It's hard not to like Raven Sad. This is another generous album, at almost sixty-eight minutes, but it's one that really knows how to breathe. They're an Italian progressive rock band formed in 2005, even if they don't often sound like they're an Italian progressive rock band. Apparently, they used to have an abundant space rock influence that led people to thinking they were Germans but Samuele Santanna, whose solo project this originally was, has changed line-up frequently and Gabriele Marconcini, their new vocalist, is clearly Italian.
I'm hearing more of an Anglo-American sound here, a cross between Marillion and Queensrÿche, with the Marillion most obvious in the instrumental sections and the Queensrÿche in the way Marconcini delivers his vocals. He doesn't soar the way Geoff Tate used to but he's often very similar in his lower register. But that's just a starting point. There's a folkiness throughout that's easily found through a deceptive lightness and the ability of these songs to breathe. There's a funky organ in City Lights and Desert Dark and it veers into jazz fusion midway through. There's also some seventies rock in Ride the Tempest that is shorn of its prog, reminding how widely Black Sabbath influenced music. There's very little of them here but it can be found.
The band is new, but Santanna has been recording as Raven Sad name since 2008 and this is his fourth album. Only keyboardist Fabrizio Trinci has appeared on any of those, I believe, so I doubt they're too representative of what this band sounds like today, especially given what I'm reading about krautrock and jazz influences on them. It's also been a full decade since the prior release, Layers of Stratosphere in 2011. I'm still interested in looking out for them, because this is deep music, but I don't expect too much similarity.
And that makes me wonder about what the next album will be like. This band is easily strong enough that I hope this isn't it for the line-up. If it is, I'm happy that they left us with so much music. The Leaf and the Wing may only include eight songs, one of which is a two minute intro, but they're not short ones. The Sadness of the Raven opens up proceedings at almost ten minutes and it never once seems long. City Lights and Desert Dark is a few breaths longer still and the same applies. Then it's Colorbox at thirteen minutes even, the longest song here, which feels looser and a little more Italian, even with Marconcini singing in English and some very Steve Rothery guitarwork from Santanna.
I think my favourite songs are that early pair of ten minute songs and the a pair of darker pieces that follow Colorbox. I enjoyed this throughout, but the early sections of Approaching the Chaos spoke to me. It's a little darker, but not by much, and a little sassier too. It isn't content to sit back and flow; it wants to actively engage and play with us. An inquisitive bass, perky drums and teasing keyboards are a great way to kick the song off and it only grows from there. Ride the Tempest continues the slightly darker approach and adds a little weight to it. This is never heavy music, let alone metal, but this one does think about it often.
Like the Moonspell album from Friday, this is a grower, a second listen highlighting depths that I had missed the first time through and a third listen doing the same. However, it's a lot more immediate. I had to work a little with the Moonspell, which I did because of their name. I didn't know Raven Sad at all before hearing this, so wouldn't have had that incentive to persevere. Fortunately, I didn't need it. I'll be pulling both these albums out again to explore further and I won't rule out upping the ratings on both of them.