One look at that cover and you knew I’d be the chosen one to review it, didn’t you? And rightly so, as Ravensire has an imposing Throne of Usurpation built directly on the epicenter of my metallic wheelhouse. They rock a burly form of trve metal similar to Visigoth and Ironsword, and since that means Conan-core, you can expect much Cirith Ungol worshiping, Manowar loin clothing and Manilla Road raging. The band cites Omen and Brocas Helm as key influences and you can definitely hear it in their rough and rowdy early 80s sound. Naturally there are the expected Maiden-isms and nods to all things traditional, but none of that portcullis dressing means a thing if the songs don’t percolate with rancor and rage. Luckily, Ravensire show they can write an epic tune with grit, punch and hooks, which means the battle horn is sounding and you best gird yourself.
Are you girded? If not you’re screwed as opener “Cromlech Revelations” dumps you right into a bloodthirsty battle for honor, glory and booty. Sounding oh so very Cirith Ungol-ly, this is what being trve and kvlt is all abovt! The thick, meaty riffs gallop and thunder and the vocals are raspy, rough and manly. No air raid squealing or balls-in-a-vice wailing here, no, sir. If back hair could sing, it would sound just like this. A tune this mighty may only be followed by an even mightier one, and so “Crosshaven” was forged. Telling of Viking raids and the sack loving folk of the North, this one fuses a sea-faring Running Wild riff onto the prow of a Visigoth-like stomper and it’s a killer trackaqw with just the right amount of massive. If these songs pass by and you haven’t taken up the sword, you probably never will.
The remainder of The Cycle Never Ends can’t quite live up to the lofty standards of these mammoth tracks, but the album is highly enjoyable nonetheless. “Procession of the Dead” successfully marries Bathory and Exorcist proto-death with doomy Crypt Sermon-isms, attacking like a merciless horde of hoarders coming to take stuff they have absolutely no room for back home. “Trapped in Dreams” puts tasty Maiden flavored guitar-work and overly dramatic moods from Queensryche‘s The Warning through the “Thor Will Smash” filter and you’ll be surprised at the resulting blob of steaming steel.
The album closes with the “White Pillar Trilogy” and the combined 16 minutes are very solid, with moments of sheer excellence. “Part I (Eternal Sun)” suffers from awkward transitions that make the song feel wobbly at times, but the riffs are engaging and fist pumping and you’ll want a flagon of ale to swing about sloppily. “Part II (Blood and Gold)” is better and more doom-based, and “Part III (Temple at the End of the World)” is better still with an epic segment starting at 3:20 that’s one of the coolest things I’ve heard in a long time.
This is a very guitar-dependent style of music and Nuno Mordred and Ze RockHard (that’s metal!) bring the right size battleaxes to party. They’re well schooled in big, hard charging riffs and their solos feel like a time warp back to the trvest moments of the 8os. The biggest influence to my ears is Cirith Ungol, but they rob the crypts of many a legendary ancestor like Doomsword as the album grinds along. The singer is predictably named Rick Thor and sounds like a cross between Lemmy (R.I.P.), Tann (Ironsword) and Rock n’ Rolf (Running Wild). His rough-hewn, full-throated bellow give the material all the pagan rage it needs though some philistines may find him grating or too unpolished. Lastly, the drums by F are big, earth-shaking and martial in nature, calling you to war as the mighty Scott Columbus (R.I.P.) did on Manowar‘s early albums.
The Cycle Never Ends falls just short of excellence, but it’s so much fun it sent me scrambling to find Ravensire‘s back-catalog (so far unsuccessfully). If you love the throwback style of Visigoth, Argus and Sinister Realm and strive to live a life of trvness, you must immediately quest for this platter of sacred iron. Failure to do so would disgrace your family, your ancestors and your cat. Crom is already judging you for owning a cat, so don’t add to your folly by owning a disgraced cat. Get thee to the Ravensire or to Hell with you!