Holy return from the dead, Batman! Veterans of the U.S. metal scene may recall the Massachusetts band Ravage, who made some waves in 2009 with an excellent album called The End of Tomorrow on Metal Blade Records. At the time, Ravage seemed poised to lead the resurgence of traditional heavy metal in America. They were the complete package: great songs, killer twin guitars, a distinctive and cool voice, and a sound that combined elements of U.S. power metal, the NWoBHM movement, occasional thrashy tendencies, and even a touch of German power metal. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. All appeared dark and quiet in the Ravage camp (at least, to those of us outside New England) for quite some time, and I assumed the band was over. Then last year they reappeared with a curious (but very good) remake of their first album, entitled Return of the Spectral Rider. Ravage took another step forward with a fantastic gig at the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago in May 2018, and this week are embarking on a kamikaze four-week European tour with fellow Massachusetts acts Seax and Lich King, to culminate in an appearance at Germany’s prestigious Headbangers Open Air Festival in late July.
In a frantic burst of energy, Ravage released a brand-new EP entitled The Derelict City on the eve of their European tour. From the band’s social media postings, it was evident that completion of the EP was a race against the clock, with the outcome in doubt until the very last minute. Yet Ravage successfully met their deadline, and I am now holding in my hand a copy of the limited edition (300 units, I believe) CD version of The Derelict City. The five-song, 22-minute EP consists of four new Ravage tracks (two contributed by guitarist Nick Izzo, one by guitarist Eli Firicano, and one by bassist Tommy G), plus a cover of a song by obscure Massachusetts band My Pet Demon (circa 2002). Any fears that the EP might seem rushed or substandard because of the high-pressure circumstances under which it was completed are misplaced. Songs, performances, production, and recording quality are all top-notch on The Derelict City. Lead track “Till Heaven Cries” is a high-speed burner that explodes out of the gate with incendiary riffs, pounding double-bass drums, fiery leadwork, and strong melodies. This song belongs in every Ravage setlist from now until forever. “Chief of Lies” lets off the gas pedal somewhat and pumps up the majestic guitar harmonies throughout the entire anthemic track, with all the elements combining in a manner that somehow put me in mind of classic Gamma Ray, which is a good thing. The third track, “Derelict City,” features a pretty overtly Iron Maiden chorus melody surrounded by crunchy, galloping riffing and a fine vocal from Al Ravage, who sounds great throughout this EP. “New Age Survivor” doles out more thrashy riffing and superb guitar pyrotechnics from Firicano and Izzo. The combination of speed riffs and melodic themes is just dazzling, and all delivered within a decidedly traditional metal framework. The “Demons Are Forever” cover version is a straightforward sub-3:00 minute track with a punky vibe. Fun, but not in the same league as the Ravage originals.
In the liner notes, Al Ravage confirms that The Derelict City is simply a “little taste test” for what listeners can expect to hear on the next Ravage full-length album. This is excellent news. The quality of the material on this EP is uniformly excellent, and the performances equal or surpass anything Ravage have ever done before. I am genuinely excited to hear what they come up with on the next full-length album. Perhaps the promise shown on The End of Tomorrow will be fulfilled after all, albeit a decade later than anyone imagined. For now, though, I envy the lucky European audiences who will get to hear these stellar new songs played live in the coming weeks. Here’s hoping America gets a similar opportunity soon.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~