This is just the start of our journey, of course, but that tour laid out the goals our band should aspire to. We couldn’t have wished for a greater motivation or bigger inspiration for what The Raven Age could be.”
Such aspirations were far from the minds of Wright and fellow The Raven Age guitarist George Harris when the pair were first introduced in 2009 via their respective girlfriends. Back then, the teenagers were in thrall to metalcore acts such as Killswitch Engage, Parkway Drive and Avenged Sevenfold, and shared a mutual love of lavish film scores and stirring classical symphonies. Gradually a vision for their own music began to coalesce and the notion of forming a band took hold.
“From the start we wanted to create music that was dramatic and melodic, powerful and emotional,” recalls George Harris. “We wanted to have clean vocals and huge riffs but to incorporate the grandeur and orchestration of fantasy film scores, to create a sound that was epic and overwhelming, which would take the listener on a journey with us.”
With the recruitment of drummer Jai Patel, bassist Matt Cox and powerhouse vocalist Michael Burrough, The Raven Age emerged as a fully-fledged band, playing their first gig in February 2013. Self-managed and proudly independent, the quintet self-released their debut EP, the self-titled four track The Raven Age EP, in the summer of 2014 and hit the road hard, racking up tour supports with the likes of Mastodon, Gojira, Tremonti, Delain, British Lion and Ghost. Packed tents for their performances at Britain’s premier metal festivals, Download and Sonisphere, bore witness to the quintet’s burgeoning reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting live bands. And then came the invitation to support Iron Maiden on a six month trek that would take the young Londoners from 55,000 capacity stadiums in South America to New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden and beyond.
“It was a pretty daunting prospect, but we knew it’d be an incredible opportunity,” says Harris. “Previously our biggest gig had been playing in front of 2,500 people with Tremonti and the opening night of the Maiden tour was a 22,000 capacity room in Florida. But we always knew that if we could get in front of people, we have the songs and the presence to make an impact.”
One music industry figure who was blown away by the band’s commanding live performance was Thomas Jensen, co-founder of Germany’s legendary Wacken Open Air festival.
“When we first saw The Raven Age on our stage in 2016 we knew they were destined for big things,” says Jensen. “Their melodic, powerful metal has found favour all over the world on the Maiden tour and our audience was no different! Watch out for this band – we know they’ll be back here many times in the future and we look forward to it!”
For the band themselves, the tour was a revelatory and emboldening experience.
“We went to places like Australia and New Zealand on the other side of the world and there were people in the front row who knew the words to every single song, and that was a big shock to us,” admits Dan Wright. “One track, Angel In Disgrace, actually hit number 3 on the iTunes Metal chart in Australia. Worldwide, our Spotify plays went through the roof [The Raven Age EP is currently approaching 2.5 million plays on the streaming service], and obviously our profile soared. But beyond that, the tour made us more confident as a band, and gave us the belief that we can take this further.”
Emphatic evidence of this comes with the imminent release of the quintet’s debut album, Darkness Will Rise. Recorded at Barnyard Studios in Essex with English studio wizard Matt Hyde, whose CV includes work with metallic heavyweights Slipknot, Machine Head, Bullet For My Valentine and Trivium, the 13 track album is compelling proof that The Raven Age are ready to fly. From richly textured, portentous opener Darkness Will Rise via the hard-hitting, haunting The Death March (based on the autobiographical best-seller The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, by WWII hero Denis Avey) to the captivating, suspenseful Salem’s Fate and on to the urgent, furiously aggressive Angel In Disgrace (a meditation on the broken promises of organised religion), the album is a thrilling, superbly controlled and astonishingly mature masterclass in modern melodic metal. With Burrough’s soaring, searing vocals evoking memories of iconic metal vocalists from Chester Bennington to Corey Taylor, Darkness Will Rise serves notice that here, finally, is a new British metal band equipped to take on the world. Set for release on BMG on March 17, at the climax of quintet’s current tour with US thrash metal godfathers Anthrax, the album heralds the dawning of a new age: The Raven Age.
“Our original plan was to release the album independently in December, and in fact the pre-orders actually went out,” says Wright, “but then BMG came to us and we felt we should listen to what they had to offer. We’ve never actively pursued the big labels because we had such a clear vision of who we are as a band, from the song writing to the artwork to the stories we want to tell, and we were never prepared to compromise that vision, but their belief in us, and their determination to get our music out to as many people as possible, won us over.”
‘With the listeners of Planet Rock radio having recently voted The Raven Age the world’s Best New Band/Britain’s Best New Band, 2017 promises to be a landmark year for the band.’
“It’s been a crazy journey so far,” Wright adds, “and there’s a big expectation now with the album coming out on a major, but we’re really sure of our music and our ability. Now we have this attention, it’s time for us to stand on our own feet and show that we’re ready for the next chapters in our story.”