Not many bands can go five years without releasing music and still manage to drum up some kind of hype, but clearly Ravenface are luckier than most. It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that the re-release of the 2012 album Divided Kingdoms wouldn’t do a great deal – being more technical than typical hard rock but more straight-laced than most tech-metal has often landed them on shaky ground – but considering how well it actually did, not to mention the boon from a revamped lineup now with ex-Aliases guitarist Leah Woodward amongst their ranks, maybe Ravenface actually do have something to offer even after such a lengthy break.
And with Breathe Again, there’s definitely something, though to say it’s anything major or earth-shattering would be demonstrably incorrect on pretty much all counts. For what is simply a big, melodic metal album occasionally adorned with some progressive flourishes and a heft dose of polish, this will certainly fill a hole, but Ravenface never really cross over into being an essential act, even by those standards. That said, it hardly seems as though this is a band resting on their laurels or anything; James Denton’s smoldering, emotive vocals are probably the main draw here, especially on tracks like Tyrants And Kings and In Time, In Sight with a more contemplative tone that a more limited singer would have more trouble conveying, and as far as the simple-but-effective method of melodies that soar and choruses that go even higher, there’s little to really complain about with Ravenface here. What’s more, they’re at least capable at keeping some crunchier guitars audible in a way that’s necessary as to not water it down to much in the clearer production.
That’s what forms the bulk of Breathe Again’s issues though, namely that Ravenface struggle to really do much more with their sound than what’s necessary, and it leads to an album that’s not exactly a chore to get through, but stumbles at some key hurdles preventing it from really shining. For one, as clear and listenable as the production is, the layering can lack a bit of necessary balance that means that synths and thin, wiry guitar passages that can feel increasingly tart end up breaking through to the very top of the mix on the likes of the title track, something which really can feel slapdash for an album as polished as this is. What’s more, it can often feel as though Ravenface end up circling around a number of ideas rather than expanding themselves by any meaningful degree, and when that’s a trait that both the sound and the lyrics can occupy, it doesn’t make for the most exciting listen. In all honesty, while Breathe Again is hardly egregious, it lacks any real spark that would elevate it from being just okay, and it ends up a bit more middling than it really should.
That’s not to say it’s outright bad, but for the number of hard rock and metal albums released this year that have managed to stand out – technical or otherwise – Breathe Again just simply can’t stand up to them in that regard. For anyone who’s taken the deep dive into those genres this year and exhausted everything they’ve found, this is a perfectly adequate extension of everything else, but when there’s been so much music this year that’s been more interesting and ambitious in areas greater than how big a chorus can be, Ravenface end up getting lost in the shuffle. Even so, it’s alright for what it is, but just don’t expect anything enormously revelatory.
For fans of: Bullet For My Valentine, Wovenwar, Avenged Sevenfold
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Breathe Again’ by Ravenface is out now.