Some will point out that supporting Iron Maiden on the 2016 Book Of Souls World Tour via George’s family connections presented an unfair advantage. But look at it another way – had The Raven Age failed on those stages, it’s hard to see how they would have found the road that’s led them to Conspiracy. It proved their worth, aided by the recruitment last year of singer Matt James, whose vocal dramatics provide the textures, emotions and outright heft to lift this album skyward.
Betrayal Of The Mind opens things with eye-bulging intensity, straddling a line between modern and traditional metal and showcasing what a find they have in Matt. Like most of the album, Fleur de lis embraces historical subject matter, but it’s mostly used as metaphor, as the band tackle issues such as politics and depression with allegories and inferences. After that song’s sharpened hook strikes home, it’s no surprise when The Day The World Stood Still and Stigmata do likewise. The latter also throws in a sudden left turn, hushing the song to a dreamlike state before building it back again.
Further melodic flags unfurl on Scimitar and Forgotten World, but The Raven Age leave the best till last. Eight-minute epics are tough to get right, but so tuneful is the multilayered Grave Of The Fireflies that it feels like it could have lasted even longer. And that’s something you could say about Conspiracy as a whole. It’s singularly raging, and at a time when stalwarts like Bullet For My Valentine are turning away from their roots, its purity might offer British metal fans the perfect tonic.