Unlike Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Raven are not quite considered as Heavy Metal and NWOBHM icons, though there were all conditions for it: Raven was formed more or less in the same time and their “Athletic Rock” sufficiently influenced the formation of Thrash Metal. Anyway, the band gained pretty big fan base (mostly in Europe and Japan) and continued to release albums and perform on a regular basis. Their previous album ExtermiNation (released in 2015) was highly acclaimed by fans and in September 2020 Raven released their 14th album named Metal City.
The band already had such a big break between the albums in 2001, when the fallen wall broke guitarist Mark Gallagher’s legs – then Raven went on unwilling hiatus for three years. This time it was the line-up change: long time drummer Joe Hasselvander left the band due to health issues. In 2017 Mike Heller (Fear Factory) changed him and the band went to Japan tour, where Mike distinguished himself greatly. His playing is the real fresh blood that gave the music more dynamic and aggressive.
From the first notes “The Power”, which opens the album, Raven gain a pretty fast pace and don’t decrease it almost until the ending “When Worlds Collide”. Heavy riffs, good melody and solos from each member not leaving any doubts why this song was chosen as an opener: here musicians show succinctly everything they got and everything they want to share with the listener. “Top Of The Mountain” is also fast paced song where Mike delivers some short but impressive blast beats from time to time. At the same time the chorus here is catchy and Heavy Metal played in major key will not allow you to sit still. “Human Race” is much more aggressive: it is still NWOBHM but here Raven added some distinct Thrash and Speed Metal elements. However, somewhere in the middle of the song the pace decreases a little bit and Mark delivers a melodic solo with John’s strong bass line.
The self-titled “Metal City” is a classic Heavy Metal anthemic song for live shows, which is so easy to sing along. Here Gallagher brothers pay homage to their home town, British Newcastle. “Battlescarred” is also sounds a little bit anthemic with the speedy intro, full of drive (is it only me that hear a slight reference to Deep Purple‘s “Burn”?)
Mighty “Cybertron”, where the band tells about AI and pervasive surveillance, brings back the aggression of Thrash Metal and “Motorheadin'” in its turn is a fast Heavy Rock-‘n’-roll with lots of recognizable riffs and great drums; all this make the song a really worth tribute to Motörhead. Some Thrash Metal elements can be also heard on “Break”, where John Gallagher easily hits the high notes with his voice and “Not So Easy” is a dynamic and powerful Heavy song, quite smooth and catchy.
The album ends with the longest and probably the gloomiest song “When Worlds Collide”: it is a tough mid-paced Thrash Metal, heavy and ominous in a way. Unlike the other side it is less melodic but darker. There is a lack of melody in Mark’ solos too, still it doesn’t make this song worse.
“Our initial goal was just to raise the bar once more, – grins John Gallagher, – We did a good job on ExtermiNation and decided we just wanted more of everything next time.” And I think Raven coped with this task, thanks to Mike Heller in large part but of course not only because of him. Gallagher brothers know their business and do it good, pleasing the fans with good, mighty and catchy NWOBHM. I really hope that the next Raven‘s album will be released before 2025. But anyway, in tough 2020 this longplay is a really good present for every metalhead.
Metal City was released on September, 18th via Steamhammer/SPV.
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