Raven – Metal City (Steamhammer/SPV)Wednesday, 16th September 2020
Changes afoot in the Raven camp – out of necessity though, as long-time drummer Joe Hasselvander suffered a heart attack that put him on the sidelines during the touring cycle for the last studio album ExtermiNation. The show must go on for the Gallagher brothers John and Mark as they say – so a series of fill in drummers ended up with Mike Heller as the permanent replacement. Which brings us to Metal City – another adventure for the traditional power trio, and one that should be quite pleasing not only to the old guard of faithful maniacs, but hopefully turn some of the new generation on to this fine act.
Certain trademarks always exist in the Raven formula – John’s unmistakable melodic bass play and fluid runs from time to time, Mark cranking out that catchy riff parade and solid lead break mechanics, as well as John’s versatile vocal delivery that can reach paint melting shriek capacities. Now with Mike as their drummer, they’ve found someone who can push the BPM’s to blast beat, thrash, and progressive measures – all while retaining that solid groove that’s necessary in the best metal records. From the first quick hitting drum roll that unfurls the solid chugging riffs and charging tempo during “The Power” all the way to the doom-like epic churn that penetrates the six-minute plus closer “When Worlds Collide”, it’s obvious that Raven pack a dynamic punch with these ten tracks, confident in the strength of the songwriting, melodies, hooks, and overall entertaining performances. First single “Top of the Mountain” has one foot in their revered past and another in the modern world – Mike again hitting some killer speed transitions and John executing a fine bass solo, while the title track brings the boys back to their Newcastle roots. Blast beats and thunderous double kick make “Human Race” a favorite for those that need an energy boost, although the progressive twist midway through adds some melodic flavor before the crunchy, heads down adventure continues. Plus there’s a tribute to Motörhead with “Motorheadin’”, Lemmy, Fast Eddie, and Phil happy that their spirit will not be forgotten.
Many think older bands like Raven can’t release new material that stands up to their original classics. Metal City will make you think otherwise – as this is indeed the best Raven album in a good thirty-five plus years. May the pandemic clear quickly as metalheads need to experience these tracks live.