photos by Jack Lue, Goubert Photography
When you have been listening to rock music for as long as I have, the number of new releases that blow you away get increasingly fewer with every year. But the Ravenscroft debut CD has succeeded in doing just that, it felt majestic, bombastic, and gave me the best head-banging and foot tapping rush in ages. It is a thrilling masterpiece filled to the brim with catchy songs and sophisticated compositions. So who are these guys, who seemingly out of nowhere release a debut album that puts many established acts to shame?
Rarely has a debut album sounded so solid
Ravenscroft was formed in late 2013 by Ralph Buso (vocals) and Frankie Ravenscroft (guitar). A couple of weeks after first meeting Ralph at a show of his then band Serpent Underground, Frankie sent him some song ideas and riffs. Immediately seduced by the writing and guitar skills, the singer and guitarist quickly bonded over their common song ideas, creating the creative core of the band. This led Ralph to completely focus on this new project and put Serpent Underground on hold after a 10 year run, recognizing that "Ravenscroft had much higher potential than any other band I've ever been part of". The line-up was quickly completed by the addition of Devin Baker on bass, who was recommended by a friend, and then Pat Magrath, who was in turn recommended by Baker. Ravenscroft was now fitted with a strong creative core and a tight rhythm section that would make most bands envious. This might seem like a bold statement at first, but if you listen to their debut, Cosmic Plan, you will understand that this is no exaggeration. Rarely has a debut album sounded so solid, not like something you'd expect from a young band that barely met a year before.
So why does Cosmic Plan sounds so good, so mature? The most obvious answer seems to be that despite being a new band, it's members are all seasoned veterans, having earned their spurs through years of touring and recording with former bands. Ralph Buso fronted Serpent Underground for over ten years, Frankie Ravenscroft was part of numerous bands like Johnny Law, Killer Elite and Silent Reign, and Devin Baker has played hundreds of shows and recorded countless albums with Melting Pot and Freedom Under X-Ray.
And the solid rhythm and beat backbone of the band is provided by none other than Pat Magrath, who is a drums instructor when he's not filling in for Slayer, touring with FEAR or gracing the covers of Modern Drummer, Rolling Stone and other music publications. With over 40 albums under his belt, to say he's experienced is an understatement.
So it would be easy to say that with this pedigree of musicians in a band, the results can't be anything less than outstanding. But that would be too easy, too diminutive. Ravenscroft believes in making solid hard rock the old-school way, honing their skills and songs the hard way, by playing live, again and again and again. This is how bands like Metallica paid their dues, relentlessly touring the club circuit and earning their way all the way to stadium-headlining megastars. A destiny that might well be in the cards for Ravenscroft as well. Judging by the quality of their debut, they sure would deserve it.
And just like Metallica, the singer and guitarist get together to build the core structure of the songs, riffs and vocals melodies, before the rest of the band joins in to arrange and produce the songs. You can feel this is the work and heart of a genuine band, because when asked about which song is their favorite, the band refuses to single one out. "No sir, we love them all equally...they're our babies! Together they represent our sound as a whole...the spectrum is cohesive, yet fairly vast."
7 strong songs, no fillers
Speaking of songs, Cosmic Plan is 7 songs strong plus intro, and none of them are fillers. Ranging from thumping double-bass killers with searing riffs to power ballads, every song sounds unique and has his place on the record. Catchy riffs, thunderous drums and bass, powerful and clear vocals, the songs are well thought and will lead to lots of head-banging and foot tapping. If you play it in your car, beware of speeding, because these songs have a driving quality about them that can lead to lead-foot, and definitely to steering-wheel drumming. Seriously, I dare you to resist the urge. Resistance is futile, these songs are infectious like good old-school Misfits. There's no escaping these catchy tunes.
And what's most impressive is the sound of the album; recorded at Lunch Box Studios in Sun City, Ca. in a mere 8 days, including mixing and mastering, the audio quality of this album puts many big budget productions to shame. You can hear all instruments clear and distinct yet the sound is very homogeneous, no drowning out of the guitars by the drums, or the vocals by the guitars. Which is a good thing, because Ravenscroft have a real singer, not a screamer or shouter, but a real, talented singer in the vein of John Bush or Chris Cornell.
Cosmic Plan sounds like an experienced producer like Bob Rock would have worked on this output, but the album is actually entirely self-produced."We take our time when we are writing, arranging, and producing our music, and we try to follow the path of the rock legends that paved the way for us." I'd say the band has been very successful in following that path so far, and have been rewarded with a truly solid album and serious contender for the best album of the year.
Nothing short of epic
My personal favorite songs are My Disease, a mid-tempo monster with galloping guitars, wailing guitar solos and beautiful breaks, and also Kill Me Softly, with it's drums intro and epic guitars that are reminiscent of the good old Iron Maiden days. And last but not least there's the eponymous Cosmic Plan, whose refrain reminds me of Soundgarden at their peak. With a darker twist though. While the sound is clearly an extension and progress of 90's hard rock music, the image of the band on stage, the near black album cover and the name Ravenscroft suggest that at least part of the band was raised on good ole goth. Or how is it?
"Both I and Frankie have a common interest in the gothic culture (Specifically the look or attire)" explains Buso, "and with a name like Ravenscroft, they felt it was imperative that the bands image be nothing short of Epic! The entire band agrees that in order to stand out...you must have not only above average music, but also an above average visual appearance." So does the name Ravenscroft have a deeper meaning then, is it part of a greater concept? "It is simply a cool name that happens to be Frankie's mothers maiden name. If the shoe fits..."
A stage presence second to none
Nothing short of epic, that is some serious promise, and fortunately the band does deliver and lives up to that goal they set themselves. Fans of the band describe the stage presence of Ravenscroft as second to none, which makes Ralph Buso happy. "Live shows are the core of what we do, so they are very important! We try to put on a show that will captivate our audience from start to finish." And it pays off, the reputation this band has earned by touring is growing by the minute, with every new gig. So where and when can US and European fans hope to catch the band at a gig? "As of the moment we have nothing booked, and we are writing new material for our sophomore album. However, we plan on touring nationally in early 2015, and Europe is definitely on our list for future touring endeavors." Sounds like a plan.
So it looks like we will need to be patient in order to enjoy a Ravenscroft show, fortunately there is Cosmic Plan (available on iTunes), Reverbnation and YouTube to keep us patient - and radio? "We were just recently approved on Pandora Radio, and we are running a National Radio Campaign in January 2015."
- Here come the raven
- Drama queen
- My disease
- Cosmic plan
- Broken shadows
- Kill me softly
- Her disease
- Cult of the damned
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