Raven – “Metal City” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
Arriving as part of NWOBHM and carving their own niche – ‘athletic rock’ – in the 80s thrash years, Raven are nothing short of legendary through classic albums like “Wiped Out” and “Live At The Inferno”. Through thick and thin, the Gallagher brothers have stayed true and strong to their music, such that when an industrial accident crushed guitarist Mark Gallagher’s legs, resulting in a near decade long hiatus, they simply bounced back with the aptly named “Walk Through Fire”! More recently, long time drummer Joe Hasselvander (Cathedral, Pentagram) suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy), who made his immediate impact on “Screaming Murder Death From Above: Live In Aalborg”. Now carrying this through on this 14th studio album, it’s evident that besides being a ball of fire, Heller is heavily inspired by Raven’s early material, which in turn, has had the predictable effect on the Gallaghers, hence the super-hero album cover! Produced by the brothers and co-engineered by Heller and legendary long-time collaborator Michael Wagner (Motley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Accept), “Metal City” is everything you might expect in the way of ‘athletic rock’, but it’s a whole lot more from the impressive technicality in the musicianship, especially in Mark’s solos, to not just being in high gear throughout, but offering mid-tempo anthems such as ‘Battlescarred’, with its cool lyrical references like ‘…all for one and one for all..’ to Raven’s history and even a slow, moving epic closer in ‘When Worlds Collide’ where, although in low gear, the power trio are nothing short of crushing in every regard as the superb sound allows every note and beat to be heard – and awed! Opening with ‘The Power’, the riffs will immediately resonate with any Raven fan, as does John Gallagher’s trademark shrill along with his stylish bass lines, while Heller pummels in the double bass beats before the culminating chorus shout out of ‘..give me the power!!!..’ – although the all too short bass / guitar solo trade off shouldn’t be forgotten as it adds the icing onto this very tasty cake indeed. Keeping up the furore on ‘Motorheadin” through Heller’s Philthy Animal double bass kick beats, the trademark insanity of Mark’s melodies and his wild soloing amid John’s crazy shrills rocket this track straight into your mind as the pace is so intense it should come with a health warning. For older headbangers like myself, ‘Not So Easy’ is classic Raven down to a beat, mid paced but straight from the earliest days of “Rock Until You Drop” with plenty of heavy metal and indeed rock ‘n’ roll while ‘Break’ is a hammering skull crusher fuelling the massive chorus shout out of ‘..waiting to tear it down!waiting to tear it down!..’, although contrasted by melodic touches and capped off brilliantly by an absolutely immense solo from Mark – awesome! Named in homage to their hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, “Metal City” reflects that city’s tenacity in Raven’s ultra-tight performances on this amazing release. The fact is, the Gallagher brothers are simply unstoppable.