Hard rock and heavy metal are the family trades for members of Ravened. Main songwriter, Olle Liljegren, is the son of Simeon from Audiovision and drummer, Oliwer Svennson, is the child of Kent Svennson from Hellfueled. But this is where the generational thread ends, for Ravened are pure groove metal in the mould of Pantera, Lamb of God and Prong.
Groove metal is distinctive for not undergoing a revival in the last few years. Indeed, you may ask if it’s a legitimate genre? For bands who like thrash and the potential to slow it down into head-spinning chugs, the answer is “yes”. Another term is post-thrash, which was relevant in the mid-90s following the innovation of Sepultura and Machine Head. But here we have a Swedish five-piece with a careful calibration of palm-muted guitar riffs and drum triplets underpinning the awesome vocal delivery of Isac Wendel. And it’s 2020 instead of 1994. Let’s begin.
At thirteen tracks in length, this is a sensational debut from five musicians between the ages of 19 and 24. ‘Foul Deeds’, ‘We’ll Rise’ and ‘From the Depths’ blast with crunchy riffs and vitriolic intent, often alternating between introspective lyrics and strident grooves that make you lower your shoulders and clench your jaw. Fans of Jinjer’s Cloud Factory album will appreciate the guitar work on ‘Blackened One’ and celebrate the breakdown riff that takes Pantera’s ‘Five Minutes Alone’ as its template for destruction. Every song on here has a guitar crunch to make you gurn and wish you were wearing a sports vest in an underground music venue.
But a good dose of groove metal does not make for an instant classic without variation and depth. Fortunately, Ravened are aware of this and sprinkle their winning formula with a few surprises. ‘The Cunning’ thrives on a power metal riff and a bridge that sounds like Life of Agony, while ‘Personal Universe’ utilises a church organ at the beginning and end to give their sound a gothic metal vibe. It all comes together on standout track, ‘Denial’, which may hint at where the band’s future evolution lies. This is an introverted number with a nod to Tool in its bass heavy nakedness and expert use of downward palm-mutes and octaves. It’s a song to cling to when you’re alone on a Sunday with a beer in your hand and a dread of returning to work on Monday.
Some critics will accuse Ravened of being too obvious in their influences. That’s a fair point. You’re expecting Randy Blythe to scream, “Now you’ve got something to die for!” on ‘Stridsugglan’ and ‘Golden’. Likewise, their appreciation for Pantera’s guitarwork on Cowboys from Hell borders on worship rather than inspiration. But these are minor reservations when you consider the standard of song-writing and musicianship on display. This is fucking heavy!
Debut albums are often a snapshot of a band’s future capability. In that case, Ravened will have a lot to contribute over the next decade.
Release Date: 07/08/2020
Record Label: Jono Music
Standout tracks: Foul Deeds, Denial, Personal Universe
Suggested Further Listening: Pantera – Cowboys from Hell (1990), Jinjer – Cloud Factory (2014), Lamb of God – Sacrament (2006)