It”s been four years since Eternal Champion unleashed The Armor Of Ire in 2016, but the hype has only intensified with their sophomore full-length. Ravening Iron (No Remorse Records) continues the Austin group”s Epic Metal aspirations as the coarse but melodic guitar work casts a dungeon friendly atmosphere and the vocals forever echo Manilla Road”s Mark Shelton (RIP) with their nasally yet bombastic character. Thankfully, there are enough alternate approaches explored that keep this album from feeling like a retread.
The songwriting is certainly more methodical than before. In contrast to the previous album”s reliance on interludes to pad out the runtime, there is only one this time around with “The Godblade” serving as a synth-heavy reprieve before the climactic closer. There is also a greater emphasis on slower-paced riffs compared to the first album’s brisker runs as “A Face In The Glare” and “Skullseeker” pair pounding rhythms with anthemic hooks while the serpentine “Coward’s Keep” and “Banners Of Arhai” border on Doom territory with their more dramatic structures.
Going along with that, the musicianship feels considerably fuller as well. That could be attributed to the boosted production, but the actual performances are also more confident. The focus on heavy mid-tempo riffs is enhanced by an even thicker guitar tone, the drums have a more aggressive punch, and the vocals have a prominent position in the mix. The band also found time to put in some extra sounds to flesh out the atmosphere; the hammer and anvil at the end of “A Face In The Glare” is certainly a nice touch.
As influential as The Armor Of Ire has already come to be in modern Heavy Metal, it’s great to see Eternal Champion offer an album that’s even more accomplished with Ravening Iron. While the songwriting is less accessible, the overall package is more complete as better realized structures are strengthened by bolder performances and the reliable fantasy mood. It takes some time to get used to but ultimately proves why Eternal Champion has come to such a staple. If they can get something even stronger in the future, I’ll be okay with another wait.
Buy Eternal Champion’s – Ravening Iron at this link https://eternalchampion.bandcamp.com/album/ravening-iron
8 / 10