Raw Label: Cementshoes Records
One of the first reviews I ever saw on Bullz-Eye’s site after being hired on as “the metal dude” was that of Ra’s 2005 album, Duality. In it, fellow critic Jason Thompson ripped the band a new one and awarded the disc a paltry one a half stars. I found some irony in it, as Ra has been one of my top under-the-radar bands since the release of 2002’s From One.
Blending elements of modern rock with that of Middle Eastern atmospherics sure sounds strange on paper, but Ra has pulled it off consistently over their two major label albums. “Do You Call my Name,” off From One, is what really put the band on the map, followed up by “Rectifier.” Singer/songwriter Sahaj Ticotin is the beating heart, with a monstrous voice and equally strong sense of how to form a song lyrically. In the genre circles, Ra is far from underrated; they’re just criminally unsupported by their label.
Recorded at The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan, Raw is, for the most part, a quality recording of a band that sounds fantastic. Kicking off with the trippy intro for “Fallen Angels,” Ra breaks in and never looks back as they play a set list heavy on older material. Personally, I was hoping for better coverage of Duality, but they do squeeze in my favorite track from it (“Tell Me,” which is, coincidentally enough, their favorite song to play live). Live versions of “Taken” and either “Walking and Thinking” or “Swimming Upstream” would have been amazing, but we all have quibbles about set lists. The band sounds tight and on top of their game, especially on tracks such as “Sky” and “Violator.” There are some unwelcome scratches at the beginning of the recording, but it doesn’t mar the experience whatsoever.
Capping off the disc is a studio version of their newest song, “Don’t Turn Away.” Unfortunately, this is a fairly low-quality recording that could probably use some more mastering. Regardless, this is a nice peek at what’s to come on The Black Sun, which is scheduled to drop in early 2007.
If you are a fan of soaring vocals, heavy, layered guitar and compelling lyrics and atmospherics, this is a band that is well worth your time. I have been spreading the word on these guys for the past four years, since the label won’t. As a final footnote, this concert was also recorded for DVD, but as of now there is no release date scheduled.