Raven – ExtermiNation (SPV)Sunday, 19th April 2015
Legends like Raven have been through the corporate ringer and come out the other side stronger, wiser – integrity intact. How you view one of the original NWOBHM purveyors depends on your entry point to the trio. In my case, a local flea market vendor had a copy of Rock until You Drop on tape, and being an early cash strapped teen couldn’t pass up the small $3 asking price for their debut full-length. Others can’t forgive their major label commercial period where Stay Hard and The Pack Is Back softened their approach to a wet noodle in hopes for massive sales.
Luckily in 2015, Raven have spent a majority of time blazing a trail through their energetic, spitfire live performances and reminding the listeners that their brand of heavy metal is not dead – and that these veterans still have plenty of fresh tracks to add to their catalog. ExtermiNation is their 13th and newest studio platter – five years beyond the very entertaining Walk Through Fire, and at this point in the game the Gallagher brothers along with drummer Joe Hasselvander aren’t going to mess with tried and true principles for any short trend gain.
Containing 14 songs (plus the short 53 second Mark Gallagher guitar instrumental “Golden Dawn”) these lunatics do not mess around in their hour plus offering – charging out of the gate with the double bass blazing “Destroy All Monsters”, John’s familiar high scream cackles pushing concluding verses while the gang ‘exterminate’ chant reverberates. It’s a wonder the bassist/vocalist never lost that trademark edge as his voice sounds so primal and exuberant, channeling his early prime years in the 1980’s. Mark is a riff machine – see sawing comfortably between crunchier anthems like “Tomorrow” and “No Surrender” and more adventurous arrangements such as “Battle March Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)” or the quasi-ballad “River of No Return” – the latter featuring some nifty slide work. And Joe gives a master tempo clinic in proper song accents plus settling into the groove from first cut to last, powerful and steady in “Fight” or reaching back into his classic rock heritage for “Thunder Down Under”.
Bringing Kevin Gutierrez of Assembly Line Studios on board illustrates Raven’s desire to match the tone and sonic aspects with their musicianship and songwriting stature – which aids the cause for long listening sessions for months and years down the line. Given their recent documentary DVD success and past fall North American trek with Night Demon to cement their credibility, I’d say ExtermiNation ensures the band another decade or two of solid, heart-felt heavy metal that the consumers should treasure.