The last day of September was a turning point for British iconic heavy metal band Raven, on that very day was released their compilation of best songs from the period in collaboration with Steamhammer Records. Raven made the deal with SPV Records after a long silence (when their guitarist crushed his legs), and for a dozen years they were successfully working together, but now the time has come, and as a big thanks for those productive years, the album of their latest hits was released.
This compilation consists of fervent and dynamic songs from the full-length Metal City (2020), ExtermiNation (2015) and Walk Through Fire (2010), as well as from EP Party Killers (2015) and live album Screaming Murder Death from Above: Live in Aalborg (2019). Half of the songs goes as bonus tracks – some extras from LPs, cover versions (of Montrose and Thin Lizzy) and recorded live song from 2017. And all these songs are compiled to display the spirit of Raven for the last decade. And when you listen to this collection of “the best”, it strikes you as an embodiment of heavy metal’s purity during all these 50 minutes. Primitive, raw and ad nauseam straightforward, but at the same time daring, hard-hitting and excruciatingly passionate. And even if you missed the NWOBHM blooming heyday, this zealous excitement still hits you, the music of Raven is still contagious and pertinent.
It’s a pity that the songs are not re-recorded to display different angles of these splitting tracks. Yes, these were recorded recently and there’s no even a slightest change in their musical mindset, but re-recorded songs usually come up with transformed sound and more careful attention to the details. But if we consider this band as a musical entity, it’s safe to mention that it’s one of those rare occasions when it’s better to avoid such words as “transformation” or “evolution”. When these British metalheads conquered heavy metal scene, they sounded just like today. Of course, now the musicians are mature, professional and understand better how the music of Raven should sound, but their devotion to classical heavy/speed metal is just the same. And how eloquently speaks the artwork of Leave ‘em bleeding, displaying shabby old guitar with the gory traces; definitely, their path to heavy metal’s pinnacle was marked by blood, sweat and tears.
The passion of Gallagher brothers is beyond, fifty years worshipping NWOBHM with indefatigable enthusiasm! Their music is considered to be a huge and significant influence on the development of thrash metal; Raven was really one of the first bands that played with calculated aggression and insane speed, changing the concept of the heaviest genre of those times. Raven didn’t get all the recognition like their fellow neighbors Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, yet their contribution to origin of speed/thrash metal is substantially higher.
Examining this album a little deeper, we can definitely admit that it sounds surprisingly holistic and stable, despite the raggedness and violent merriment of every song. Even the covers “Space Station #5” and “Bad Reputation” are in the same stylistic conception, offering familiar playfulness and audacity as their own original tracks. And if we compare the last composition “Stay Hard” (that is actually almost forty years old) with their latest opuses from two-year-old Metal City, it’s absolutely the same spirit, emotional impact and vehemence. Maybe there is a point – why listen to every new album if you can peruse through their old 80s records and get the same? But actually, these Brits don’t spoil their fans every so often – only fourteen standard-length albums for fifty-year-long carrier. So, we can emerge ourselves into this old school drive and pretend that heavy metal is still alive. Because with the music of Raven, you really believe in it.
The mischievous mood doesn’t leave you during the entire listening experience. “Top of the Mountain” begins this energetic journey, slaying with hyperactive energy. “Battle March / Tank Treads” balances on the verge of thrash metal and is tinged with darker atmosphere. “Metal City” reminds us of the days of hair metal; it also pays homage to more traditional hard ‘n’ heavy. And “Malice in Geordieland” and “Rock this Town” are leading to a flirty rock ‘n’ roll domain. Everything is so traditional and straightforward – no technical fancies or structural complications, the arrangements are simple, the instrumental parts – precise. And of course, the singing parts attract special attention; John Gallagher uses his vocal range, demonstrating various extreme vocal skills, twisting the entire emotional palette.
Raven proved with this compilation that their dedication to heavy metal isn’t just beautiful or eloquent statement, it’s their lifestyle and probably the meaning of life. These twelve years with SPV were emotional and compelling, but everything comes to an end, opening the new chapter for these British icons. They are now signed to Silver Lining Music and the creative process of their new album is already underway.
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