Members of English metalcore band the Raven Age took to the Oracle Arena stage in Oakland on Tuesday night — but failed to do much more. It wasn’t necessarily the band’s fault. The Raven Age checked off all the items on an arena performance list: Play a killer set, engage with the crowd, throw in a few moves to accompany the music and make sure the amplifiers are all “turned up to eleven.”
Pandering to an audience full of devoted metal fans is no small feat, and for that, the Raven Age deserves some credit. Whether or not they could have delivered a superior performance is out of the question. The odds were simply not for them in this particular show.
The Raven Age was formed in London in 2009, featuring Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris’s son George Harris. The group — currently on tour to promote its recent album, Conspiracy — has a couple of albums and an EP under its belt. The band members have also previously opened for Iron Maiden on its “Book of Souls” world tour in 2016, which helped cement the Raven Age’s place among Iron Maiden fans. Steve and George Harris’s father-son relationship means that the Raven Age can’t always shake accusations of nepotism, but the group did attempt to hold its own against the heavy metal giant.
The Raven Age undoubtedly had much to live up to already — being the supporting act for a group as legendary as Iron Maiden isn’t for the faint of heart. The crowd, obviously waiting in great anticipation for the main act, bobbed along to the many songs played from their new album, including “Fleur de lis” and “Grave of the Fireflies.” But the excitement for Iron Maiden’s approaching set was palpable. Frontman Matt James repeatedly screamed to the crowd, “Are you ready for Iron Maiden?” in between songs, which was met with great cheering from the ever-growing mass of fans.
Looking at the Raven Age alone, the band was loud, as a metal band should be — and played the hourlong set flawlessly and effortlessly. James was nothing short of charismatic in his vocal delivery and navigation of lyrics; the rest of the members made good use of the stage, headbanging to their songs in synchronicity. The group even called upon the audience to turn their phone flashlights on for a slower ballad, to which the crowd gladly complied. The distorted melodic touch across the Raven Age’s songs was a wonderful accompaniment to the group’s lyrical mastery, giving off a strong historical vibe. The band’s songs attempt to transport listeners back in time — but in a more hardcore manner.
All of this isn’t to say that the Raven Age isn’t a worthy band. While the Raven Age itself is a revolutionary and absolutely well-composed group, one just can’t ignore the beast in the room. It’s certainly intimidating to play to a crowd of Iron Maiden fans — and the Raven Age members handled themselves well as a fittingly loud, audacious accompaniment to Iron Maiden.
But it was the environment of a huge arena only filled halfway, with fans waiting for the headliners instead, that detracted from the concert set list of the Raven Age. The group members failed to keep the attention on themselves rather than the act that was to follow. A more intimate venue isn’t the answer, as their powerful sound certainly filled all crevices of Oracle Arena. Perhaps with time, the Raven Age will grow more into the monstrous steps they’re attempting to follow in.
Highlights of the set: “Grave of the Fireflies,” “The Day the World Stood Still”
Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].