So Good It Hurts
By Michael Aronovitz
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Ravenscroft. Two years ago I was searching for content to Tweet about besides the buy links to my horror books, and there were a number of bands auto-tweeting new videos, asking for feedback. So, I thought, “Why not?” I had some relevant experience in that I sang for a professional glam band in the late 80’s, and a lot of the metal videos I was currently into had horror themes like my books. I picked one of the messages in the file at random, and proceeded to watch Ravenscroft perform their hit single “Cauldron of Deceit.”
I was hooked. This was a band with superior vocals, extraordinary guitar work, interesting percussion, and the most important thing – inner-group symmetry featuring a razor-tight performance technique delivered with absolute authenticity. In other words, these guys clearly were past the point of working on their sound. They’d found it, and to me, it was like lightening in a bottle.
I wrote back a mini-review of their song on that skinny Twitter message mechanism, and was surprised and pleased that the singer, Ralph Buso, not only got back to me right away, but actually had me contact him personally so I could ask the more intricate questions. My review went up on the Hellnotes blog, and that led to more reviews, then my own page (Goblet of Shock), next working for Metal Heads Forever and Heavy Music Headquarters. Still, considering all of the awesome musicians I have gotten to talk to over the last years, Ralph is the one I have been lucky enough to keep in touch with, and I mean “lucky” not just because of the friendship. I mean “lucky” because Ravenscroft is going to be the next big name in hard music, and I mean globally.
I believe the thing I have always appreciated the most about Ravenscroft, besides the fact that Ralph Buso utilizes such a wide and sophisticated lexicon of vocal techniques…besides the fact that Brett Gorke can shred ‘til you’re breathless or play melodic leads that paint portraits…besides the fact that Devin Baker creates a foundation with his bass that is both unique and complimentary…and besides the fact that Pat Magrath comes up with complicated, beautiful licks on the toms as well as the more compulsory hummingbird 16ths on the double bass drums everyone in the metal game seems in a race to make faster and faster…besides all that, Ravenscroft writes good songs, sometimes in the form of epic ballads and other times in a bold module of pure crunch and grind.
There are many elements that go into creating a song that both represents the band theme and also stands on its own as a valid composition in of itself. Ravenscroft does this with every track it seems, adding to their growing mural that becomes an amphitheater for our emotions. Their holistic aesthetic, then, is more about us than anything else, and that is the heart of Ravenscroft’s magic. Not only do they craft each tune with enough surprises, changes, hooks, and sharp turns to keep us engaged on technical grounds, but they possess a special version of the X-Factor, allowing them to tap into our experience and mold it to poetry…right before our eyes, but more importantly, in our ears. George Bernard Shaw was a music critic before he became the famous playwright we all know and love (Pygmalion – 1912, Major Barbara – 1905, Candida – 1894) and he always claimed music affects us on a fundamental level that words on paper can’t touch (paraphrased). More than one hundred years later, Ravenscroft is still proving this true, with their musical technique and their honesty.
You can enjoy two rather dichotomous sides of the Ravenscroft “paradigm” if you will, in their pair of recent releases, put out as foreshadowing to a massive six song EP titled Rebel, due for release in January of 2018. The thing that is so striking here, is that the songs, while different, are cleverly contained in the same mosaic. They are just on opposite sides of the canvas. Two impulses within the same psyche.
“My Dearest One” is plainly one of the sweetest hard love songs you will ever hear. Buso is epic with his delivery, testing his range but never abandoning the feeling; the mark of the consummate professional and also the bold artist unafraid to push even the most sensitive of material to its limits.
“The Chase” is simply a fucking great rock song. The lyric video is visually interesting with old fashioned Asian warriors riding horses, lifting spears, and storming castles, but the thing the viewer/listener gets right away is the hook. As I alluded to before, Ravenscroft’s most impactful gift on technical grounds is their ability to make the “formula” of the three-plus minute single surprising, and above all, not merely linear. In terms of “The Chase,” it seems they merge verse-work with choruses, altering the patterns through which we look for the rally-cry. The effect is absolutely electric. And when they go into the fall-off to the tribal drumming (about 1:55 in), it opens the door for Gorke to unleash his lightening. I’ll tell you this. When I started watching this video, I was sitting at my computer. When it was over, I was standing, fist in the air.
But Ravenscroft does that to you.
They get in your head by going through the blood. And what a joy it is being a part of their journey.
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author and rock reviewer. His latest book, the electronic version of Alice Walks is available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/y9fkxjhv
MHF Magazine/Michael Aronovitz