Portugal’s Ravensire don the chain mail and battle axes once again for their second full length The Cycle Never Ends. In all seriousness, any fan of the 80’s style heavy metal or just really good traditional metal will find a treasure trove within this album. The band’s debut was good but lacked some punch and had a tendency towards repetitiveness. With plenty of brawn plus a raw and dirty sound this album towers over their debut. The combination of epic storytelling and equally epic songwriting makes for a worthy entry into the hallowed halls of heavy metal.
In this type of metal there’s several obvious choices for influences and here early Manowar is a frontrunner. Vocalist Rick Thor doesn’t have the wail of Eric Adams but is nonetheless as powerful with his rough, gravelly sound. Plus the conviction in the band’s delivery rings true throughout thanks in part to the band’s impeccable chemistry. There’s also a touch of Iron Maiden in the song structures and the way this style of songwriting helps to aggrandize the stories found in the band’s lyrics (“Cromlech Revelations”). However the closest recent comparison would be Visigoth with the plentiful solo work, hard charging percussion and of course the extremely addictive jams.
The band’s debut suffered from being too polished sounding and not having any particular standout. The production on this album fits perfectly, just dirty enough to give it a barbaric feel but not overdone to muddle the separation between instruments. Here, the runtime flies by and has a number of standout tracks, namely “Crosshaven”. It’s an extremely addictive song with triumphant choruses and big, burly riffs. The chorus alone will last for days and that’s only on the first listen. One thing that seems obvious early and particularly here, the band finds the riffs first then writes songs around them, each track is bursting at the seams with them.
The first half of the album is the strongest and sets a pace that the remainder has a hard time following. With that said there’s still moments of greatness in the trilogy that brings the album to a close. Part 1 (“Eternal Sun”) showcases a brilliant twin guitar solo that’s slower and emotional sounding — in the vein of the best 80’s power ballads. The second part is more of the same but tends to fall into the repetitiveness that plagued the band’s debut. Then with thundering drum work and powerful vocals the third and final part gets the kick in the pants needed to bring the trilogy and the album to a decent close. These 16 minutes fall short when compared to the powerful statement made on the front end of the album. But the first half is more than enough of a sonic treat to make up for it.
The Cycle Never Ends is an album that trumps its predecessor with ease. Even though old habits resurface, Ravensire has come prepared for war and for the most part ends up victorious. It’s heavily reliant on exceptional guitar work but truthfully this kind of metal absolutely demands it and the band showcases some of the strongest they’ve done. With this level of improvement over their debut the cycle indeed never needs to, nor should, end.