Review Summary: Top of the mornin' to ya, laddies!
It may come as news to some, but back in the late 00s in a small town near Limerick, Ireland, a young Sean McLoughlin, later to earn fame as YouTuber JackSepticEye, was a budding heavy metal drummer. Formerly a member of the group Reaper, in 2008 he and two of his bandmates hooked up with a new vocalist to form the band Raised to the Ground, releasing their only EP, Risen from the Ashes, a year later. 10 years on, the extended play is extremely difficult to find, but uploads still exist of the 4 released tracks on YouTube. So let’s take a look at them.
Opening with the title track, Risen from the Ashes displays some excellent musicianship from the four members (McLoughlin on drums, Eanna Doran on guitars, Padraig Meaney on bass and vocalist/guitarist Conan Heffernan). The band clearly takes their cues from the melodic death metal-tinged metalcore of Darkest Hour and Killswitch Engage, utilising harsh vocals for the verses and clean choruses. It’s nothing new, but it’s well executed. The absence of guitar solos in some tracks is a shame, but the riffs are beefy and groovy and make up for it. Second track “Spit It Out” is a fast paced rager, as Heffernan uses his clean voice a lot more in a way that echoes back to turn-of-the-century melodies.
Throughout the 4 tracks, Raised to the Ground don’t let up for a second. Their melodeath tendencies become a lot more apparent on “Neglect”, and the production allows for Meaney to be somewhat audible in the mix – although still not as much as one may prefer (whether this be due to the audio quality of the source I’m listening to may be a factor, though), and he provides a nice amount of low end for the guitars of Doran and Meaney to seek more melodic and aggressive sounds, while McLoughlin’s drums drive the pace and energy of the music – going from fast paced insanity on “Spit It Out” to chugging and menacing on “Your Freedom, My Burden” - a track which provides the best summary of Raised to the Ground’s sound at the time. Big melodies, aggressive riffs, and a capacity to slow down and build up momentum again. There’s no doubt that these guys were capable songwriters and musicians.
The biggest weakness of Risen from the Ashes lies in the harsh vocals, however. The clean vocals are well performed and show that Heffernan is a capable frontman, but the throaty rasp of his screams remind me of a less refined Christian Machado (of Ill Niño fame). The way his voice scrapes his throat is extremely off-putting and almost turns you off the EP entirely if it weren’t for the rest of the music making up for the damage. It’s not a safe vocal technique and one can only hope that he improved on this if he continued singing after Raised to the Ground broke up. There’s also an issue of the band not really pushing any boundaries in their sound. For what they do, they do it extremely well. However, their style of metalcore had already peaked with Trivium, Killswitch Engage and Darkest Hour a few years earlier, and the style of metalcore championed by Bring Me the Horizon, Architects and co. was already beginning to take over as the dominant form of the genre. It’s hard to see what else they could have added.
However, you have to say that this was a good effort from the Limerick lads. If you’re able to get past the sub-par harsh vocals on Risen from the Ashes, it’ll be clear that Raised to the Ground had a lot going for them. While it wasn’t to be, this EP still stands as a good testament to what they could have done.