Raventhrone - _Endless Conflict Theorem_
(Avantgarde, 2002)
by: Adam Lineker (4.5 out of 10)
Raventhrone is the epic metal brainchild of solo artist Ray Wells, and he composes and performs all the music with the help of Mike Groeger on drums, and the assistance of Martin Shirenc (Pungent Stench). The term "epic metal" would seem to suggest that exploration of styles and moods are in the pipeline and here Raventhrone fulfills some of its potential. The first track features a heavy death vocal and only a track later we are given clean vocals. However, it becomes apparent that this seemingly creative combination is flawed. The death vocal phrases are monotonous and the lyrical subject matter is awkward and uninventive. The clean vocals seem a little weak with unimpressive range and poor texture, and at their worst they are out of tune. It is obvious from the music that this was not intentional. When the vocals do not carry the melody, this is left mostly to the keyboards or lead; unfortunately a lot of these are disappointingly sparse and could have been lifted from old Super Nintendo games. Considering the melodic potential the keyboard possesses as an instrument, the basic level of monophonic composition suggests poor technology or limited ability. The guitar sound is raw with a very rough edge, but the riffs are worn out and the bass is only audible if you concentrate on trying to hear it. The Raventhrone sound feels hopelessly cold and shallow. Midway through "Soulstorm" and well into the album, there is a layered keyboard motif in a key that adds some feeling of suspense, but it's a long wait until we encounter anything else that could be called emotive or interesting. _Endless Conflict Theorem_ just doesn't seem to know where it is going; Ray Wells doesn't seem to be sure if he wants to be a death or a clean vocalist, the material is plagued with awful fade-outs and the production cuts some of the songs short before the last notes have fully rung out. The title track seems to be a shameless rip-off of the "Braveheart" theme, and although it is intentionally stirring and emotional, it merely comes across as unoriginal, especially as the guitar melody is almost identical to one we heard earlier. Epic metal really should, by definition, have some complexity and exploration of thematic content, but _Endless Conflict Theorem_ is more akin to sort of overly long children's book without pictures. "An Oath in Silence" boasts the first piece of riffage that will make you sit up and take notice, but it is frustrating when it is it never reprised or expanded. It would appear that most of the album is written in 4/4 with very unimaginative progressions. The second half of the album is more effective in realisation of themes; "Dragon of the Nightsky" is one of the better works incorporating Raventhrone themes, "A Night Among the Ruins of Basra" explores an Arabian theme, and with synth effects and chanting. Still the overall construction of the songs feels poor, lapsing into riffs that go nowhere or failing to reach a conclusion. It is a real pleasure to hear some strong moments; "The Wayfarers Song" boasts a good melody but even this is spoiled by yet another fade out. Proof that bands cannot get by on mood and imagery alone, Raventhrone show commitment to their otherworldly folk themes but this is rendered ineffective by a flaccid rhythm section, boring drumming, inadequate vocals that no amount of harmonising can disguise and poor song construction.

(article published 1/9/2002)

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