The Big Über Rock Interview: The Raven Age Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Sunday, 23 April 2017 04:00

Having supported some of the biggest and most prestigious names in the metal world over the past three years, The Raven Age have had the finest tutelage that our world can offer. Be it the gauntlet of fire of supporting Iron Maiden at international stadium shows, or a master-class of thrash in supporting Anthrax across the UK and Europe, this band has had to earn their stripes fast.


The Raven Age - Facebook profile pic


Most surprisingly, the band have just now released their debut album ‘Darkness Will Rise’, a powerful mix of lengthy metal epics tinged with the triumphant spirit of the Noughties metal scene. Über Rock were lucky enough to be invited to speak to founding member (and guitarist) George Harris ahead of the band's set at Hammerfest, to talk about the state of the nation, stage-fright in Sao Paolo and just how important a good aesthetic is to a modern metal band...


The Raven Age formed in 2009 initially – what took you so long to get an album out?!


2009 is when myself and Dan, the other guitar player, met. That's where the idea for The Raven Age was born and we started writing songs together from that point. We were doing that, just the two of us, for a good few years. Our bass player Matt was the first person to join the 'band' in 2012 and over the next year we got a drummer and singer, before doing our first show in February 2014. Most of those years as a 'band' were just me and Dan jamming and writing the music, getting excited about stuff!


One of the thing that makes you so different to so many other bands is your ability to play up the dark imagery elements of metal, from the band's name being a reference to the ravens of the Tower of London through to specific looks at history like on 'Salem's Fate', which references the Salem witch trials. How integral do you think this imagery is to the concept of metal?


For us? Well, Dan and I were naturally inspired by these things and it's something that we feel is missing in modern metal bands. It's something we really wanted to bring back with our band – the artwork, the stories, the lyrics. It goes with our writing style too – we write lengthy, epic-style songs, which is why our album is like 77 minutes long!



It all ties in, the dark imagery and the subjects behind the songs, it's something that's a part of us and it's something we'll definitely look to develop as we go on. With "Darkness Will Rise", there's a piece of artwork to represent every song on the album, which is better than just sticking a bunch of lyrics in there.


How important do you think a good aesthetic is to bands then?


I don't know really, it depends on the band. It shouldn't really have to be a thing, the music should still stand on its own, but it's something that we personally really like to get our teeth into. Where we're at right now, as a support band, there's only so much we can do at shows but in future, who knows?


The Raven Age's sound is very much rooted in the mid-00s hopefulness of the metal scene at the time, bringing to mind the likes of Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch etc. - why do you think that is?


Those bands were definitely an influence on us, big time. That was when we started getting into metal and these bands were on the rise, featured on the covers of magazines which was so cool. There's definitely a direct influence in our sound from those years, Trivium, Killswitch and Avenged Sevenfold, but the scene has changed.


Maybe because I've grown older with those bands, now I just don't get the same kind of vibes as I did back then. I'm not getting the gut feeling I used to, but then I'm kind of lazy in that I have a bunch of bands that I know. I think, like a lot of people, I need to be a bit more open and check out newer music, but right now I just love re-visiting old albums that I haven't heard in a while. That's one of our big goals though – trying to get that hopeful feeling going again.


You've played with a lot of the greats over the last few years: Anthrax this past February [reviewed by yours truly HERE], Ghost, Iron Maiden... There's a lot of [often bollocks] talk about metal being 'in crisis' now: what would you say the scene needs to create new greats?


The Raven Age - Birmingham 2


If we're honest right now, the biggest bands in metal at the moment aren't likely to be here that much longer. We need new blood to take their places. We need younger bands coming through and getting opportunities. There's a whole thing where people think that a band must earn their stripes, or whatever, but we need to be more open-minded in the first place.


Some of these big bands, they were able to get big instantly, a band like Linkin Park could make it overnight on an album like 'Hybrid Theory', going massive instantly. There hasn't really been an overnight success like that since.


Absolutely, you look at a band like Avenged Sevenfold (arguably the newest band to go massive) and they've been at it for nearly two decades.


Well, yeah. They climbed the ladder and it took a long time. I'm not really sure what the answer is really, not least because it's a bit early in the day to be putting the world to rights!


As a band that are coming up right now in the metal scene, you've been afforded a unique perspective to see how the scene is faring worldwide...


We're still going strong in the UK, our metal scene. From playing in different countries you get a bit of an idea of how different things are in different countries. In South America, we were lucky enough to play to a crowd who just absolutely loved every second of it. I've no doubt none of them knew who we were, but the second we played a note they were just up and going nuts. They really appreciate bands.


That kind of enthusiasm can lack in Europe, even more so in the UK. Being a support band and playing to people who haven't seen you before, it's got a bit more of a vibe of arms crossed, "impress me then" attitude. I get that vibe a little bit more over here, but having just done this run with Anthrax, we still managed to get a really positive reaction so it's still good.


What would you say is the high point of your career so far?



We just won an award for "Best New Band" from Planet Rock, which is pretty cool. But, we've played some amazing places in the last year. We were lucky enough to play Madison Square Garden; playing a football stadium in America was pretty incredible, in Sao Paolo. That's definitely one of them, actually – as a support act you get used to coming out and seeing that most people aren't there yet, or are at the bar. We were at a 44,000 capacity football stadium and it was ridiculous – we came out and there wasn't an empty seat in the house, so we froze for a second. It really made us appreciate what we have achieved.


What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn so far?


Being away with the same group of guys isn't always as easy as you think it's going to be. You start out like "it's going to be great and we'll do this and this", but it's not always like that. Not only that, but making sure that you try to work when you're on tour, not just having a laugh. We're managing ourselves at the moment and it gets so intensive. On the Anthrax tour we had ten shows in eleven days, so it's kind of crazy. Throw in all the stuff with our album release and it's basically a case of trying to keep on top of everything.


Lucky enough, doing all this touring over the past couple of years has taught us that we can work together and gel when on tour and we do get on and keep an eye out for if somebody isn't having a good time. It's a positive thing going forward.


What would you say are the biggest challenges facing an independent band?


Not having somebody represent you and trying to get on shows, or get opportunities, can be a real challenge. People can overlook you and it's a tough thing, especially if we have essentially the same 'package' as another band, or maybe even a better product in terms of having a new album or whatever. It's a strange thing.


We were very anti-label, proud of doing ourselves and were ready in December last year to release the album independently, but when BMG came on board it all changed. Initially, we didn't want anybody coming on board and changing everything. "You need to chop this song in half; change your logo; don't do this; don't do that" and whatever would have drove us mad. We had such a clear vision of what we wanted our band to be, but when BMG came and actually listened to what we had to say, they were happy for us to move forward and keep all the creativity to ourselves so it worked out perfectly.


We started out wanting to control that image ourselves and I'm not too sure on how other bands go about doing things, but we didn't want to just push it all away to someone else. We were very clear on how we wanted the record to sound, what artwork would go with it so we could control how it looked. We had a bit of interest from other labels, but they were very much like "we don't like your artwork" or "this needs to be a bit more modern", which wasn't what we were trying to do.


Even if it's a good opportunity to get the music out there, it's not always what you want it to be.


Has the current political climate affected the band at all?


There's a lot of talk about it, but it hasn't affected us at all so far. We try to keep the current political sphere separate from the band, so the only issue for us right now is if it were to stop or affect us in touring.


It's a bit worrying to think that it could stop bands like us from being able to head out and build an international fanbase, or get visas. Bands of our size don't necessarily have huge fanbases everywhere, so we can't rely on a name and the nature of supporting other bands means we're not even necessarily going to get a big pay-off from every show. We're still trying to make new fans, so the last thing any of us need is to find ourselves unable to do that logistically.


"Darkness Will Rise" is out now via BMG.


The Raven Age play Download Festival on Friday 9 June.


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