Eternal Champion - Ravening Iron (2020)Release ID: 24230

Eternal Champion - Ravening Iron (2020) Cover
Xephyr Xephyr / January 08, 2021 / Comments 2 / 0

Evolving Barbarism

Power Metal was suspiciously absent during most of 2020, with almost no big or upcoming names dropping any sort of outstanding albums. Falconer and DGM had albums that thoroughly impressed me, but I'd consider their styles to be Power Metal adjacent instead of what you'd come to expect from the genre. So as the year wound down, I stumble upon a rather suggestive US Power Metal sophomore offering from Texas' Eternal Champion, a band that showed they are determined to keep 80's Power Metal alive and kicking. From the punchy, gallant galloping riffs to the uniquely controlled vocal performance, and not to forget the well-oiled abs of the cover art, their 2016 debut The Armor of Ire showed immense promise and gave classic Power Metal fans something to sink their teeth into since it was so traditional. While The Armor of Ire is a good album in its own right, 80's Power Metal worship isn't exactly my preferred kind of classic metal, so I was pleased to hear that Ravening Iron wasn't just a repeat of their debut, but a full on evolution of their sound into something that fits my tastes much, much better.

Much of that taste is centered around riffs, and Ravening Iron delivers more than anyone could ask for. A few tracks like "War at the Edge of the End" and "Worms of the Earth" reproduce some of the more classic, galloping triplets that were so prevalent in their previous album, but the rest of the album is just one killer riff after another. Eternal Champion lean into a fuller, louder, and more vigorous production style that really helps to drive home the amazing riff writing in this album. Gone are the faster paced gallops, replaced with chunky, mid-tempo chug riffs that have more extended melodies than the usual Power Metal fare. "A Face in the Glare" immediately gives the listener a taste of the kind of riff style you'll expect throughout the album alongside driving drums and a very warm and rich bass foundation. As I'm sure most metal fans know, there's some sort of intrinsic instinct that lets any listener know how hard a riff goes, even though they couldn't begin to explain the music theory behind why one riff hits harder than another. I sometimes wish I took more music theory to mathematically deduce what makes some riffs rock harder than others, but on the other hand there's something pure about being a fan of music and hearing something that you just know goes extremely hard. For me, I instantly got that feeling on almost every riff in this album, whether it was the scratchy "Ravening Iron", the chug of "Skullseeker", or the epic downtempo "Coward's Keep". This album hits me just right when it comes to chuggy Power Metal riffing thanks to the cleaner and more pushed forward mixing.

Eternal Champion stands out in more than just riffing though, with a unique vocal performance that treads a line between spoken shouts and epic Power Metal delivery that I haven’t really heard before. Jason Tarpey’s higher pitched but rock-solid vocal timbre at first sounds extremely unenthused and not the greatest for something like Power Metal, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that the band knows how to use his vocal style to amazing effect. Even though his delivery can seem lackadaisical during certain sections like the chorus of “Ravening Iron” and portions of “Worms of the Earth”, there’s something about how the reverbed vocal lines work together with the riffs that elevate them away from simple spoken word territory. Once I got more acquainted with the album it became clearer how much personality Tarpey is able to put into his voice, especially with the background screams and flourishes that are hidden behind the riffs. I think Eternal Champion’s formula and vocal choices are some of the best that I’ve heard out of US Power Metal, fitting the more gritty and barbaric fantasy that the subgenre tends to focus on. That classic, more “realistic” fantasy atmosphere is well conveyed too, with small synth flourishes and more dramatic moments like the beginning and end of “Coward’s Keep” thrown in there.

Since I’m not the biggest fan of classic US Power Metal, Ravening Iron impressed me so much more than The Armor of Ire thanks to its chuggy tendencies, improved songwriting, and better album structure. Ravening Iron has the perfect mix of quick, galloping riffs to offset the relentless chug and does a better job placing its instrumental break, with “The Godblade” being a neat atmospheric intro to “Banners of Arhai”. As someone who has always preferred the European style of Power Metal for many, many years, Eternal Champion have managed to win me over with their more classic and down to earth approach. The replay value on this record has been insane, with the progressions and payoffs of each riff never getting old since everything is so well written. Even the solos are concise but memorable and exciting. If anything, Ravening Iron is a bit too short coming in at only 7 tracks and 1 interlude, but at the same time having a filler track or two may have ruined the experience. I can’t imagine what their third album is going to be like if they continue to improve their craft, since I’m going to be returning to Ravening Iron anytime I need my classic Power Metal riff fix.


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Ratings: 6 | Reviews: 1


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Cover Site Rating

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Ravening Iron
The Guardians
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