Recently we caught up with Australian metallers Raven Black Night ahead of their album launch later this month. Find out their thoughts on the scene down under and just what they have in store with their latest release.
Hi guys, can you introduce Raven Black Night to the readers, please?
Greetings! Jim the White Knight on guitar and vocals, me and Rino the Raven (guitar) formed Raven Black Night in 1999. We recorded a few demos to great response and played around Australia. In 2005 we recorded our debut CD, Choose the Dark, with Matt Spencer on bass and Joe Toscano on drums. We had great reviews from underground metal press in Europe, the US and in Australia. We continued playing shows and festivals around Australia and in 2007 we went to Germany for shows. By that time me and Rino had a new rhythm section. When we returned we again played everywhere and by that time Philip Ortalessi was on drums and on bass we had Chris Dorian and my bro big Tom for live work. In 2011 we started recording new material with Chris Dorian on bass and Matt Enright on drums. When we finally completed it we sent it out to people and there were a few offers. We were fortunate Allan from Primordial put us in contact with Metal Blade who we signed with and are very grateful to be part of a great label and have much hope for the future.
How would you describe the Australian metal scene? Over the last 10 years what has changed there?
It seems to be different in each state. When we started in Adelaide, South Australia we were one of the only hard-rock/doom type bands who had clean singing and solos which were considered passé at that point with the nu metal, hardcore type styles that were big here. Also in our town there are many death metal bands and at that time black metal acts, with some doom bands like Virgin Black. We mainly played with extreme bands as some early members were in that scene and they welcomed us. I was coming from a blues rock/hard rock background and that scene was very quiet then. When we went to Sydney there were a lot of thrash bands and other doom bands like Grenade, Stone Wings and traditional metal and power metal was also big from that scene. We did shows with bands like Transcending Mortality and many others. In Melbourne there were power metal bands like Vanishing Point and Black Majesty who also have a presence overseas and black thrash like Gospel of the Horns, Destructer, bands we also did shows with. What I notice over the last decade is more metal bands influenced by euro metal or traditional heavy metal, NWOBHM and thrash and power metal have started forming and touring. There has always been very extreme bands and many bands are influenced by the american core styles etc. A few of them have also done well in international markets. The scene is very underground with promoters and bands just getting by with dedicated fans. Mainstream support is thin. We have one national show which dedicates two hours on a Tues night, but community radio like Three D Radio in our town really keep the music alive and play local bands as well as overseas acts. Things are getting stronger with festivals like Soundwave bringing so many bands that couldn’t tour here on their own with, of course, bigger established bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer etc…
Any Australia bands you would recommend to the Planetmosh readers?
Yeah, a few… Tebarah from Tasmania are really powerful and have a great stage presence. Soul Forge are a really good power metal act from regional Australia. Some of the ones I mentioned before; Vanishing Point, Eye Fear, Black Majesty for melodic. In the extreme scene some of the thrash like Gospel of the Horns, Assaulte, Trench Hell and a really cool thrash band we played with at the Steel Assassins Festival last year called Rampage. They make you feel like you’re watching early Slayer or Exodus. They all wear denim too ha! When I started I was playing more rock//blues, there were all these bands in Adelaide playing old hard rock metal style and glam metal as it was hard to record then. A lot of them went undocumented and many went to form tribute bands. One of these, The Zep Boys, whose frontman Vince Contarino is an amazing singer still to this day, another, Atomic Sun, who also did a Sabbath tribute had amazing songs but could not get it together. Lately there has been a younger crop of glam rock/metal bands with kids wearing Guns n Roses, Kiss and Motley Crue tops etc and they are bringing females back, young and old. One of these bands, Generation Swine, have the attitude look and with a bit of grit they will kick ass. It’s good to see people partying at bands again. It was all doom and gloom for a while here.
Any other bands you would recommend not just from Australia?
I guess I listen to a lot older bands like the Sabbaths, Purple, Led Zep, Rainbow, Dio. I’m stuck in a groove I’m told. I like bands like Bullet, Grand Magus, Blind Guardian, Candlemass from the euro scene, Symphony X for their amazing musicianship and great songs. An Australian band you guys know about, Airbourne, are great, maybe a bit nuts ha!!!!! Rino is on a Ghost buzz. He, like me, loves his old thrash and punk and anything by Kiss… he is not worthy ha!!!!! There’s so many bands to catch up and listen to like Graveyard, Orchid and your own Electric Wizard we really got to get out more I think ha!!!!!.
What inspires you?
I would say good music played with feeling and soul no matter what style it is. Of course, I love my hard rock/metal, blues/rock myself. Life itself with its struggles and joys. The simple things like the sea we live near and natures beauty. The characters and people you meet on the journey of rock and roll. Good food and wine, sometimes woman but that can turn to bite you at times ha!!!!!.
What was your inspiration or starting point for Raven Black Night?
In the beginning it really was down to our collective love of bands like Sabbath. As I mentioned before, I love all the great hard rock bands; Deep Purple, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Dio, Zepellin etc. Rino, with his thrash and Kiss influence, and Matt and Joe from the original line up had progressive rock, extreme and stoner type sounds they were hearing. We just wanted to be a really tight heavy/rock metal band with a strong doom feeling and a touch of goth medieval and mystery. We weren’t scared of improvising on stage with long guitar solos and having really soft passages combined with heavy pounding doom with a melody and a song you could sing or remember. We felt a lot of the old ways of metal and rock had been dismissed for too long in Australia anyway. We also wanted to party, have a good time, drink beer and tear it up. Too many bands in our local scene were too busy chasing a trend. We thought: We are what we are, take it or leave it. We wanted all to feel welcome at our shows.
When you are writing songs who is the one who comes up with the track?
Sometimes I have a complete song ready and Rino might add a passage or a theme that really elevates it. Other times we stumble on a riff when jamming. That was the process in the beginning especially. Rino might also bring in three or four riffs he stuck together and I put lyrics over them and it just works itself out. We are not the most complex of players and play to our strengths with emotion and feeling being the blue print. I said in a previous interview we are like the Rolling Stones of metal. No disrespect to Keith or Ronnie ha!!!! I mean, we just work well together and weave in and out of each others lines without it getting muddled up. We don’t let ego get in the way of a good song for example. We also let people we have worked with in the studio and live have their individual flair with the songs. Sometimes we give gentle guidelines. I guess if it feels good do it, see what happens. We do have structured and rehearsed passages as the song dictates as well.
How did the recording sessions go? Any stories you wish to share?
The recording of the new songs took place over a year as we funded it ourselves. We lived it, believe me. I found it hard to say it’s over, finished, go and get a life ha!!!! At times it was consuming, but inspirational and rewarding emotionally when it came together. With the beds we only had a few sessions to capture Chris on bass as he was relocating back to Europe and drummer Matt Enright was sessioning for us. After that we started laying overdubs, extra guitars ,vocals etc. Rino works quick in the studio, he prefers the live environment, whereas I could have a bed there and not leave. He would come in, check what I was doing and hang out while mixing. The studio we recorded at, Against the Grain, is under this old heritage listed incinerator. I guess it is suited for heavy metal hard rock recordings ha!!!!!! An old council dump yard, etc so it had a real old industrial feel and apparently the incinerator was designed by a famous architect. Might have a few ghosts hanging around being in the vocal booth! Late at night I heard or seen things but maybe it was the beer and scotch me and the engineer Andy were putting away. It also has an art studio now, near by a market they are trying to close with heritage listed kilns to build a shopping centre they are forcing the stall holders out, a 24 hour gambling pub, nothing like a beer three in the morning, ladies of the night nearby and some great middle eastern bakeries and food places. During the day very busy, at night like a ghost town. I think the surroundings to a small degree influenced the recording. Sometimes the computer would go haywire and I would say to And it’s the Raven curse and he would say every metal band in Adelaide feels the same ha!!!! When we were nearly finished recording before mixing, I was doing the last song, Angel with a Broken Wing. I could not let that song go. I did countless vocal overdubs and guitars for what is a basic type rock song. I couldn’t find what was missing. One night, driving home very tired after a 10 hour session, I clipped a curve and hit a tree near where I live and wrote of my car that I loved, an old 70s XC Ford. The old girl took a hit for me, I was very lucky and I walked home. When I came back there were fire engines, ambulance, police, you name it, sniffer dogs. They thought the car was stolen possibly. The next day I went to the studio and within an hour I finished the song and found what I was looking for. I knew it was time to mix and the energy kept me and Rino going. We felt there was some purpose to it all. I think a few people wondered if we could pull it off with the line up changes. I feel we brought the band’s sound forward and already have many songs for our next phase waiting.
Your debut, Barbarian Winter, comes out on February 19th. Could you give us a bit of info on the tracks
Fire In Your Eyes – A hard-rock, 70s type sound with some Uriah Heep influence on my part
Morbid Gladiator – Lyrics I wrote in LA. One of Raven Black Night’s first songs and a nod to Sabbath and Maiden just came out
Mystery Woman – A driving, hard-rocker. First time we played it live I blew the fuse of my amp and the venue went pitch black. Half the crowd left and I got a massive shock. The Raven curse ha!!!!!!
Fallen Angel – A song Rino brought in with a thrash beginning, into a Kiss style song. Rino wants me to be Paul Stanley but I’m too fat ha!!!!!
Black Queen – Rino also composed the music and I helped arrange the riffs. Lyrics are a bit fantasy, a candlemass influence is here. During the solos I try to think of Ritchie Blackmore
If You Choose The Dark – also an older song. The beginning was doing a Keith Richards type rhythm and the chorus is our simple version of Iron Maiden and vocally very influenced by them and Deep Purple
Warriors Call – A short poetry piece I did. Maybe trying to be Jim Morrison… I got a way to go yet!
Barbarian Winter – We always thought this was an album track. Rino again came up with a lot of the music that we refined and got our friend to add some death vocals for texture. It feels great to play live as it has doom/rock/thrash/spacey passages
Changes – When we were trying some soundscapes I started doing it from bass, adding guitars and vocals. I love the song and wanted to show the ambient side of Sabbath. Some times people forget, hard rock bands always write the best ballads and anthems. I promise I won’t touch Stairway to Heaven ha!!!!!! Again Rino encouraged me to include it on the CD.
Lips Of Desire – Our first version was really slow and doomy. We got obsessed with it, doing demos in bass player Chris’ studio. When we recorded it we added some pace. Chris does back up vocals and guitar. A song about forbidden love, done before we know our take on it.
Nocturnal Birth – Another of our older songs. When we started we used to hang out at this goth club, getting pissed, watching people dance two steps forward one back. It was almost hypnotic. One day I walked out at 5 in the morning, there was lightning and thunder and all these girls in black in the rain. It felt like I was back in time, the club was in a side street, the real world on the main strip. Musically of course Black Sabbath influence this one. I tried some real bluesy playing on top of it.
Angel With A Broken Wing – I was walking with my girlfriend at the time in a seaside place in Adelaide called Semaphore, really old school. I saw this injured seagull with its wings nearly torn off trying to find food. I found some for it but it couldn’t catch it. It just broke my heart thinking how sometimes humans are so cruel to animals and nature in general etc, so in metaphors I wrote lyrics describing some of the struggles I had seen. Musically a straight rocker.
Do you have a favourite track?
They all mean something to me. It’s very hard to pick. For short and direct, Morbid Gladiator, or if you choose the dark, long and profound, Barbarian Winter or Angel with a Broken Wing. I am terrible at choosing anything ha!!!!!!
What festivals have you done and do you have any up and coming festivals or tours
Overseas we did Headbangers Open Air, Hard and Heavy Summer Nights and Hell’s Pleasure in Germany. In Australia we did festivals such as Evil Invaders, Steel Assassins, ones gone now like Blood lust and Armageddon Adelaide were great. At present we will do some shows here to start and when the cd is released we hope to get some opportunities to do some tours and festivals overseas. We are working on it as we speak, the Raven needs to fly!
What festival would you love to do in the UK?
There are many amazing ones. I read about Hammerfest, Hard Rock Hell, Bloodstock, Desertfest, Damnation, of course Download or Sonisphere, anywhere that will have us we will come and rock!!!!!!
If our readers would like to find more info out about you, where could they find it?
They can keep up to date on our metal blade page at www.metalblade.com/ravenblacknight or www.facebook.com/ravenblacknightofficial. We also have Mypace and Reverbnation pages and hope to get our own web site soon.
Any messages you would like to pass on to the readers?
I hope you can enjoy the CD and check it out. We hope to see you on the road somewhere. Say hello, we don’t bite. Long live Rock and Roll. Stay metal and free. Thanks for your time and interest in our music
Barbarian Winter will be released on 18th February through Metal Blade Records
Raven Black Night are:
Jim the White Night – Guitar/Vocals
Rino the Raven- Guitar
Phil Portalesi – Drums
Chris Dorian – Bass