Seven Ravens: ‘Barely Hanging On’

Released in May 2021 (Rat Hole Records)

Seven Ravens‘ debut album Barely Holding On is the culmination of many years of writing from producer / singer Scott Bazzett and guitarist James LePak. To his credit, Bazzett apparently realized his own singing shortcomings so he had singer Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Bonfire, Silent Force) handle the lead vocals instead on the album. Rounding out the line-up are some other semi-familiar names consisting of bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder), bassist Donnie Van Stavern (Riot, Alcatrazz), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Riot, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach), drummer Matt Starr (Mr. Big, Ace Frehley, Black Swan), drummer Kevin Soffera (Seether, Breaking Benjamin). I confess never having heard of Soffera but then again, I have never intentionally listened to Seether or Breaking Benjamin either. Bazzett and LePak apparently did not spare any expense recruiting Pete Newdeck (Midnite City) to do the mixing and Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) to do the mastering.

You can tell a lot of care was taken to present the best possible product with a pretty cool album cover, a very nice CD booklet and a crisp sound to the music. Unfortunately, the songs themselves don’t exactly blow me away. I am not much of a progressive rock fan and the music seems to have a bit of a prog element in that the rhythm section is allowed to shine a little too brightly on the album. It feels like the drums on many of the songs including the opener “Wouldn’t Change A Thing” are overplayed, kind of in an Yngwie J. Malmsteen type of way where the instrument is given more attention and focus than is really warranted for the good of the song. The guitar parts seem to be given second stage while the rhythm section simply dominates many of the songs. Even though LePak can deliver some scorching guitar solos at times, he also sometimes delivers puzzling solos that don’t really fit with the rest of the songs such as on “Wake Up.” Finally, Bormann‘s vocals seem to have a Dave Mustaine quality to them but in a clearer fashion. The problem with Mustaine‘s vocals on many Megadeth songs is that they aren’t powerful enough to keep up with the barrage of instruments and that’s what it feels like with Bormann‘s singing on Seven Ravens‘ debut album Barely Holding On.

Not surprisingly, my favourite track on Barely Holding On is “Keep A Light On” where LePak‘s guitar playing seems to be given more emphasis and place to shine. Clearly, I much rather prefer guitar driven songs and there just isn’t anything to satisfy my craving for this on Barely Holding On. Now, you might get the impression that I don’t like Seven Ravens‘ debut album but that’s not the case. All the songs are enjoyable in that I don’t feel the need to skip any tracks on the album but there’s nothing really that makes me want to go back to listening to the record. I must say that I enjoy the songs a little more each time that I listen to it but again not enough to seek the album. Overall, it’s a good effort from LePak and Bazzett but the songs aren’t that memorable. If you’re hoping for some singing along with Seven Ravens or anthems on this album, you just won’t find them.

Track List:
01. Wouldn’t Change A Thing
02. Wake Up
03. Keep A Light On
04. Cold
05. Barely Hanging On
06. Prove Me Wrong
07. Buried Alive
08. Web of Lies
09. Playing With Fire
10. Time Is A Thief
11. Down In Flames

Band Members:
James LePak – guitars
Michael Bormann – vocals
Tony Franklin – bass
Donnie Van Stavern – bass
Bobby Jarzombek – drums
Matt Starr – drums
Kevin Soffera – drums

Executive Producer: Rick Hardy
Produced by Scott Bazzett and James LePak
Mixed by Pete Newdeck
Mastered by Harry Hess

Band Websites:
Rat Hole

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, July 2021

Seven Ravens‘ “Time Is A Thief” lyric video: