If Armored Saint’s new album, Win Hands Down (Metal Blade) taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or ignore your legacy to make a good album. Despite having been going since the mid-seventies, British NWOBHM crew Raven still know how to crank out an energetic slab of rock.
ExtermiNation (SPV/Steamhammer) is the 80s speed metal veterans’ 13th album and one they funded through Kickstarter late last year. The band, consisting of Gallagher brothers John and Mark [Bass/vocals and guitar respectively] plus drummer Joe Hasselvander do a good job of defying their years and combine plenty of energy with “shove in as many riffs as possible” approach to song writing.
On their Kickstarter page, the band billed ExtermiNation as “the best Raven album yet.” That might be a stretch for any band with such a lengthy legacy, but it’s definitely a raucous ride. There’s plenty of pounding drums, squealing guitars and crowd-pleasing sing along moments. Raven’s ability to mesh those Megadeth-esque speed metal moments with the more mid-paced NWOBHM chugging and even borderline AOR melody is probably their strongest asset. Not of it is particularly aggressive – it’s more fists in the air than fist to the face – but they know how to craft a few good tunes.
‘Thunder Down Under’ mixes AC/DC groove with beefed up rock, while the likes of ‘No Surrender’ and ‘Battle March/Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)’ and have a classic Iron Maiden style regard to squealing guitar leads. Gallagher’s vocals range from a simple shout right through to the kind of falsetto more suited to (now defunct) 3 Inches of Blood – and might be the strongest but suit the band’s rough around the edges sound. The more ballad/melody-oriented songs drag on and there are times when it all gets a bit too hackneyed, but the whole it’s a surprisingly enjoyable listen.
As many imitators as the whole NWOBHM scene as, there’s a reason the original acts are still seen as the best. Few bands can combine that energy, catchiness and ability to make you smile. It’s not big, clever, or anything we haven’t heard a thousand times elsewhere, but ExtermiNation is a simple and enjoyable slice of good time rock that harks back to metal’s heyday.