It doesn’t seem like five years have passed since Ravencult’s last album, 2011’s Morbid Blood, but a quick glance at the calendar confirms this is the case. They have been relatively quiet since then, with a handful of splits and a few contributions to tribute albums their only foray into recorded music. Their output was enough to attract the attention of big league players Metal Blade Records however, with their third record, Force of Profanation, a chance to crack into the upper echelons of the extreme metal underground.
It’s pleasing to say that Ravencult still deliver with their brand of fiery, bestial black metal. New vocalist Alexis Papatheofanous is a little less raspy than former frontman Linos, instead adopting a throatier approach that sounds a little more death metal than his predecessor. There’s plenty of vitriol in his delivery; his caustic cadence the perfect complement to the violent musical backdrop. Guitarist Stefanos Fakatselis churns out an inferno of high quality riffing, seemingly having an endless supply of ideas that could well leave your vertebrae with permanent damage. Blazing, tremolo picked riffs mix seamlessly with more measured, groovier parts; all interlaced with subtle melodies that make the songs aggressive yet catchy. This is all anchored by the drum skin battery of rhythmic sledgehammer John Votsis. He playing is loose but solid, giving the music a lively feel as he beats his way through the eight album tracks. Much like Fakatselis, he mixes the tempo up nicely, with plenty of blasting and punk styled D-beats meshing with more deliberately paced patterns. Even when he’s slowing things down there’s an irresistible force to his playing, providing a little extra edge to the music.
“Tormentor of Flesh” opens up the album with a wave of sonic napalm; a raw, speedy riff that paves the way for the aural assault Ravencult will unleash for the next half an hour. Although they’re a black metal band, they’ve always been unafraid to dabble in the thrashier side of things, with the odd excursion into doom. This time they’ve ventured a little into the death metal realm as well. That’s not to say they’re heading in a blackened death direction, merely that there’s a passage here and there that suggests they’ve expanded their scope a little; not content to rest on the laurels that got them to their current status. This is apparent on the bridge of said album opener, as well as the heavy grooves of “Into Depths” and the disharmonic crusher “Doom Oracle”. “Merciless Reprisal” is merciless indeed, a straightforward steamroller of black metal venom, twinned by the audio filth of “Altar of Impurity”. “Temple of the Void” and “Beneath the Relics of Old” are probably the two strongest tracks, compositionally speaking, with the most adventurous song writing and greatest shifts in dynamics.
It’s been a long time coming, but Ravencult have given us another great album in the form of Force of Profanation. The only unfortunate thing it’s a bit too brief at 32 minutes in length. With the backing of one of metal’s biggest labels, they will hopefully have the platform from which they can continue to build and grow. Just please don’t make us wait five years for the next one, OK guys?
Rating: 8/10 – a brief blast of high quality black metal.
Highlights: “Tormentor of Flesh”, “Beneath the Relics of Old”, “Temple of the Void”
(The album is currently being streamed in full by Cvlt Nation)