Ravage – Return of the Spectral Rider (SWWR Recordings)

Thursday, 18th May 2017
Rating: 8.5/10

Outside of New England, many metalheads probably feel like Massachusetts power/speed metal act Ravage went into permanent hiding following their Metal Blade release The End of Tomorrow in 2009. Natural life circumstances and lineup issues saw the quintet play out occasionally, opening Boston/Worcester-area dates for Anvil, Vicious Rumors, and Onslaught plus making local headlining appearances while working on material for two albums – the first of which turns out to be a fully revamped re-recording of their debut album Spectral Rider that appeared on German label Karthago Records in 2005. Under normal circumstances, these efforts seem like cash grabs or place holders while these musicians struggle to write new material and be relevant. Fortunately, that’s not the case this go around, as natural seasoning and infinitely better production qualities make Return of the Spectral Rider a triumphant second go around.

Privy to the original album, the recording suffers from distant tonality where the rhythm section and guitars have a demo-oriented quality, and the mastering magnifies this even more to the point that cranking it to the max will not improve things. No fear here- the guitars are sharp and powerful, the bass and drums locked and loaded, while Al Ravage’s sinister sneer and elevated wails sail over the top of the musical mix. Stylistically, Ravage perform a riffier power style with occasional speed and thrash nuances – taking elements from the NWOBHM scene, adding a bit of American aggression and Teutonic sophistication, and there you have it. Equal amounts of Accept appreciation come in on “Turn the Screw” as do early, heads down Metallica for “Ravage Part 1: Damage” – insuring maximum energy transference and unison chorus participation. Guitar cultural strains and a darker atmosphere make “Whyvern” another highlight, marrying similarities of early Annihilator and King Diamond as the added sound effects heighten the eeriness factor. Eli Firicano and Nick Izzo prove to be complimentary in all axe duties – clean or distortion driven – ready for the Maiden-ish gallops on “Masque of Black Death” as much as the frantic instrumental tradeoffs and harmonies in the 8:27 epic “The King Forgotten”.

The CD version contains 13 tracks, while there is a shorter vinyl version available as well – the new Tim Jacobus artwork a sight to behold and perfect for poster board material. Ravage have been active now for 22 years, fighting for the classic/power/speed metal cause regardless of what was in vogue, popularity be damned. This is a very necessary return and can’t wait to hear the next original full-length.

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