The raven has a wide range of symbolism across cultures and mythologies. While primarily associated with ill omens and death, it can also represent many other qualities including wisdom, creation, and magic. A similar range of diversity is reflected in the music of RAVENOIR, a new incarnation led by guitarist/vocalist Alesh AD and bassist Igor Hubik, both of the Black Metal pioneering Czech band ROOT. Their debut titled The Darkest Flame of Eternal Blasphemy is set for release next week, and it shows RAVENOIR embodying all the dark lore of this winged creature of myth and legend. The result is a shadowy, infernal, and epic journey into the boundless black void of death.
The prologue titled “Nocturnal Initiation” sets an ominous tone with its haunting keyboards and effects. Time warps and slows with the distorted ringing of church bells as ROOT’s legendary frontman, Bigboss, lends his voice to the track’s sinister narration. The foreboding sound of ravens circling overhead suggests you are about to become their next carrion. This dread crosses over on “Ravenoir” with a gloomy tremolo melody introducing the song of the band’s name. A gallop riff soon forms another guitar layer, and this progresses into full-on Death Metal. Alesh AD also takes a Death Metal approach to the vocals with a style comparable to some of David Vincent’s work. Heavy riffing continues after a guitar solo, and a Black Metal sound returns near the end with a raw tremolo riff. This exemplifies how the album’s production interestingly allows the dense, crushing, and cold, raw elements of these genres to occur simultaneously.
Spectral voices, flames, and screams are among the samples heard in the intro of the title track, and an eerie arpeggiated riff momentarily breaks the raw Death Metal assault that follows. A dark, melodic vibe develops through the subtle use of keys on the chorus, and then the song soars to epic heights with fretboard wizardry from KING DIAMOND’s Andy LaRocque. “In the Sign of the Horns” also uses an ambient intro to create a cavernous atmosphere, and then focuses on Death Metal that alternates between mid-paced groove and speed riffage before ending with slower, crushing heaviness. The instrumental prologue and ambient intros of the preceding tracks add a theatrical aspect to the album, and this continues with the intermezzo titled “From the Dead Shadows of the Void to Eternity.” Sounds of the ocean and dark acoustic melodies conjure the soundscape of a tempestuous overcast looming over storm-battered shores, and this somber atmosphere is further compounded with clean spoken words, keys, and other effects.
“Blood Pact” brims with fierce Death Metal riffing and then breaks into a groove towards the end with some intricate drum work. Bigboss returns on “Dark Vision,” a song that perfectly blends Black and Death elements into a catchy main riff of crushing rhythm and dark arpeggiated melodies. Clergymen are literally cut off as “Hellfire’s Icon” begins its pummeling onslaught, and it capitalizes on this relentless brutality with a layer of lo fi guitars following another energetic solo. A brief return to the intermezzo soundscape kicks off “Alter Ego,” the album’s epic finale. This track stands apart with its blackened melodies and doomy riffs as the slow tempo drives a final procession into the void. Moments of layered clean and harsh vocals communicate a sense of merging with the universe, and then it gradually fades into the sounds of oblivion.
Darkness, blasphemous attacks, death, and mysticism are among the lyrical compliments to these infernal compositions. Damnation is grimly displayed with “the cracking of bones” and “bloody shreds all around” within “the abyss of suffering” on “Nocturnal Initiation,” and with running from death in desperate terror on “Dark Vison.” The diverse and seemingly dual symbolic nature of the raven is also addressed on “Ravenoir” when describing it as “disgusting and beautiful” and “the symbol of love and hate.” The experience of death is portrayed on “From the Dead Shadows of the Void to Eternity,” while death’s personification on “Alter Ego” proclaims itself as “justice above any laws.”
Blasphemous scenes play out like an inversion of Milton’s Paradise Lost with “the genocide of cherubs in a desecrated paradise” on the title track, and “In the Sign of the Horns” describes how “serpent tongues tear the bloodied heavens” while also contemplating references to “the infinite void of the universe” and a “heartbeat in the catacombs of knowledge and lust.” Then “Blood Pact” seeks to rally those who tread the darker paths with the empowering words “never bow down, stand tall and proud,” and the battle continues with “the tempest in the sky, angels fall one by one” on “Hellfire’s Icon.” The lyrics all deserve further reflection, but this summary should give insight into their overall essence.
The Darkest Flame of Eternal Blasphemy covers a lot of ground in its 38 minutes with music that’s both brutal and beautiful. It takes the crushing, technical, and melodic groove elements of Death Metal, and combines them with raw, dark, and chilling shades of Black Metal to craft a unique, atmosphere-drenched work of colossal darkness that emanates with the spirit of the raven. I look forward to hearing how RAVENOIR will further develop their sound on future releases, but in the meantime, The Darkest Flame of Eternal Blasphemy will get many replays and stand as one of this year’s most enjoyable adventures, and it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by extreme metal enthusiasts.