Raven Woods // Enfeebling the Throne
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Some excellent parts, but they need to differentiate themselves from the pack…
Label: Code 666
Release Dates: EU: 2011.01.04 | US: 06.07.2011
Middle-eastern tinged metal has become a slight trend. Since Nile really took off with the sound and influences, slowly but surely the metal scene has followed with. Behemoth played the Nile card and won big with it and Melechesh has grown to great popularity, releasing great records left and right. However, that bands from the middle-eastern or north African region are actually put out records influenced by their own culture, that’s pretty new. Sure, Orphaned Land has been around a long time, but they didn’t really catch the popular metal imagination until 2006. Myrath still hasn’t caught on and now we have Raven Woods of Turkish extraction.
And, let me say this, Raven Woods wasn’t impressive at first. I listened to this record and said “Holy crap! Behemoth!” But fortunately for bands (but not for lazy reviewers) we have standards over here at Angry Metal Guy, and that meant that I couldn’t just write a review after one listen. Because, while the record starts out a bit slow and monotone, the first three tracks really do just sound like Behemoth songs to me, the record gets better and better as it develops. Starting with “Torture Palace” Raven Woods starts successfully blending the traditional middle-eastern sounds, modes and instrumentations in with their face melting death metal riffs and the effect is haunting.
Tracks like the aforementioned “Torture Palace” and “Upheaven-Subterranean” are excellent examples of this blending, as well as the awesome tech-lite riffing on “The Grey Cold Shade,” which features not only excellent riffing but an all out death vocal assault, with vocalist Kaan really shining (if that’s the right word) and showing off his intensity. Another thing about these guys, is that while they have a bit of that Behemoth and Melechesh sound to them, they have a more melodeath approach at times, with excellent harmonized guitars and techy riffs that really get stuck in your brain after a few listens and feature the more traditional vibe while still being heavy. This, combined with excellent guitar solos and the mix of traditional instruments creates a unique and enjoyable blending of sounds that really convinced me that there was more to this band.
Unfortunately, the production on this record is very much ‘modern’ and feels like too much. It’s loud (duh), and the drums are very triggered and/or replaced and it kinda draws back from the sound, which because of its traditional tinge, should maybe be more acoustic and/or folksy. To be honest, it also helps contribute to the feeling that these guys just sound like Behemoth, which says something about how dated Behemoth‘s records are going to sound in a few years, doesn’t it. When you hear that thick guitar tone with those triggered, blasty drums it gives off an immediate feeling. But fortunately, with a careful listening, the music speaks for itself, and it overcomes these draw backs to produce a really convincing second two-thirds of the album.
Rating this record is really hard for me. I think that from track 5-11 are awesome; really great metal, but the slow start doesn’t deserve a higher score than a 3.5, and I don’t want to exaggerate anything. But at the same time, I want to strongly recommend this for fans of modern death metal and folk-influenced music and Middle-Eastern flavors. I think that this band has some amazing potential if they can differentiate themselves from the pack a little bit sound-wise. The music is beautiful, it’s subtle and it’s well-written at the same time as being brutal and heavy. I wish these guys the best of luck and hope to see them out on tour, because this music would be excellent live.