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This old raven still cries the loudest. - 87%

hells_unicorn, February 1st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Steamhammer

Heavy metal, like a fine wine, tends to get better with age, or at least that’s what the adage should say where Raven’s live act is concerned. Considering that this longstanding NWOBHM and speed metal pioneering institution and power trio has been at it for the better part of 45 years, titles such as veteran outfit and grandmasters tend to go without saying when approaching this outfit. Yet somehow despite their advancing years they still bring as much energy to the table as they did back in the early 80s when they were strong enough to tour with the likes of Metallica, Exodus and Anthrax, though naturally a bit more PH balanced for the more melodic and old school character of the likes of Riot and Anvil, and as recently as the closing months of 2017 they were setting the land of northern Europe ablaze with their proto-thrashing brilliance like it was still 1983.

Sometimes the most iconic moments in metal history have come in the form of a surprise that comes clear out of left field, and the origin of this band’s latest live recording Screaming Murder Death From Above provide an interesting twist on this truism. At the tail end of their 2017 tour on their latest studio LP ExtermiNation while in Aalborg, Denmark and completely unbeknownst to this trio, their stage exploits were being committed to audio recording, and the result is among the most organic and authentic experiences that could be had without physically being at the performance itself. The sheer rawness and intensity on display from one song to the next betrays a wild interchange of bass and guitar gymnastics courtesy of the Gallagher brothers (i.e. not the egotistic hacks of Oasis) that indicates a duo in their early 20s rather than their late 50s, buoyed in no small part by the youthful exuberance of recently added Fear Factory drummer Mike Heller.

In fairly predictable fashion, the lion’s share of the song selection found on here consists of iconic bangers from this band’s 1981-83 heyday, alongside the occasional offering from the band’s latest album to remind all that they haven’t hung it up in the studio just yet. Surprisingly enough, some of this performance’s standout moments are found on the newer offerings of “Destroy All Monsters” and “Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)” as bassist/vocalist John Gallagher hits the stage amped up and mixes in a King Diamond-like falsetto with a gritty, mid-ranged growl that’s just a tad shy of an iconic thrash metal voice, but definitely edgy enough to pass for it at times. Likewise, his bass work manages to be about as raunchy as Lemmy Kilmister’s signature tone (he gets so into it he actually pops a string on the second song “Hell Patrol”), yet busy and fancy enough to have the casual listener mistake him for the likes of Joey Demaio or Cliff Burton.

While there is no shortage of memorable moments to be found from the classic numbers or the new material, what truly makes a live performance is when things get drawn out and the band opts for some bonus showmanship to complement one of their signature bangers, and Raven really brings the concept home with “Rock Until You Drop”. Though one of their more mid-paced and rock-oriented anthems from their debut effort by the same name, the Gallagher brothers and Heller double the song’s original 4 minute length with a litany of drum, guitar and bass solo moments, almost like a friendly competition among rock virtuosos that’s broken into bite-sized bits by the recurring sections, John’s glass-shattering vocal ad-libs and a nice segment of audience participation that runs along similar lines to typical moments from a Dio or Iron Maiden concert during renditions of “Heaven And Hell” and “Heaven Can Wait” respectively.

There is a lot to be said for the efforts of a number of noted old school heavy metal revivalists that have been bringing this music to a new generation for the last decade or so, but trustees of the likes of Iron Kobra, Night and Striker would be well advised to look to an outfit like Raven for a taste of what inspired those bands to pick up the sword and lead the currently charge. If nothing else, an album like this showcases that one of the oldest living adherents to the NWOBHM is capable of trading blows with bands less than half their age, and make one hell of a racket to occasionally rival that of the thrash metal style that they were occasionally associated with due to their brief stint with Megaforce Records. For the rabid Exodus and Motorhead fan of yesteryear who don’t mind a bit more melody to go with their madness, Raven’s latest live offering is a treat not to be missed.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)