Spectral Rider Ravage - Spectral Rider (Karthago Records) 2005

1. Turn the Screw (5:19)
2. Spectral Rider (5:07)
3. The Wicked Way (5:23)
4. The Masque of Black Death (4:14)
5. Incantation of the Necromancer (1:36)
6. Wake the Dead (2:35)
7. Ravage Part 1: Damage (2:29)
8. Wyvern (4:57)
9. The Wasteland (5:14)
10. Bring Down the Hellhammer (3:08)
11. The King Forgotten (7:54)
12. Curse of Heaven (4:49)

I have been working my way backwards through the Ravage catalog after thoroughly enjoying their Metal Blade Records release "The End of Tomorrow". Soon after I picked up their "Freedom Fighter" EP, which I also thought was outstanding. Then I was lucky enough to catch the band live at Thrashageddon II in Albuquerque, NM with several other great bands. When checking out the band's merchandise table, this CD sat in a pile largely ignored but others who were snapping up the previously mentioned "End of Tomorrow" and "Freedom Fighter" CDs. I snatched up a copy of "Spectral Rider", ripped off the cellophane and handed it to Al Ravage to sign, which he gladly did.

"Spectral Rider" is sort of Ravage's debut album, though that seems odd since the band have been around since 1995 and they have released multiple demos, EPs and live recordings. The sound here isn't much different from what I already knew of the band. The band plays traditional American power metal, which is a potent mix of classic heavy metal, some speed metal and plenty of NWOBHM influences. Basically, Ravage play heavy metal with their feet firmly planted in the classic 1980's.

On my first spin I was a bit put off by the vocals. Vocalist Alec "Al Ravage" Firicano mid-range vocals seem a bit out of odds, especially in the opening minutes of "Turn of the Screw". He has this almost David Bowie like quality that seems at odd with the classic 80's vibe that the band is trying to evoke. It took me one or two listens to really begin to appreciate what he is trying to do, even though I was completely familiar with the band's later works and loved what he did on those releases. I suppose it could be said that Mr. Ravage has improved with each new release and has developed his voice to fit the band's sound better.

There are several standout cuts including s "Spectral Rider", "Wyvern" and "Bring Down the Hellhammer", though "Ravage Part1: Damage" sticks out in my mind as one of the very best. Production values aren't bad for an independent release. The cover art is beyond cheesy, looking like an independent release from the 80's, but then again perhaps that is exactly what the band was going for.

Ravage - Freedom Fighter (SWWR Productions) 2008

1.Freedom Fighter (4:47)
2.Damn Nation (5:55)
3.The Shredder (3:10)
4.Grapes of Wrath (3:30)
5.A Captive of Sin (4:16)
6.Be Quick or Be Dead (03:29)

I discoved Ravage with the album that followed this EP on Metal Blade. I thought that album was fantastic and thought I’d start looking for some of their older material. Upon first popping this CD in my car stereo, I was immediately blown away. The songs on this EP are all fantastic! I was immediately taken back with how familiar they sounded to me. It didn’t take but one spin to realize that more than half the songs from this EP made it onto  “The End of Tomorrow”. And why not? “Damn Nation”, “Grapes of Wrath” and especially “The Shredder” are all fantastic speed metal songs. The tilte track and “A Captive of Sin” are the only original songs that are exclusive to this EP. With all five original songs, Ravage has a way with writing memorable, hooky, heavy, traditional metal. Vocalist Al Ravage has a charismatic, distinctive voice that will help set this band apart from the power metal pack. The EP also offers a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Be Quick or Be Dead”. A nice way to finish of the EP, however, as much as I love a good cover, on “Freedom Fighter”, I think the original material far superior to the cover.  The EP comes in a cardboard sleeve.

End of Tomorrow Ravage - The End of Tomorrow (Metal Blade) 2009

1.    The Halls of Madness  (1:36)    
2.    Reign Fall  (4:23)   
3.    Freedom Fighter (4:48)    
4.    Damn Nation (5:56)    
5.    The Shredder  (3:09)    
6.    Into the Shackles  (4:45)    
7.    In Shattered Dreams  (4:50 )   
8.    The Nightmare's Hold: Part 1  (2:50)    
9.    The Nightcrawler  (5:17)    
10.    The Nightmare's Hold: Part 2    (2:39)    
11.    Grapes of Wrath (3:33)    
12.    The End of Tomorrow  (6:34)

I’m from the old school of metal fans. Back in the day I use to give albums a chance based simply on the album cover alone. In this case, I saw an add for Ravage with a CD cover by the legendary Ed Repka. Because of that and some things I had read on-line, I assumed that Ravage must be one of the new school of thrash metal bands and decided to purchase a copy. When I popped the disc into my CD player, I was surprised to discover that Ravage are not a thrash band at all. In fact, these guys are classic power metal. No, not the dungeons and dragon, keyboard laced power metal, but real American power metal that rides a fence between traditional heavy metal and thrash. I was also surprised to find out that this band was not new and has been toiling in the underground releasing demo after demo for over ten years with this being their second full length release.

To describe Ravage’s sound, I’d say it is Judas Priest on speed, and in fact, the do a Priest cover here that sounds totally natural with the band’s original songs. However, vocalist Alec "Al Ravage" Firicano is no Halford clone. In fact, his voice reminds me of Blaze Bailey during his classic Wolfsbane years. The band also incorporates some NWOBHM influences and some slightly more modern elements as well, not unlike Cage. "The Shredder" even brings in some thrash metal influences. So, no, Ravage are not trying to create some new style, nor are they the most original metal band on the scene. However, much like the modern retro-thrash movement, that is not the point. The point is to create some quality music within the confines of the genre of metal that these guys obviously love. They are good at what they do and any heavy metal fan should find something to like here.

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