Raven - ExtermiNation (SPV/Steamhammer)

When it's good...
Release Date: 
26 Apr 2015 - 11:30pm

NWoBHM stalwarts Raven keep plugging away, moving into their forty first year as a band still sounding as unhinged as they did all those years ago when they released thundersome chugfests like The Ballad of Marshall Stack, seemingly oblivious to the changing of the seasons and their entry into what is probably the sixth age of heavy metal bands. But are they actually any good as we approach the middle of 2015?

Remarkably, yes. Raven were never really what you’d call ace songwriters, even in their pomp, getting by on attitude, sheer out of control heaviness and top notch chop-driven live mayhem to carve a name for themselves, and not much has changed on that front. That said, for every slight duffer (the hamfisted though undoubtedly sincere tribute to Bon Scott, Thunder Down Under, just doesn’t cut the mustard in the modern arena) there is some real gold waiting to be mined on ExtermiNation

Opening track Destroy All Monsters gets things simmering nicely, whilst the excellent melodic speed metal of Tomorrow ups the ante a notch more with its neatly put together mixture of trad metal riffage and dangerous double kick barrages from drummer Joe Hasselvander. It’s Not What You Got would have been released as a single in 1981 but now feels just a little lightweight and throwaway despite a compelling performance from vocalist/bassist John Gallagher and some nice axework from his six string sibling Mark, but next track, the fizzing, drama-laden Fight really is rather good, hitting a high cruising speed early and sitting there, working well off of an anthemic yet simple chorus and an overall air of something Judas Priest might have come up with in the mid eighties – metal fans from that era will simply lap this up, especially the magnificent solo.

Tank Treads doesn’t quite hold the attention so well, though the punchy Feeding the Monster sets things back on an evil keel; The shorter, more direct tracks are where Raven are most effective on this album and this track, featuring another short-but-oh-so-sweet solo is one of the best.

The slower, brooding Fire Burns Within keeps the pot boiling, but then a bit of a rot sets in. Too much of a good thing is probably never actually a ‘good thing’, and at fifteen tracks in length ExtermiNation is probably five too long. By the time the knockabout fun of closing track Malice in Geordieland (surely the heavy metal equivalent of reading a copy of Viz Comic) comes to a close the listener’s attention has been left to wander through exposure to just a little too much filler like River of No Return and the afore mentioned Thunder Down Under, neither of which really stimulate a desire to listen to them again. A shame, this, because when they fire on all cylinders Raven in 2015 really are a band worth listening to- buy this, but make a playlist of the best and shelve the rest.