Review by Tom Mead
Apart from the genre-transcending big names like Nightwish and Within Temptation, Symphonic Metal isn’t something that’s been a major concern for many Metalheads for quite some time. Finnish newbies Ravenia aim to change that though and, on the face of it at least, they appear to be serious contenders. With live classical musicians as members, rather than relying on synthesised strings, and a pledge to make the perfect fusion between Metal and film score music, they have plenty of positive attributes that could see them as the ones to revive this virtually forgotten-about Metal sub-genre.
However, it doesn’t take long to realise that this debut album is anything but the start of a successful renaissance. If you’re going to call your album Beyond the Walls of Death you need to, bluntly speaking, give it some welly! There is no “oomph”, “bombast” or anything else that often makes Symphonic Metal such an enthralling kind of music. For starters, the mix is all wrong. The vocals of Armi Paivinen are admittedly sublime and they do compliment the strings well throughout, but these elements are so overtly dominant in the mix as to render the guitars and drums essentially redundant; “weak” and “tinny” are words that frequently come to mind throughout the album’s duration.
As well as getting the mix wrong, if you’re going to make a “perfect” blend of Symphonic and Metal music, you actually need to be able to play your instruments properly. Ravenia’s guitars and drums are SOOOOOO formulaic and uninspired it hurts; like a 5th-rate Nu-Metal band, without even the faintest whiff of a solo or anything else that requires musical dexterity. Anyone who doesn’t find this all mind-numbingly boring should be studied by scientists in order to help develop a new form of alertness medication; you need to be superhuman in order to withstand this snooze-fest…
Symphonic Metal is a hard genre to get right, due to the intricate blending of seemingly disparate elements that it requires. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for getting it as utterly WRONG as Ravenia do here. I am shocked that such a prestigious and respected label as Nuclear Blast has given them a chance, to be honest. Maybe they’ve seen some promise that might be realised on future releases; it’s because of the band’s relative inexperience that my review score for this album isn’t even lower. But if Beyond the Walls of Death is actually the best that Ravenia can do, they will sadly be cast aside very quickly.