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No Fear Left After the Wiping Out - 92%

bayern, February 24th, 2019

I often forget about this great album; the reason why I recalled it recently was this review I saw, the first one posted here, a few months ago. It reminded me of this glorious affair which I personally consider slightly superior to the band’s universally recognized magnum opus “Wiped Out”. The guys embarked on a belated, but necessary journey to restore their past glories after the shameful “The Pack Is Back”, and bit by bit they managed to do that, the album reviewed here the absolute peak achieved at the end of this admirable upward trajectory.

“Life’s a bitch”, yes, a statement made loud and clear with the title of the band’s 1987 album, the redeeming one after the flop… by then it became quite clear that Raven wouldn’t be one of the lucky ones to walk with the finest somewhere up there, and they wouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as their compatriots Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden; even as their townsfolks Venom if you like. Truth be told, they tried almost everything along the way: they were rocking hard initially, then they helped in the establishment of the lucrative speed/thrash wave, they even attempted a more caramelized, radio-friendly form of the good old hard’n heavy… nothing worked.

Instead of delving deeper and wasting time into finding the reasons for this lack of commercial success, our friends wisely pulled themselves together by looking back at their early works and matching their boisterous flair almost note-by-note on a string of albums. They literally outdid themselves on the one here, a smattering display of vintage power/speed metal with nice more complex embellishments the latter tool a possible conformist’s gesture having in mind the more demanding ways of execution that had gripped the scene at the time as a last resort to oppose to the flooding aggro/groovy/industrial vogues.

The fixation on speed is not as big the main flow of the album comprising boisterous mid-paced shredders (“Disciple”, the title-track) which get the message through without much ado, the rock-ish side of the band’s repertoire timidly reflected on the marginally milder “Got the Devil”, but watch out for “Part of the Machine”’s openly aggressive lustre the cutting riffs boldly bordering on thrash, the picture becoming nicely elaborate on the more entangled marvel “Under the Skin” which pulsates with suppressed vigour the entire time, the guitars jumping up and down aptly avoiding the few more linear “traps” scattered around. More admirable attempts at complicating the environment follow suit with another varied near-thrash experience like “Blind Leading the Blind” and the excellent metamorphic “ballad gradually turns to speed metal” opus “Just Let Me Go”, these more serious layouts pairing very well with the brisk relentless “Wiped Out” reminders like “Relentless” and “Heart Attack”.

Inspiration was still the name of the game back in 1991, and this effort here is pretty much the epitome of it. With all the chagrin and frustration from unrealised dreams left aside and wiped out by the start of the new decade, the guys were on fire once again finally overtaking the other Newcastle representatives Satan and Venom both of those outfits having shown signs of fatigue at that time, functioning in a more or less semi-operational mode with significant line-up-changes and all the rest slowing them down. It seemed as though Raven might as well be one of the chosen few to survive the numetal “massacre” and stay afloat, even going stronger during those very tough times as evident from this great affair here…

Well, they never managed to match this opus, not yet anyway, but except for the brief flirtation with the modern trends that was “Glow” the band haven’t put a foot wrong releasing albums on not very regular bases, always reminding of their two creative peaks except on the all-cover “Party Killers” EP which saw the guys in a more relaxed, rocking again state paying tribute to legends (Slade, Budgie, Sweet, Queen, etc.) from their native (athletic) rock scene. Well, I’m sure not far from now will be the time when the younger practitioners will be assembling similar tributes to our three musketeers from Newcastle, with a substantial bulk of it dedicated to this fearsome saga.

Good trash, somehow less than seems to be - 70%

Ancient Sunlight, December 22nd, 2018

The NWOBHM band Raven has been called, by another reviewer on this website, "arguably one of the most consistent metal bands" currently performing. And while several other bands may boast of a similar consistency, it is especially fascinating that Raven managed to create album after album of vigorous music while actively (and deliberately) changing its style. The band mates surely know what they are doing: they appear very aware of their own legacy. Cheekily, the opening riff of the opening song "Architect of Fear" is that of the chorus of "Rock Until You Drop" from Raven's first album, which recalls the band's classic material, but it quickly deforms into a heavier, more aggressive riff. Raven, who helped spawn trash metal - even toured with Metallica shortly after that band's inception - now tried their hand at it directly.

What characterized Raven for 3 albums after their disastrous liaison with commercialism over at Atlantic Records was rage. They said goodbye to Atlantic Records with the self-explanatory Life's A Bitch, then delved into excess with Nothing Exceeds like Excess, and finally channeled their anger into pure trash metal. This is easily heard in the furious riffing, firmly embedded in the "chugging" style, and also in the lyrics: "White hot anger, white hot anger"! To accommodate the heavier tone of the music and lyrics, Raven's classically-trained singer John Gallagher adopted the drawls, shrieks, barks, roars and howls trash metal fans are used to. Although the style does not suit him as well as his more tongue-in-cheek, crazy approach in earlier outings, his evident talent and tact make the vocal performance, if not especially unique, completely succesful. Their new drummer, Joe Hasselvander, a devotee of doom metal, adds a more sinister drum line than the furious pounding the band featured before; it is more nuanced, more carefully placed in the architecture of the songs.

The members of Raven always found that studio-recording in the modern way, which involves recording the drum, bass, guitar and vocal tracks separately then putting them together, killed the energy of the music. Instead they play everything together, and continue to do so today. In a sense, their records are "live" albums recorded in a studio. Now that they were free from Atlantic Records, they could also leave the record a little less clean, which befits this kind of music. The result is a collection of vicious songs that really breathe; you can almost see the smoke. The title track, in particular, feels very much alive, while living up to its name by being "architecturally" more complex than most other songs on the album. The riff surprisingly unleashed 3/4ths into the song propels the listener back into his seat -- the guys were not done yet. Such surprises are everywhere in the album: small touches that elevate the material slightly.

What keeps the album from scoring higher is a weaker second half, featuring the confusing dud of a song "Just Let Me Go", and the simple fact that it was slightly off-center from Raven's forte. The next album was an even bigger deviation, and it paid for it in quality. This album is good, aggressive, stylish music, but when you've listened to the whole thing, you are like as not going to put it away for a month - or three. It cannot sustain your interest for all that long; it does not draw that enthusiasm which earlier albums did. Indeed it is material today rarely heard - not in live concerts, not on streaming services. Perhaps it is an album for fans to return to occasionally, and for trash metal fans to hear a different spin on what they're used to, not that much more. It is one of those strange albums that sounds better than it is. Something doesn't quite come together. But then, that hardly matters; Raven had already recorded hours of music that came together explosively, and would record many hours more.