A magnum revolver holds six bullets. In many a film, an important character has fired such a gun without any thought of conserving the ammo, and soon finds the chamber has gone in complete rotation, leaving them with nothing.
In so many ways, listening to this new EP from Tasmania's resident doomsters Space Raven is a lot like that chamber being spun full-circle. As some of you would do well to recall, this band was the focus of my first ever "Hensch's Hometown Heroes" column, the likes of which has been going on for quite some time now. It has been a great run thus far, what with a year worth of columns and a little over 52 feature reviews! With that in mind, it really is a return to my roots. This is the band that started it all, and here we are, back 360 degrees, spun like a revolver full of bullets being loaded and cocked.
And what little (thank Jesus for that) has changed with these blokes. Just like last go-round here in my column, the band crafts excellent, purist doom in the vein of Electric Wizard, YOB, and Cathedral (this one especially stands out to me now what with the EP's much cleaner production as compared to the 2005 demos). It kicks total arse, and when you factor in the buzzing menace of Sunn-O))) and a little bit of the cosmic meanderings of Hawkwind (yep, Hawkind!) you get one potent combination. I'd go so far as to say the band has their own distinct stamp on doom, and they haven't even released a full-length album yet!
The band fires the first shot with the aptly-titled "A Devil's Welcome." "Welcome" ambles by in confident, swaggering doom, nice and f***ing heavy. Before you know it, some spacey guitar wanking leads into vocalist Will Fried's mad rantings and ravings, the likes of which sound like a really pissed off Lee Dorrian from Cathedral. Speaking of that band, the full, deeply pleasing riffage strummed here inhabits a crunchy, thick intensity I last heard on the most recent Cathedral album, The Garden of Unearthly Delights. "Turtle of Pain" is where Space Raven really comes into their own, and quite possibly the best track they've ever done. A slow, plodding carpet of percussive murk is laid down via the patient drumming of Matthew Chalk, and massive riffs straight from the abyss howl like they came straight from Electric Wizard's almighty Dopethrone. Fried outdoes his own vocals yet again, his manic shrieks proclaiming such simplistic, hate-filled yells of disgust as "eat s*** and die." This song works so well as it never makes any broken promises; this is just about kicking ass and taking names, nothing else. "Dirty Harry" serves as an impressive, memorable interlude. The band plays a surprisingly catchy, melodic bridge behind Clint Eastwood's starmaking "feeling lucky punk?" one-liner. Short and to-the-point, it is a good breather before the return of "Battles, Heroes, Witches, and Women" off the demos. This newly recorded rendering finds Dave HG plucking gargantuan bass-notes, while the band trudges forward with a focused sludge attack. Roaring guitar bellows break and crest as Fried spews forth a dark, morbid tale of myth and magic; the song's highest point comes in the form of a drifting wisp of cosmic space dust coated guitar notes, their rambling, zonked melodies almost inviting that aforementioned Hawkwind reference for the entire album all by itself. The song ends with rumbling menace, leading into the closing touch that is "White Hole." Quiet and graceful, "White Hole" is an entirely instrumental effort of ethereal, spaced-out clean chords. Moody and atmospheric, it shows off a subtle and introverted side I didn't know Space Raven were capable of. The song isn't all billowing softness though; in true doom fashion, all the meandering leads into a gloriously joyous riff and some percussion to cap off the album with one last dose of soaring universe throbs played via doom metal.
When last I encountered this act, I felt they had tons of potential and were even visionaries to a degree. After all, Australia and/or Tasmania isn't famous for its doom metal scene, and here is a band who not only plays that style but lives it, breathes it, and expands upon it to better themselves as well. And with all that, there isn't much else to say. If you like your music to kick ass, crush skulls, and worship amp distortion like the God it truly is, Space Raven is a band you'll like. Support the right to bear arms and pick up your Cosmic Magnum today. Highly recommended.
1. A Devil's Welcome
2. Turtle of Pain
3. Dirty Harry
4. Battles, Heroes, Witches, and Women
5. White Hole