The Raven Age – The Key Club, Leeds (26th March 2019)

The Raven Age are most certainly a band to watch. On the face of it, if looks are all you cared about, these hooded demons of death could be the stuff of nightmares. But quite the contrary, this quintet hailing from London are about metal as you could possibly dream. Bringing their fantastical tales of a dystopian world to life through melodic and thunderous music alike, we are fully immersed in their second album: conceptual masterpiece Conspiracy. Proudly presented in probably the most idyllic venue Leeds has to offer for the occasion, the inky depths of the Key Club, this rock opera is unleashed upon the world.

Fellow metallers Sertraline set the tone perfectly with their electrifying and heavy opening set, leaving you with but little choice but to head bang vigorously to every single song. Vocalist Lizzie absolutely slays with her sublime yet terrifying vocals that soar to impossible heights over the deliciously intricate riffs. Fresh faced single ‘Relapse’ remains a true highlight and showcases their fierce talent amazingly.

Following swiftly after were metalcore rockers Defences, offering a whole different experience with their collection of tracks. With ribbons of electronic bringing exciting new dimensions to this band, their stand out feature is surely their combination of vocalists. William’s fabulous ability to both scream and sing beautifully is one thing, but add that to Cherry’s smoky and powerful voice, and you have something remarkable indeed.

As the stage darkened, the delicate tones of ‘Bloom of the Poison Seed’ filled the room, giving you a moment to pause and reflect before the symphony was about to begin. And as the gentle tones echoed into the night, The Raven Age stormed onstage, wasting no seconds by blasting straight into ‘Betrayal of the Mind’.

Heavy, intricate riffs coupled with the deep, ballsy percussion completely overwhelm the senses in the absolute best way. And the second that vocalist Matt James opens his mouth, you are captivated into their dark fantasy world. The lyrics are perfectly conveyed by his combination of gravelly, smoky vocals and if you dare close your eyes for a single second, you can see this world unfolding right before you. This is true art: raw, pure and emotional.

As they reached ‘Surrogate’, James’ vocals are bold and true, with his carrying notes flying high alongside the outstandingly heavy metal. And yet, when he strapped on an acoustic guitar, his softer tones shined beautifully against the simpler, melodic tracks. ‘The Fact That Launched a Thousand Ships’ in particular was a chance to take a breath and appreciate another arrow in the quiver of talent for The Raven Age.

Telling the story of Joan of Arc, ‘Fleur De Lis’ certainly reigned supreme with intricate riffs keeping you on your toes, and quite frankly mesmerised by its constant complexity, not just here but throughout the entire show. This track along with ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ were fabulous ways of bringing history to the modern audience.

Barely stopping for a moment to take a single breath, the audience was treated to Conspiracy in almost its entirety, which is impressive to say the least and more than enough to whet the appetite of even the most avid fan. But The Raven Age had other ideas, by intertwining classic tracks ‘Promised Land’, ‘Forgotten World’ and ‘Salem’s Fate’ into the mix and bringing its dark past into its equally dystopian present, much to the delight of their fans.

Bringing the show to a close with a trio of mighty and impressive tracks: ‘The Seventh Age’ is brilliant in the way it builds from understated, humble beginnings to a full blown, metal anthem with James’ voice oozing pure passion. Mammoth Conspiracy finale track ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ took the entire room to its knees with its magnitude, acting as the perfect crescendo to this evening. Finally, veteran track ‘Angel in Disgrace’ took us firmly back in time with killer riffs and driving, gut punching drums. There couldn’t have possibly been a more perfect way to wrap up this show.   

The Raven Age show the beauty of writing concept albums: you can create a place to escape, tackle subject matter that might be difficult to approach in conventional song-writing and make music that delves deeper than the spoken word. It is no wonder in a time of a twisted, wicked reality and uncertainty, you want nothing more than to be transferred to literally anywhere else, and that night, we all were. When this fantasy is transferred onto the main stage for the whole world to see, this is pure, unadulterated rock and roll magic and a truly magnificent experience to behold.