May 20, 2015 Raven – ExtermiNation (Album Review)
Formed in 1974 on the heavier end of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, and while not as well known as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, hailing from Newcastle, England, Raven’s impact on Metal was arguably just as significant. A touch faster than Judas Priest and a touch heavier than Iron Maiden, they were an extra-sonic nudge to the Bay Area Thrash scene while it was getting off the ground. Formed by the Gallagher Brothers, John (bass/lead vocal) and Mark (guitar/vocals), along with Paul Bowden (guitar), Raven made their way through the local scene the in early years prior to signing with Neat Records. While John and Mark Gallagher have been the longest standing members of the band, Joe Hasselvander (ex-Pentagram) came on as their permanent drummer in 1987 as they continued their reign in the hearts of Heavy Metal followers. Some might say a visit to Raven’s back catalog is like pouring over the original blueprints used by Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax to shape their sound. Now over four decades since their birth, Raven return in 2015 with their thirteenth overall studio album entitled ExtermiNation. Marking their first studio album in six years, they bring back Metal mastermind Kevin 131 to handle production of the new material released in North America on April 28th via Steamhammer/SPV .
The album begins with “Destroy All Monsters” which builds slowly, then kicks into some no frills, double-timed guitar/drum chugging. Directly following, “Tomorrow”evokes a similar style to Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction (1992), which is a testament to Raven’s influence on Dave Mustaine rather than the other way around. On the catchy riff-based track “It’s Not What You Got,” a slightly slower tempo creates a minor lull that serves to emphasis the driving crunch in “Fight,” which immediately follows. As always, Raven place special attention on their guitar sound throughout ExtermiNation. Tight sounding and scratchy, their delivery evoke the best tones from the classic era of Metal, but pop out of the mix thanks to the help of Kevin 131. A great example of how it all comestogether can be heard on the track “Feeding the Monster.”
While ExtermiNation sticks to the edgier Metal template they forged in the early ‘80s, they still manage to throw in a small nod to the commercial tracks from the middle of that decade with the groovy slink of “Fire Burns Within,” before jumping back into the double-bass pummeling of “Scream.” Keeping Raven’s trademarks intact, they deliver an immediately catchy riff, often unaccompanied, in nearly every song. For the strongest showing of such, look no further than the killer tune “Silver Bullet” before the slow, churning beginning of “River of No Return.”
With a forty year career under their belt, Raven, like most Metal bands that have been around that long, have suffered through the inevitable mishap of caving to industry pressure to sound more commercial. This happened in 1986 with The Pack Is Back, which they immediately corrected on the follow-up in 1987 with Life’s A Bitch. On ExtermiNation, Raven sticks to the heavier side of their sound which was the tried and true formula from their early beginnings. The album maintains a steady, mid-paced classic Metal feel throughout with the only break being the one minute acoustic interlude, “Golden Dawn,” and the aforementioned “River of no Return” prior to the blistering bonus track “Malice In Geordieland.” While there is nothing groundbreaking on ExtermiNation, there does not necessarily need to be. It is a solid slab of traditional Metal that is bound to please hungry fans worldwide. Bands like Raven and their contemporaries serve as keepers of tradition and a cantilever to the younger, more attention deficit Metal bands of today. Whether a listener is a veteran Metal fan who has evolved with the scene, or a millennial who more recently found an insertion point, they are probably aware that the genre can sometimes get lost in its own convolution of offshoots. After one has Progged, Deathed, Thrashed, Glammed, and Djented themselves over a period of time, it is good to cleanse the auditory palette and visit the foundation that the previous permutations are built on. For that, thankfully, there is Raven. CrypticRock gives ExtermiNation 3 out of 5 stars.