Raven – “ExtermiNation”

Raven – “ExtermiNation” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Raven lunatics unite! Man, those crazy Gallagher brothers….breaking out of England’s North East post NWOBHM, Raven showed the world that metal could go even faster, louder and more intensely on underground albums like ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ where my fave song ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Light’ said it all. From bassist / vocalist John Gallagher’s shrilling voice along with his tremolo bass (!) to Mark Gallagher’s shredding lead and Rob ‘Wacko’ Hunter’s double bass drumming, Raven had a whole look to go with their sound – ice hockey gear, protective pads and a million sweat bands (well it was the 80s lol) – although anyone who witnessed their face ripping live show soon found out it went beyond a mere look! Raven had arrived and so too had a new genre – athletic rock!! Heavily touted for US success, it wasn’t long before underground mecca label Megaforce signed them to issue their acclaimed “All For One” album. Re-locating to New York, a relentless touring schedule would culminate in their double live album “Live At The Inferno” and a signing to Atlantic soon following afterwards. Sadly, commercial success also led to the inevitable major label pressures to become more mainstream, consequently resulting in fan disillusionment and Hunter leaving the band. Regrouping in the late 80s with ex-Pentagram pummeler Joe Hasselvander, Raven spent the 90s concentrating on their key markets in Europe and Japan, where their fan base remained loyal both for product and regular touring. With things looking on the up at the turn of the century, tragedy struck in 2001 when Mark’s legs were crushed in an accident, resulting in a four year hiatus for the band. As he recovered, Raven recommenced touring – at times with Mark playing from a wheelchair – and soon recaptured ground to produce the highly acclaimed “Walk Through Fire” regarded by both the press and fans alike as their comeback album. Well, “ExtermiNation” pretty much takes right off from there, complete with working once again with producer Kevin 131. Despite their 41 years in the business, the Gallagher’s still haven’t learned to put their feet up, resulting in a monster 15 track package that takes us right back to their early 80s athletic rock days but also going well beyond crash, bang and wallop! With their early beginnings rooted in the 70s, “ExtermiNation” surprised me by showing a hard rock side to the trio as well as a solid rock n roll element no doubt learned from their years in the US. All put through the Raven ‘mix’ of John’s still insane voice, his frantic bass warblings and fretboard runs now more prominent in the mix, along with Mark’s shredding guitar, at times as raw as I remember it, but now also heavy and crushing, along with some truly dextrous soloing and awesome as always effects – man, never knew the lad was this good! Pounding his kit to shit, Joe Hasselvander’s veteran drumming sez it all in being able to steam along with the Gallaghers whether going hyperspeed on the double bass pedals or just putting out a heavy as hell beat – strewth, no wonder he needs a Ludwig ‘Hercules’ kit!!! Musically, opener ‘Destroy All Monsters’ – which incidentally was the title of their mid 90s Japanese live album – is straight from ‘Wiped Out’ while ‘Fight’ goes slow but has a heavy rock n roll sound. Chugging with the built for live crowd chanting comes the brooding ‘Battle March Tank Treads‘ while the 80s insanity returns on ‘Feeding The Monster’ as John finally screams himself out! With the pistons well hot by now, on comes ‘Silver Bullet’ and ‘Scream’ to ensure why no one is left wondering why these guys sweat buckets! Still, mad lads that they are, they raised my eyebrow on the Dio-like slow hard rocker of ‘River Of No Return’ with my jaw hitting the floor on ‘Thunder Down Under’ – dedicated to Bon Scott – man, it’s one of the best takes of AC/DC I’ve ever heard, but still done in Raven’s unmistakeable style with Mark’s guitar once again impressing. Closing with the self parody of ‘Malice In Geordieland‘ a hilarious singalong rocker with John howaying ‘…maaaan, it was canny but the sound was shite..’ while Mark’s guitar wails insanely and Hasselvander finally finishes off his kit, “ExtermiNation” proves Raven are still full of energy and still killer live – wye aye man!

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