With their 2016 debut Eternal Champion joined the ongoing revitalization of traditional heavy metal, having since gained plenty of repute for their powerful style. Taking hints from the likes of Manilla Road as well as the old classic greats of the genre, the Texas outfit releases their second full length, Ravening Iron. It comes four years after lauded debut The Armor of Ire (2016), and continues much that was begun then; first and foremost, it’s short runtime doesn’t even reach forty minutes, making sure Eternal Champion cram as much goodness in there as possible and having no room for filler. It also takes most of the good things about the first album and makes them great; highly driven by powerful guitar playing, the riffing has been taken to the next level, succinct, heavy and powerful all throughout.
The album also continues on the epic themes of fantasy and swordplay; definitely not for everyone but it goes hand in hand with the thick atmosphere. It’s a conjuring of Conan the Barbarian in sweet heavy metal form that would envy Joey DeMaio if the man got his head out of his ass and listened to a new tune or two. At times nearing the macabre, Eternal Champion aren’t scared of pulling the old school tactics in their lyrics; dark magic and sorcery meeting with the romanticized tales of head chopping warriors. At that, vocalist Jason Tarpey manages like few others to embody the coldness of it all, while still oozing with charisma, his presence atop the riffing and glorious soloing managing to be entirely unique while still feeling familiar. The keyboards then add those elements of mysticism into the depth of the sound, the dark weave of the atmospheric production settling through the intricate tapestries of John Powers’ and Arthur Rizk’s mighty riffage.
Mid paced opener A Face in the Glare opens to thick riffage and a showoffy flair to the soloing which grabs attention right from the get go. Then there are tracks like the phenomenal title track and Worms of the Earth pull some speed and deftly employed hooks to set a catchier style, tugging on the power metal parts of their sound. The Godblade, near the end, gets its ‘80s sound from the synth, a Manowar like pounding of battle drums building as it sets the stage for mid paced closer Banners of Arhai, which while sporting one of Tarpey’s most bone chilling shouts is unfortunately a lackluster closer, failing to make like a good rug and tying the room together it instead goes the slower route and just doesn’t engage like much of the rest of the material. Lovers of the style, and fans of the first album will not want to miss this album, but those who weren’t convinced four years ago won’t be now either. It might take some time to grow on you, but there are some truly great moments on Ravening Iron, which showcase the talents and the quality songwriting Eternal Champion have brought to the table.
Standout tracks: Ravening Iron, Coward’s Keep, Worms of the Earth