(NCS guest contributor ElvisShotJFK is back, reviewing the latest release by Turkey’s Raven Woods.)
When doing some shopping online recently, something about Raven Woods’ Enfeebling The Throne caught my attention, leading me to their myspace profile to hear the two songs they had uploaded from the album. I liked what I heard, but I still wasn’t quite sold on getting the album. While looking for something else that I might like that I hadn’t encountered before, I kept coming back to this album, each time being answered with a whispered “you know you want to” in the back of my mind that became harder and harder to ignore. I was still a bit hesitant, but when I finally checked out at CM Distro I heard a triumphant roar in the back of my head. No turning back now. Okay, maybe that’s not quite how it happened, but then again… maybe it did.
The Turkish band was formed in 1998 by bassist Ozan Yildirim and guitarist Cihan Engin; Enfeebling The Throne is only their third release (via Italian label Code 666 earlier this year), preceded by In Silent Agony and their first full-length …And Emotions are Spilled. The band has gone through several lineup changes over the years, with only Yildirim and Engin lasting until now. Joining them are vocalist Kaan Koyuncu, guitarist Emre Üren and drummer Semih Örnek, who takes over from Yildirim, who was unable to find a drummer in Turkey skilled enough for Raven Woods’ music previously. (more after the jump . . .)
Along with his duties on the bass, Ozan Yidirim produced the album, handled the keyboards and other percussion elements and handles other affairs for the band (such as interviews or booking in Turkey). He also did the design and layout for the album’s booklet, with artwork by Mehmet Turgut (who also worked on Raven Woods’ previous album). The band’s logo and ink dragon was done by ZenTwo, who also did the calligraphy and dragons for Orphaned Land’s The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR. The dragon on the cover and under the CD made me wonder if it might be the same artist; a little digging online (I don’t have a booklet or scan/PDF of it to look to) confirmed that it was.
For the band photos, Raven Woods eschews the traditional corpse paint for something that seems to fit the name better, covered in dirt and grime as though they’ve crawled their way out of a grave (maybe it could be called zombie paint instead). I don’t know if they perform this way, but it’s an aesthetically suitable alternative to the KISS frowny faces, masks and uniforms or the gore-centric image that some other bands offer.
Raven Woods doesn’t stay entrenched in any one specific style for the duration of Enfeebling The Throne, something that some listeners may find to be a disadvantage. Overall, the band plays a breed of death metal with hints of black metal influence, along with bursts of melodic death metal and thrash. As the album progresses, Middle-Eastern influences and passages become a bit more frequent, although Raven Woods doesn’t allow these parts to dominate the entire album, a hurdle some have with the band’s peers from and near the Arabian peninsula. That’s not to say that the earlier tracks are weak. Far from it. Simply put, the songs get better the further in you get as Raven Woods settles into its particular blend of music. “Enfeebling The Throne” may sound different than “The Grey Cold Shade”, but the difference between the songs isn’t too drastic or otherwise jarring.
The guitars are well-honed, the bass isn’t lost in the murky depths and the drums are powerful enough to get the job done without overwhelming the other instruments. If you’re paying attention, you can probably even make out Kaan’s vocals, certainly a plus. With a few exceptions, his mighty roar is what you’ll hear throughout the album. Cihan Engin provides some background vocals at the end of “Breathless Solace” and female vocals make a very brief appearance in the middle of “Torture Palace”; the rest of the clean singing is contained within “Stay”, a tribute to Evren Duskhunter (I’m not sure, but I think he was a good friend of the band who died).
To close out the album, instrumental “Azab-I Mukaddes” takes the band in a much different direction, sounding more recognizably Middle-Eastern or Oriental than any other song on the album, which up this point has only used these hypnotic melodies sparingly. Guest musician Mercan Dede plays the ney (a kind of flute that usually has six or seven holes, the Turkish variety having a mouthpiece), backed by gentle drumming and acoustic guitar, the end result sounding like something that might not be out of place on an album from the likes of Orphaned Land or Amaseffer. Just as NCS favorite Fleshgod Apocalypse can get away with closing with a piano piece, Raven Woods fares just as well with its parting shot.
Sure, some of Raven Woods’ songs may sound like something other bands have been doing to varying degrees of success over the years, but when the execution is this well done, does that even matter? Even ignoring the fact that metal bands aren’t exactly dime a dozen from Middle-Eastern countries, this is a rather impressive album that gets it right where it matters. One of the only complaints I have about this album is its length; at 41:09, it’s over far too soon. A few of the songs could have easily been extended without wearing out their welcome, including adding some more guitar solos, another complaint I can come up with, albeit a quite minor one.
Overall, I think Enfeebling The Throne could possibly qualify as a “fucking good pancake” under NCS criteria. Several oriental metal bands have aleady been featured here at NCS; I think Raven Woods is more than worthy of standing alongside them. I haven’t always been lucky with albums from bands I haven’t encountered before, but Raven Woods was well worth it. This is a band I hope to hear more from in the future.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more info about this very talented band, this link will take you to their Facebook page, and their MySpace is here. To give you a taste of the music, here’s the title track to Enfeebling the Throne:[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/02-raven_woods-enfeebling_the_throne.mp3|titles=Raven Woods – Enfeebling the Throne]