In the modern age of tight budgets and even tighter playlists, it’s all too tempting for today’s artists to dilute their vision into a one-size-fits-all, radio-friendly framework that leaves little to scratch beyond the surface. When such compromises are made, history has proven time and time again it is the art which undoubtedly suffers.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” – The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe
Harlow hard rock quintet The Raven Age, however, are very much doing everything on their own terms. Following the release of 2017 debut Darkness Will Rise, which saw them conquer some of the world’s biggest stages under many a metal legend, the group have now released their newest conceptual masterpiece, titled Conspiracy, which unveils the second chapter of their cryptic voyage...
“The album title came from the term for a collective of ravens,” reveals founding guitar George Harris, sat beside singer Matt James, guitarist Tony Maue, bassist Matt Cox and drummer Jai Patel in the down-time between soundcheck and their performance at the O2 Forum Kentish Town supporting Tremonti.
“It was partly inspired by the artwork,” continues George. “We’re big fans of massive stories that get told through both music and imagery. There’s so much more to get excited about. We could just put any old logo on our music and stick it out, but why not create something that gives people a much more all-encompassing experience? This band was named after the ravens of the Tower Of London. Our debut represented them leaving the Tower and taking over. This time we wanted to show the other side of that story in this fantasy world.”
The 12 tracks that soundtrack this new take on The Raven Age fantasy world are as brilliantly catchy as they are deviously heavy, delicately balancing classic and modern metal influences with an alt.rock twist. From epic opener Bloom Of The Poison Seed right through to grand finale Grave Of The Fireflies, the latest opus traps lightning in a bottle and laces cinematic flavours within concrete heaviness in a way very few have done before – dragging the listener deeper and deeper inside their dark dystopian reality. Truth be told, this is a band that are every bit as explosive as a blockbuster movie…
“The ravens are actually being held captive at the Tower, they aren’t there of their own accord,” continues George. “Their wings have been clipped and they’re prisoners of the Tower to keep Britain from falling. The ravens actually come from this castle that you can see in the artwork, inside dwells this character known as a timekeeper. And he’s on this journey to reclaim the ravens – being almost like a grim reaper in that he comes for you when your time is over, using the ravens as scouts – back from the Tower, with all sorts of twists and tangents…”
This sophomore instalment in what is set out to be part of a bigger story, where clues are left in the artwork and lyrics pointing to what may later come to pass, also marks the arrival of new singer Matt James. The frontman joined ranks in early 2018, ahead of their arena tour with metal masters Iron Maiden. It’s been an exciting rebirth for the group who were awarded Best New Band 2017 by Planet Rock and championed as “the UK's next brightest metal hope” by Metal Hammer...
“I grew up with a lot of alternative rock music,” says Matt, on the newer influences he has brought to the table. “That very first song I played felt so natural, it just worked and none of us could put our fingers on why. We’d rather experiment and invent something totally new that has substance than conform. There’s a combination of influences there that’s unusual but still has all the things we love about metal – the power, the ferocity, the anger – with added mood and theatrics.
“The imagery around our band is so important because it creates our identity. Sometimes members need to take a backseat and let the band have its own identity. George is a fantastic lyric writer, you could read his lines off paper without melody and they would tell a beautiful story. I love how bands like Avenged Sevenfold or Nightwish have always had that extra level of meaning to their lyrics.”
After weighing up the pros and cons to signing a big record deal, The Raven Age chose to release Conspiracy via their own Corvid (the raven/crow family of birds) label, allowing the members to oversee every step of their success and retain full recording rights and creative control. Along with grand designs for their music, imagery and career as a whole, this latest venture looks set to also become something bigger than the five members in the band.
“We want to know exactly what’s happening with every aspect of our band,” says George, who has overseen much of the band’s operations since their formation in 2009. “It’s not being big-headed, we’ve just learned that the more people you involve, the more your vision changes or slows down. We wrote the songs, recorded and produced it, came up with the artwork… so why not just go for it? There was more collaboration this time round – Tony and MJ brought some great ideas forward, which we all worked on together to make the album more diverse. Lyrically there are stories of desperation and inhumanity, which get told through different periods of time. I enjoy delving into the lives and experiences of people from years ago when times were totally different, alongside expressing current personal issues which I generally dress up in metaphor.”
“There’s a good sense of business in this band,” adds Matt. “If things go as well as we hope, we’d like to sign other bands and bring that into our little crow family. With our career, we know where we stand. If something doesn’t happen, we only have ourselves to blame and, as weird as it sounds, that’s a good place to be!”
2019 found these ravens in a very good place indeed. After focusing on prime-time support slots underneath rock’n’roll’s heavyweights, their March tour saw them conquer UK and European towns and cities as headliners in their own right.
“We know how to present ourselves on a massive stage,” agrees Matt. “For some bands, that can be intimidating. It was for us, to start with! But we’ve learned how good we are through it. We know how lucky we’ve been, a lot of bands would kill for the opportunities we’ve had, but we wouldn’t be still here if we couldn’t pull it off. We’ve supported everyone from Mastodon to Killswitch Engage to Gojira and have always held our own.”
The proof, as they say, is always in the pudding. The Raven Age have risen to every challenge thrown their way and look primed for metal glory. Get ready for the year of the Raven...