A brief aside: way back in April of 2016 a juvenile named Manny-O-War was plugging away at his craft—well hobby is more like it—just hoping that he could one day write with the big dogs over at Last Rites. Far away from the ad revenue driven sludge of the “mainstream.” Far from the clickbait of Metal “news.” Far even from the areas of the internet that function as a Live Journal would have in the 1990s and early 2000s before MySpace helped people boil down their personalities to 250 words, a few poorly filtered selfies and a song. Last Rites represented a beacon of true music fandom. Nerd culture if you will. And, despite their misstep of bringing this soylent green burp named Manny-O-War on board, Last Rites has endured as such. It’s relevant because, Ravensire’s previous effort The Cycle Never Ends was the very first task allotted for Manny-O-War to prove his worth as the weakest link. Thus, it’s a wonder and surprise to me, for I am he, Manny-O-War, that I’m still welcome around the hallowed urinals of Last Rites for the opportunity and pleasure of reviewing Ravensire’s follow up, and third full-length, A Stone Engraved in Red.
As tends to be the playbook with heavy metal stalwarts aged beyond their vintage, the red in their album title signifies blood shed on the battlefield in honor of the holy cause: battle. As they did on The Cycle Never Ends, Ravensire once again weave an intricate tale, lore is potentially more accurate, of battles past. Battles fought in distant lands now forgotten to history but crucial nonetheless to humanity’s evolution. So let’s join them and celebrate the battles, the bloodshed and the victories contained therein.
As for the overall musical stylings, the band chose to dedicate many tracks on the album (you’ll know which ones) to the late great Manila Road frontman Mark “The Shark” Shelton, and “Dawning in Darkness” to their close friend Hartmuth “Barbarian Wrath” Schindler, who has been in a coma for more than a year following a brief hospitalization. Now, if that isn’t a battle worth fighting then you will never know what is. Metal fans the world over will forever mourn the passing of Mark Shelton, and it’s a touching tribute that they include their friend into that sphere of mourning. All hail the glorious dead and all hail the battle Hartmuth has ahead of him.
Now, Ravensire haven’t reinvented anything in the world of metal on their latest effort. They are still a musical experience wrought with epic guitars sounding reverberously off the mountains surrounding the battlefield, gravely vocals worn hoarse from screaming orders during battle charges and cheering glorious victories and drums and bass galloping along with the power of a nation’s worth of cavalry. Their delivery is filled with emotion, inspiration and a will that cannot be defeated through simple iron and steel.
“After the Battle” opens with a clear riff—a bugle alarm rousing the troops from their slumber. It’s neatly picked, minimally distorted and yet heavy even before joined by an accompanying guitar. Similarly, the vocals begin alone—gravely tone implying a fist pump and armlock at each turn of phrase. Yet they are bolstered by the accompanying cheers of their fellow soldiers. Certainly, after the battle there will be much. The guitar solo begins in a maudlin tone, unsure of victory. Perhaps lost in the clouds and unsure of the enemy’s position. Softly soaring a reconnaissance mission with drums lagging behind. Has the enemy escaped the trap? Is all for naught? No! The enemy is spotted! Licks burst forth like machine gun fire answering all concerns with a blood-soaked battlefield. Ravensire charges forward continuing to effectuate their musical battle plan with elite accuracy.
If you don’t currently own a horse it’s not a fatal mistake. What you can do is breed one (takes a while), buy one (super expensive) or steal one (penalty is death by hanging) at the nearest possible opportunity. For fans of Ravensire, A Stone Engraved in Red will be a welcome addition to this Portuguese warrior cult’s library. If you’re not familiar with the band, then this album will be a welcome entry point to the world of Ravensire’s dagger-sharp delivery of battle-ready heavy metal. Either way, you’re going to want to sharpen up a blade and put this album on the “loud” setting on your music playing device. Blast Ravensire and slay all those enemies who stand in your path, for you are the metal warrior that was predicted by the 11th oracle of sandithomere.