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Iron Maiden could learn something from this album! - 85%

Dead1, February 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Steamhammer (Digipak)

There are a couple of things that happen to old bands. One: they run out of steam and start playing slower and less energetically as old age creeps in. Two: they run out of ideas and start rehashing the same old stuff in a bid to recapture their glory days. It seems that someone forgot to tell all this to Raven, who in fact insist on kicking serious heavy metal arse on their new album ExtermiNation.

ExtermiNation doesn't sound like an album churned out by guys who are close to 60 years of age in a band that started a year before the mighty Iron Maiden. There is some serious youthful exuberance on display here and a hunger that one associates with bands on their first couple of albums, not their 13th!

The performance is tight and ferocious in the best tradition of the glorious 1980s. This is the album Accept's Blind Rage or Helloween's and Judas Priest's last couple of shockers should've been. Hell, this is even what Iron Maiden should be cranking as opposed to 13-minute plodfests with 5-minute outros. Indeed John Gallagher is in top form and his screams put Bruce Dickinson modern performances to shame.

There's some familiarity with the song writing which is to be expected given the genre. But there's actually quite a lot of individuality in the song writing courtesy of a willingness to incorporate a few different stylist components in terms of hard rock, occasional thrashy riffs, occasional power metal harmonies and NWOBHM catchiness. The sound has a modern muscularity about it but it's not overpolished like so many of their peers and the guitars sit in their rightful position at the top of the mix.

Perhaps the only criticism is that the album is too long with a slight dip in quality towards the end and especially the last track "Malice In Geordieland" which seems somewhat third-rate. Chop that one and maybe a few more generic tracks and this would've been a phenomenal release instead of merely a very good one.

So if you want ballsy heavy metal with big meaty riffs, catchy hooks and an infectious energy that makes you want to headbang whilst throwing the horns, then Raven's ExtermiNation is the album for you.

Raven is still Raven - 80%

raoulduke25, September 1st, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Die Hard Records

This is the thirteenth full length album from Raven, who are arguably one of the most consistent metal bands still active. Whilst every album may not be as widely respected as the others (and with one pretty notable dud), they are still certainly one of the relatively few bands to be churning out quality material in a career that has lasted more than four decades. Raven got their start around the time Judas Priest released their debut record, but wouldn’t release an album themselves until 1980, when the NWOBHM was in full swing.

Reviewing albums by bands with such large discographies is often very difficult, especially for those bands that change their sound or style multiple times in their career. Fortunately, Raven is (generally speaking) not one of these types of bands. Their particular brand of speed metal is immediately recognisable as their works embody that quintessential angry and energetic vibe that we associate with the NWOBHM: sound and fury, bluster and bravado, shaking fists and revving motorcycles. And to think, all of this from a power trio.

The album opens with their trademark sound: a thundering and disjoint riff accompanied by their raw and scorching vocals. It’s a hell of an opener, but literally and figuratively, it’s only the beginning. There is certainly no shortage of aggressive, speedy, and in-your-face tracks on here. But even with all their speed and rawness, several tracks really stand out with some insanely catchy hooks, reminiscent of early Metal Church. “It’s Not What You Got” and “One More Day” combine their potent riffs with some imminently singable choruses for some phenomenal results.

But to show that they aren’t just limited to fast and punchy riffs, they’ve thrown in an acoustic composition (“Golden Dawn”) as well as a fantastic power ballad (“River of No Return”). And here is what’s equally surprising: they are just as good at their non-standard tracks as they are at their signature sound. The acoustic piece isn’t just your normal token soft piece that you find in lots of metal albums. It’s a well-composed interlude as opposed to just a low-effort string of three-chord arpeggios thrown in somewhere just for the hell of it.

Like a lot of people, I am always a bit skeptical of any late-era album from a veteran band. And it’s not hard to see why: most bands either end up rehashing old ideas, growing stale, or changing genres completely. I’m certainly no Raven fanboy, but I can safely say that this album, whilst not measuring up to such greats as Wiped Out and All For One, is a worthy addition to their discography and will be appreciated by lovers of heavy metal.

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