Among the uninitiated, metal has a reputation for being “that angry sort of music.” Of course, we know better than that. Many progressive and power metal bands wax about life-affirming statements in flowery language, and even many heavy metal bands aim more for fun and camaraderie than anger and skull-bashery. With more extreme forms of metal, it’s easier to see where the ignorant come from, but even black metal commonly puts subjects like evil and subversion ahead of sheer violence. Ravens Creed, however, have no problem giving in to the stereotypes. Their poetically-titled album Get Killed or Try Dying is a short, snappy burst of hate, savagery and caved-in craniums. Who knew crusty death metal would be so aggressive?
Taking from their crust influences, Get Killed is a fairly bare-bones affair. The guitars are courtesy of Steve Watson, who also plays for Iron Monkey and has more ex-bands than some labels have artists. Steve gets right in your face with simple but effective riffs, sporting a nasty and aggressive buzz and all but obliterating the barely audible bass. Behind the kit, drummer Jay Graham seems to have two modi operandi: straightforward 4/4 in rapid fire or the typical shifted gallop of D-beat. Rounding out this line-up is vocalist Al Osta, with a dry and breathy growl that touches on Martin van Drunen’s (Asphyx et al.) style without that edge of hysteria. No time for hysteria when you’re out caving faces in, Ravens Creed say, evident by the “fuck shit up and run” track length that never crosses the three-minute border.
For the most part, this serves the band well enough. The record barrels past with frantic energy, save for the more mid-paced stomp of the title track. It’s a heavily riff-centered album; the rhythm section is sufficient but perfunctory, while the vocals lack the weight and body to deliver a gut-punch where you want one, due to their breathy quality and lack of dynamics in pitch and delivery. This focus on guitars is not necessarily a killing blow, as long as the riffs are strong, and the first half of the album has plenty of those. The aforementioned title track has an almost mechanical quality that practically bangs your head for you, its follow-up “Hymn & Hearse” features a frenetic punk riff in blocky scales, and the absolutely furious “Rats Beneath Our Feet” employs a few Slayer tricks to obliterate the opposition.
But when you have only one instrument to really rely on, it has to be in top form on every single track, and there are a few forgettable turns across the album. Tracks like “Off with Their Legs” and “Sound of Sirens” revert to fairly basic riffs. The weaknesses of the one-trick vocals are made plain on tracks like these, particularly the former, where the power in the vocals drops off at the end of their lines in anticlimactic fashion. The excellent “When a Deaf Man Goes Blind” features an apparently uncredited guest vocalist whose sheer heft and volume blows the other tracks out of the water, and it serves to highlight where Osta falls short. Most of the album is still worth hearing for the exemplary riffs, but there is very little to pick up where the guitars fall short, and it leaves the album a decidedly mixed bag.
While rating Get Killed, I kept going back and forth on how much I enjoyed the overall experience. The blistering pace and unceremonious aggression are a welcome palate cleanser to loftier fare, and the majority of the riffs are exhilarating. All is good with the world when the riffs are killer, but when they’re not, the whole song crumbles to the ground like a marquee missing its central support. When you go crusty and bare-bones in your approach, every element has to be excellent, and in spite of a multitude of enjoyable material, Ravens Creed falls short of reaching that point in its totality.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Xtreem Music
Websites: ravenscreed.bandcamp.com | ravenscreed.co.uk | facebook.com/ravens-creed-official
Releases Worldwide: August 2nd, 2018