Raven – ExtermiNation
Release date: April 28, 2015
The athletic rock jocks of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal are back with a new record. Raven ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its 13th studio effort, ExtermiNation. The album was recorded by Keven “131” Gutierrez (A Sound of Thunder, Shinedown, While Heaven Wept) at Assembly Line Studios, giving the album full and powerful sound to match the band’s forceful and energetic brand of metal.
The band, vocalist/bassist John Gallagher, guitarist Mark Gallagher, and drummer Joe Hasselvander, did not short-change fans with this record; churning out 15 new tracks. It’s been six long years since the release of the band’s last album, 2009’s Walk Through Fire. The Gallagher brothers promised fans the new album would be worth it and they were good to their word.
Raven wasted no time blistering the walls, opening the record with the battering-ram attack of “Destroy all Monsters”. This is one of the best tracks the trio has laid down in years and is an anthemic start to ExtermiNation. From is its sinister intro, to its classic riff, to its driving rhythms; “Destroy all Monsters” serves as an addictive earworm that won’t leave your cranium.
“Tomorrow” is a punchy mid-tempo slab of old-school, classic metal with a groove that sort of crawls up your spine, while “It’s Not What You Got” is a fist-in-the-air foot stomper that finds Raven returning to its NWOBHM roots.
Mark lays down some crisp ripsaw riffs on “Fight” which Joe backs up with a drum-line that sounds like he is going all Sly Stallone on a defenseless punching bag. The chanted chorus will make this a beast in concert.
“Battle March/Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)” has a modern Accept feel to it. Crunchy guitars propel the song across a backing rhythm from the Rarebell/Buchholz Scorpions era. Mark delivers a sick solo and John gives an A+ vocal performance: His meaty bass line adds depth to an already thick track.
The high-energy, off-to-the-races vibe Raven is renowned for surfaces again on “Feeding the Monster”. Mark makes it sound like he has overlapping guitar solos chasing their tails on this one. If you can get through this track without air-drumming you have more self-control than any metalhead I know.
“Fire Burns Within” has a slow, grinding rhythm to it while “Scream” speeds along like a thrashy malevolent juggernaut. “One More Day” has a somewhat cinematic intro which jumps into a riff and melodic chorus that recalls the classic heavy rock of the late 70s.
“Thunder Down Under” bounces around like it’s having a sonic identity crisis while also paying homage to Bon Scott and AC/DC. This is followed by “No Surrender” which feels like a Judas Priest song on Ritalin.
The album is a dozen songs deep before the first moment of beauty, which appears on the acoustic interlude is “Golden Dawn”. Of course, this does not last as “Silver Bullet” explodes from the speakers with Mark cranking up the guitar, Joe abusing his kit, and John giving his vocal acrobatics a fiery workout.
The album slows for the oddly dark and slithering ballad, “River of No Return” and closes out with the blistering bonus track, “Malice in Geordieland”, which is as unrelenting as it is quirky.
Admittedly, Raven could have trimmed the fat a bit on ExtermiNation; tightening the album up to a solid dozen songs. That said, the guys delivered, as they always do, an album superior to many of the classic bands who ride their own coattails or the plethora of modern bands who aspire to mediocrity.
With ExtermiNation, Raven enters its fifth decade, and the vitality and fervor the band displays is contagious. The guys simply lambasted their instruments and their vocals are as powerful as they ever were. Raven may never have risen to the heights of their NWOBHM contemporaries, but it is not for a lack of quality songs or personal exuberance. ExtermiNation is a bulldozer of an album and Raven continues to keep the NWOBHM sound modern and relevant. The lunatics are stilling running the asylum and the fans are the fortunate benefactors of their high-spirited depravity!