Review Summary: Epic, melodic, powerful. An excellent black metal album that appeals to a great variety of tastes.
How I discovered this album, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Was it because the cover looked absolutely awesome? Or was it because I thought it had to be good because the name sounded like Mirrorthrone? Better yet, was it fate that dropped this amazing album into my hands? Whatever the answer is, I don’t give a damn. I’m just glad I found it. Raventhrone is an epic and symphonic black metal band, a side project of Pazuzu’s Raymond Wells. Two other people have also been members of Raventhrone, but right now the band is in a permanent hiatus. Wells originates from Austria but now resides in Canada. Silenius, of Summoning, is also a member of Pazuzu, and Wells did vocals for Summoning on their early demos, so the similarities between Raventhrone and Summoning can be traced back to this.
On the aptly titled Malice in Wonderlands, Raventhrone mesh together symphony, keyboards, typical black metal tremolo riffing, galloping riffs, powerful clean vocals, black metal rasps and incredibly melodic lead guitars to create something really brilliant. I haven’t listened to anything like this before, bar Summoning, and I was truly amazed. All of the aforementioned aspects are put together perfectly, and result in a fluid and well-crafted album.
The first thing to note about the album is how incredibly melodic it is. No matter where the melody is coming from, be it the guitars, keyboards or symphony, Raventhrone have gone all out to bring a new meaning to epic. The use of the lead guitars is very pronounced, but they aren’t used in the form of guitar solos. Rather, they play together with the vocals, or drive the other facets of the music, emphasizing the melody. Even the rhythm guitar itself is melodic (most of the time). Add to this a melodic symphony, and melodic keyboard, and you can be assured that there is an enormous abundance of melody on Malice in Wonderlands. However, do not be under the impression that the melodic nature of the album takes away from the fact that it is black metal. Raventhrone have succeeded in making a truly melodic album, but there are plenty of brutal and forcefully heavy moments which sublimely punctuate the melody.
In terms of production, I think that Malice in Wonderlands is quite well made. There is room for improvement, but it is by no means bad quality. In the black metal spectrum, they’d be considered very well done. The mixing would have had to require some thought, especially to bring out all the different aspects of the music. Raventhrone have succeeded, but as I mentioned before, it could be better. The production of the vocals is unique, and can work in the albums favor, or against, depending on the individual. They have a very hollow sound to them, as if they were sung in a large room and allowed to echo. At first, I thought this was a little annoying, but after a few more listens I started to see the benefit of it; it made the music seem all the more epic.
The vocals are one of the best parts of Malice in Wonderlands. There are three different vocal styles used, and each of them is executed perfectly. The first is spoken vocals, added here and there to add to the lyrics and the story (if there is one, I’m not quite sure). The harsh vocals are excellent; typical black metal vocals, however they are far more emphasized than usual black metal. The third style of vocals is the clean singing, and this is the defining point for the vocals in general. They are strong, deep, and almost chant-like; possibly similar to Urfaust in nature, but not quite as lame.
I generally dislike symphonic metal, mostly when the symphonic element is overused, or if they are emphasized more than everything else. Raventhrone uses them basically in every song, but it’s not a matter of each song relying on them, it’s more of a situation where they are backing up what is already there. In most cases, the song is better because of its symphonic backing. I could say the same thing about how the keyboards are utilized on Malice in Wonderlands. Asides from the two keyboard instrumentals, they support the songs strongly, but do not overpower them.
This is not your typical black metal, which is probably what draws me back to the album again and again. It’s epic, it’s grandiose, it’s melodic, and completely solid. Highly recommended.