The heavy metal band Eternal Champion are led by singer Jason Tarpey, whose vocals share a bellowing timbre with Ozzy Osbourne in the ’80s, and whose ideas cannot be contained by his music, so he has to flesh them out with fantasy novels with titles like The Godblade. His are stories of fallen kings and cosmic deities, full of intricate world-building and violent action sequences. When you see the band live, he can often be found center stage, raising a huge, glimmering sword toward the heavens.
Ravening Iron is the Texas band’s second album, following 2016’s The Armor of Ire, but they already feel like lifers. Tarpey is also the vocalist of Iron Age, while guitarist Blake Ibanez plays in Power Trip and the other three members—bassist Brad Raub, guitarist John Powers, and multi-instrumentalist and producer Arthur Rizk—are members of the similarly epically scaled Sumerlands. Together, they treat Eternal Champion as a kind of fantasy camp: Their job is not simply to replicate the atmosphere of their favorite ’80s metal but to transport themselves to those landscapes to carve new ground.
The songs on Ravening Iron are the band’s best yet, and their strength largely comes down to their presentation. The production is cleaner and fuller than The Armor of Ire, and the songcraft is tighter and more immediate. “Skullseeker” involves a carefully plotted sex scene between two warriors from opposing armies (“Wait for the painting!,” Tarpey notes), and the song itself is pure adrenaline, a narrative matched by the music. Tarpey has explained that the title is derived from the name of its lead character, carved into his axe, but you get as much from his delivery (“He was… SKULLSEEKAAH”) and the steady, marching drumbeat.
Other highlights, like the frantic title track and the chugging “War at the Edge of the End,” a revamped song from their early demo, find the band increasingly focused on melodies, evident in their dueling lead guitars and penchant for soaring, singalong hooks. When they sprawl, as in the closing “Banners of Arhai,” their ambition is less for proggy, complex arrangements than to make each individual part sound like the show-stopping climax: The song opens with a blistering guitar solo before the lyrics even begin, and they challenge themselves to make that energy span the entire six minutes.
Eternal Champion operate in a long lineage of melodic, conceptual metal bands from Cirith Ungol to current practitioners like Visigoth and Crypt Sermon, but their own fingerprint is becoming increasingly visible. And if Ravening Iron rarely sees them venturing beyond their comfort zone—they continue their tradition of spacey, instrumental interludes with the synthy “The Godblade” and an acoustic coda in “Coward’s Keep”—it still feels like a step forward. “Thousands of swords/No one can take them from me,” Tarpey belts in the title track. It’s pure fantasy as usual, and yet the triumph has never felt so real.
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