[RELEASE REVIEW] Raven Black Night – Barbarian Winter (Metal Blade)

Raven Black Night’s first major label release is a total disappointment.
Raven Black Night Barbarian Winter Cover Art
Raven Black Night's
covert art

Raven Black Night’s Barbarian WarriorWinter is the band’s first release on Metal Blade; indeed, their first release on any major label. Hailing from Adelaide, South Australia, the band has been playing regular shows for as long as I can remember. Much of the material on Barbarian Winter is not new, and in fact appeared on previous independent releases such as Choose The Dark.

For those familiar with the band, you may well feel that Barbarian Winter sounds like songs have been lifted from Choose The Dark and simply remastered. Badly. The recording itself maintains fairly sub-standard production, and the mix, while effectively demonstrating the song writing, places vocalist Jim Petkoff’s vocals too highly. Not a problem, surely? Well, it is when the vocal lines are samey, occasionally off-key, and gradually – as you proceed throughout the album – rather annoying.

And anyone who is familiar with the band will know that this is not a singular, once-off issue. Jim always places his vocals too highly in a mix. Always. It’s not something that will change unless there’s a producer out there willing to have a fight on his hands.

Raven Black Night play metal-slash-doom-rock, and it’s a good description of what it sounds like. It’s down-tuned, bottom-heavy, presents some excellent riffs, and melodically and rhythmically is nicely written. Clean, often high-pitched vocals permeate the release, and the ballads – which local punters will remember from nearly every set the band has ever played – are included. Those ballads give the release the diversity it needs to lift it out of the mire.

Unfortunately, the album’s production lets it down in a big way, and it’s not something easily gotten past. It’s actually what nearly considered me to rate this album down as being literally sub-standard. More particularly given the label that it’s on.

I’m hoping that Raven Black Night can pull some tricks on their next release to better showcase their capabilities. Starting with a better recording, a better mix, and (for a local girl like me) a whole raft of brand new material. There is a seriously large difference between lifting old tracks for your world-stage debut, and re-recording only your best work.

New listeners, however, will likely judge this album less harshly than myself. Barbarian Winter is a decent indication of what the band is capable, even though the overwhelming outcome is “wow this is crap”.

The release is not likely to make most fans of the genre sit up and take much notice, because an overall assessment of the bad production, the poor mix, the sameyness in it… it’s not particularly close to “good”.

With a push in the right direction recording-wise – with a strong-willed producer – the band’s next album may take us all surprise. But by hell they’ll need to work really hard to get to that place.

So, until then, we sit and wait and see.

THE SHORT VERSION OF THIS REVIEW FIRST APPEARED AT ABOUT.COM HEAVY METAL. Click here to read it.

 
Edit: apologies for getting the title wrong; full error on my part due to misreading.

5 thoughts on “[RELEASE REVIEW] Raven Black Night – Barbarian Winter (Metal Blade)

  1. WOW!! How offensive, I recently heard that Raven was signed to metal blade and thought “that’s awesome” all their hard work over the years has paid off… So I thought I’d grab a cd and being a music lover,thought I’d check out some reviews of their new album ‘Barbarian WINTER’.
    Being a musician myself,having had reviews over time each one with good and bad points ” constructive criticism” you might say, this review however is purely a personal attack on members the production and mastering of an album that has been refined over years of playing and dedication to their art,I’m sure.
    You got ask yourself “why did a major metal label like Metal Blade sign these guys up” if they’re as shit as you say? Clearly you’re a shallow minded person,who is unsupportive of local talent and the effort we put into writing music.
    Get out and support music instead of condemning it to shit or stick to belly dancing and beer 😉

    1. If you refer to my reply to previous comments being offensive, then that’s as may be. Clearly you didn’t see the comments back towards me as being offensive or puerile, which actually they were. And paranoid, to boot.

      You have no idea how I support the local scene (and by local, I mean Australia-wide), so please don’t assume you do.

      Being a critic is not about supporting music and releases and bands when they do a poor job. I was disappointed that this release wasn’t better, more polished, had a better production. I was really hoping it would, because I have seen hundreds and hundreds of RBN shows, here and interstate, and I want them to really crack it onto the world stage. That was my point: this album is not going to help them to do that, and maybe their sophomore release will.

  2. its called barberian winter and tell spencer to stop writing ur reviews for u sweety

    1. Ok, we will let the sweetie bit go. You’re in the band and you can’t spell Barbarian, so thanks for the heads up on my error but, um. Well, yours says just as much.

      As for your thinking that Matt Spencer writes my reviews, that says a lot for your own paranoia about the past, and not much about anything else. I haven’t had the pleasure of discussing the release with him.

      Sorry dude, I call it as I see it. Errata and all. 😉

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