Ravenscroft – Rebel – EP Review
Well…that’s funny…I could have sworn from the band photos I was about to be in for a nice classical experience in beautiful orchestral music…but hard-rock you say? Who would’ve thought?
I am of course, kidding entirely. Ravenscroft looks like the virtual embodiment of hard-rock when you look at pics on their social media and official website. Welcome to SBS my friends – I’m always tougher on that genre than any other…not out of any kind of resentment, more due to the fact that it’s just about the most difficult type of music to make & stand-out from the rest with. It’s damn near inevitable that at some point or another along the journey through a hard-rock record that immediate comparisons will come to mind. Kind of like how you’ll immediately think of early hits from Disturbed when you hear “Denomination” start-up the new record from Ravenscroft, the Rebel EP. They’re not hiding it…I’m sure that’s fair to say and something they’d likely agree with me on. There’s no hiding the fact that they like a different aspect of the genre than I do personally when it comes to some of what they dig on a personal level…they’ve got the upcoming show for Godsmack & Shinedown posted up proudly on their Facebook page and I can’t imagine having to sit through that. I interviewed Godsmack’s guitarist Tony Rombola way back in the day when they released the Awake album and straight-up, talking to that guy was just about the most painful thing I’d experienced since listening to his band.
THANKFULLY…this is NOT Godsmack…nor is it really Disturbed once you get past the first cut. This is better. Ravenscroft do what they do really well – and over the course of the six tunes on their new EP demonstrate a passion for the genre that shows a depth of understanding…they know the roots, they know what works, they clearly have respect for those that have paved the way for them today. There’s actually quite a widespread range of sound on the Rebel EP and a skilled-level of professionalism in this band that could very well lead them & this effort to a massive victory out there with listeners. I don’t know that it’s reinventing the wheel of rock…but I don’t always think music has to be about that – some people just want TO rock…and I have a feeling these guys fit right into that category. I’m ever the believer that a great tune is a great tune, no matter the genre, no matter the style; truth is – Ravenscroft makes it pretty damn easy to get onboard with their sound due to the fact that they’ve thrown themselves into every moment with confidence, power, & skills roaring from these six tunes on their EP.
Alright…so…what’s got me on their side…
“Denomination” in a lot of ways, harkens back to Facelift-era Alice In Chains just as much as it might sound like a combo of Godsmack/Disturbed. Heavy riffage…lots of stops & starts & chops on display – the guitars from Brett Gorke sound beastly and the drums from Pat Magrath make an instant impact. Ralph Buso comes out sounding larger than life on this opening cut…dude has got killer instincts in the vocal department and execution that’s just as sharp. Sure they dip into the Disturbed-esque vocal-rhythm ideas for the chorus, but in just as much of the awesomeness surrounding it, he reminds me quite a bit of the dude from Cold, especially when these guys hit the harmonies. To say this is a HUGE way to open their EP would be to put it as mildly as anyone could – they come out storming so hard on their first track that the music could melt your fucking face off. Adding in the low-end rumble is Devin Baker on the bass, who assists in adding the menace & mayhem into the opening track from the Rebel EP – all these players from Ravenscroft reveal their powers right from the drop and they’re clearly giving EVERY moment everything they’ve got. In my world, that counts for something…counts for a lot really. Half my beef with Godsmack in general is that I consider them lazy AF – “Denomination” is anything but. That solo from Brett towards the three-minute mark is WICKED…the chanting vocals coming back in to lead them storming through the chorus one final time before coming to an immediate halt to end it…it’s powerful stuff. LOVED the way they end this cut and strip it all back to that singular chant from Ralph to finish this one off – that was a perfect way to exit. I certainly wouldn’t deny the single-worthy potential of this cut from the Rebel EP. Whatever to any comparisons – it doesn’t matter, people love this music!
Production plays a huge role here too I gotta say – listening to the way that “The Chase” came out, confirmed the killer mix that runs through this record, which you certainly notice on “Denomination” as well. However they’ve achieved it, someone out there really understands the sound these guys are going for and has essentially executed the studio-stuff just as well as the performances came out, which is good, cause obviously the music deserves it. Massive thumbs-up to the combo bass & guitar riff that supplies the main hooks in “The Chase” – once again, they’re CRUSHING IT and sounding bold & badass at every opportunity. This second solo from Brett on the record is impressive as well – an aspect which seems like it’s gonna become a staple of the Ravenscroft sound, or at least, should be! This second cut immediately furthers the story happening here in this band though, offering a completely different but also highly effective vibe. Almost a little bit of King’s X in here! Excellent balance between the song’s main elements on “The Chase” – these guys seem to have no problem kicking out the jams when called upon to do so. The breakdown/solos of this cut that start nearing towards the two-minute mark and take them pounding thunderously to the end…I gotta admit, this crew won me over a hell of a lot faster than anticipated – by the time Ralph is hitting his biggest notes and richest tones, I’ve already got the volume up its second time around the dial…you know, just to see if I can get this even one iota louder, thereby to my faceholes as quickly as could possibly be delivered. Really dig what these guys do…but more importantly, I dig HOW they do what they do. If all hard-rock bands were this invested in their every moment like Ravenscroft clearly is, this whole music-reviewing would be a hell of a lot less of a grind when it comes to this genre. So take some NOTES out there people…this is how you get it done.
“Stand Up” has some really rad moments. I’ll fully admit – I’m much more of a fan of the verse here than I am the chorus, but the song overall hauls ALL the balls. Verse-wise, they’ve got me thinking about another hard-rock band by comparison…but this time around, I’m massively enthusiastic about that…they remind me completely of Quicksand here. Good lord…if only I could be so lucky that every hard-rock & alt-metal band out there reminded me of that extraordinary band. But LISTEN to the bass pulse and how MEATY the guitars sound with it…the impact of that groove is undeniable…it could fit right onto Slip from Quicksand, which is easily one of the best & most overlooked records of its time. They were ahead of the game back then…which of course, means that there very well could be more space for a sound like this NOW. I know that’s the case here, that’s for sure – I’ve had time for this cut NOW all week long. That chorus is certainly designed to bring the best and most beastly out into the pit in front of the stage…you can practically hear limbs flying around and skulls crashing into each other. Their longest cut on the EP just shy of four minutes in length – those first gigantic notes from Ralph that tear the mic a new one around the 40-second mark and again just past the first minute as they head into the chorus…they’re absolutely wicked and highly engaging to take in & experience. Mid-cut they get all kinds of inventive and innovative in the breakdown – I mean…this entire band really seems to understand how to use the dynamics of sound for maximum impact, using space in their tempo perfectly to embolden the structure and the loud/quiet stop/start movements to their complete advantage. Ralph is relentlessly impressive…but truly, this whole band is locked in-step with him at every turn & twist – they SOUND like a band that’s actually MEANT to be playing together – can you believe it? Ravenscroft moves perfectly in sync with each other and all players make genuine, recognizable & identifiable contributions to each and every cut on the EP – they are four pillars of strength. Badass video to go with it – check it out below!
LIGHTERS-UP PEOPLE – IT’S TIME FOR THE BABYMAKER. Songs like “Dearest One” reveal the respect that Ravenscroft truly has for the roots of their genre and the classic sounds that have built it from the ground up to one of the most popular forms of music of all-time. It’s definitely closer to a ballad…I wouldn’t say they FULLY cross that threshold, but they’re playing on those similar emotions without going too soft on us. Ultimately that’s a good move and they wear this new skin really well…”Dearest One” still sounds like it belongs on the Rebel EP, even though the surrounding songs rock infinitely harder tempo-wise…it’s that commitment & focus in the execution here in Ravenscroft that leads to a tangible cohesion that still makes sense to our ears. Overall…I like it…I think it also adds to the continuing story of sound that exists inside of this band, offers the record & listeners out there another dimension of their full-scope & range, probably shows a bit of their love for bands like G’N’R and potentially a smidgen of hair-rock…like I said, they’re straddling fences and bridging all kinds of gaps throughout the record, but particularly on “Dearest One” – they do really well in this more subtle environment and still manage to bring a power to a more low-key atmosphere in its biggest moments.
If we’re talking about accessibility & crossover appeal, they’ll want to examine “Jaded” for sure and potentially pick this cut as another single to put out there. If it wasn’t for the near-ballad beforehand, I might not have felt that way – but as there is clearly a softer-side to go with the punishing hard-rock they make on the regular, “Jaded” actually straddles the space between both those gears exceptionally well. I’m interested in this tune from beginning to end…in many ways, it’s almost less of a ‘fit’ than “Dearest One” – you kind of expect the ballad to show up in one form or another on a hard-rock record – but “Jaded” takes them much more into alternative/power-rock terrain. It’s not too much of a stretch or too far away from the rest of the sounds on the Rebel EP to not make sense – it DOES fit, but it IS noticeably more…hmmm…what’s the word…friendly? Inviting? Welcoming? Again…I’ll refer you to the hard-rock look that the band has adopted so fittingly in their pictures…”Jaded” sounds…well…NICER than the appear! I’m sure the dudes in Ravenscroft are completely kickass people – it’s not as much of a judgment so much as it is a poke in their chest and outing them for going lighter in the attitude of the music than you might expect at this point on the record. But let’s face it, this record has BEEN surprising from the moment it began…you’re much better off to expect the unexpected with this crew of four.
“Rebel” is a beefy final tune…obviously the statement track from the record overall…the ol’ title-track. For me, this one largely came down to Ralph’s insanely focused tones and intense roar on the mic. Writing-wise…I might have been more mixed on this final cut than any of the other tunes that brought us here along the way – but C’MON people…that’s raw power on the mic strong enough to pull you past any obstacles that might try to prevent you from digging this fully. Seriously – they sound ready to burn the whole world down as they end this experience on the Rebel EP – the heat & electricity generated by the furious beats laid down by Pat could power a village for a straight month on their own. You add in the low-end gnarliness from Devin, the spiraling, crunchy riffs & solos from Brent and the flawless tones from Ralph on the mic – a recipe for success that has guided them at every turn on this EP – and you get that explosiveness you were hoping for in the final stages of this killer set of six. Really impressed by this crew…it’s been a while since I felt like something so rooted in the purest hard-rock vein like this has really got me excited – Ravenscroft does & ticks every box in the win column for a solid victory on Rebel.
Find out more about Ravenscroft at their official website http://ravenscroftofficial.com/ and stay tuned on all the details surrounding the release of the Rebel EP – coming out officially on March 25th!