From The Vile Catacombs isn’t just the coolest album name this side of Iced Earth’s Plagues Of Babylon (2014), it’s also Ra’s Dawn return, of sorts. Notwithstanding rather feeble debut Scales Of Judgement (2006) and admittedly far more stable sophomore effort At The Gates Of Dawn (2009), the German prog metallers, ever with a penchant for the lore of the ancient Egyptians, have taken their sweet time in creating album number three, and done so with nary a fuck to give as to what the critics may think. The album proves to an enjoyable listen as at eight tracks and just under 50 minutes it manages to fly by rather swiftly, an attest to its better qualities as I find myself wanting more. The riff work borders on the thrash like, bearing heavy character and aggressive tastes, but at times manages to be fairly uninteresting. That’s not to say that that’s always the case however, since there are several moments where the rhythm guitar carries a significant punch, such as densely atmospheric Speak To The Dead which offers some intense guitar tracks as well as a groovy drum line care of Marco Freimuth.
It does feel at times as if though Ra’s Dawn are making an attempt at hitting the mainstream, with power metal hinged choruses. The titular outburst in We Play The Music Of The Devil just sounds remarkably identical to the titular track from Dream Evil’s The Book Of Heavy Metal, which is obviously not where the similarities end, even though the former carries a deeper, darker tone set to some of the albums grooviest rhythm guitars. Still, the track manages on the whole to be fairly forgettable, which is a shame as it has the most memorable hook found on the album. You’ll also find no twenty minute epic the likes of The Dawn Of Ra from the previous album, but the album is still closed with one of its greatest tracks in ten minute (it’s something) semi title track From The Vile Catacombs Of Sahure. Obviously the highlight of the album, it showcases the great songwriting the band is capable of, set with intricate duel guitar work with an Egyptian flair and the dark and mushy vocals of Olaf Reimann who borders on growls at times - I rather wish we’d heard more of this pretty impressive range during the length of the album.
While the surface may be hard to breach, Ra’s Dawn do deserve more attention than they receive, because even with the inconsistencies scattered throughout this album they show growth and maturity. They have the know-how, they have the technical chops and they have the songwriting skills to pull it off. Aggression is key, and so is technicality, as the album is thought through and made with obvious effort and done in a fashion that while sometimes stumbling still manages to draw you in. Still, there’s always that little feeling of something missing. That little shimmer of light to crack the dark atmosphere or that acoustic piece that takes a break from the massive riffage. The intro to Ghosts In My Mind (a highlight on the album, by the way) or aforementioned Speak To The Dead are there sure, but how about more than half a minute? Take it for what it is however, and From The Vile Catacombs delivers a solid 50 minutes of massive riff built progressive metal that if it manages to make its way to peoples playlists is sure to bring Ra’s Dawn back from the brink of the catacombs of obscurity.
Standout tracks: Ghosts In My Mind, Speak To The Dead, From The Vile Catacombs Of Sahure