Review Summary: 40 years on, Raven are still doing what pleases them and their fans. "ExtermiNation" is concrete evidence of that.
The fact that Raven have now officially been together for 40 years is even more important than how good you think the band's latest album, ExtermiNation
is going to be. Now 40 years is a long time, so long in fact that you'd surely be inclined to believe that somewhere between the mid-70s and now, Raven were pretty big in the metal circle. As a juvenile 22-year old of course, I can't really tell if they were as widely worshipped within the NWOBHM era of the early 80s as, say the Iron Maidens and Saxons who are still going strong today. What I can tell you however, is that Raven still sound like the no-frills, denim/leather patch-donning wide-eyed metalheads they started out as. Maybe they have a few wrinkles, maybe they don't have as much time to hammer out metal anthem after metal anthem, but at least Raven can still crack out a decent record four decades down the line. The fact that they are, realistically, underrated is a mere side-note for the die-hard legions of fans around the world.
So, 2015's ExtermiNation
hits your expectations squarely in the face. There's really nothing else to say. John Gallagher still has that sneering, menacing vocal delivery, his brother still hammers out heavy riffs, and Hasselvander still batters drum rhythms out of the stereo and into your shattered eardrums. ExtermiNation
does what it says: It "exterminates". Now if you don't like the first few guitar notes of co-opener "Destroy All Monsters", then you might as well skip the album completely. It's all good metallic fun, and should only be treated as such. Of course there's versatility here-but it's by Raven's standards. You have the slower, heavier anthems ("Tomorrow", "Tank Threads"), the faster-paced proto-thrashers ("Fight", "Scream") and the odd semi-harmonic but no less engaging ballad ("River of No Return"). The interplay between all three instruments constantly lives up to whichever musical direction each song is heading in. For example, album highlight "Scream" is a speedy, snappy little monster which can safely be hailed as one of the best cuts from Raven's extensive back catalogue. Another example, "Tomorrow", eclipses the album opener with a passion for menacing, sinister riff work and some thumping bass in the background to give yet another layer of ever-burgeoning heaviness. The ballad, "River of No Return" is a slightly flawed albeit fluent song to hum along to while you're doing the gardening, with its guitar work leaning sometimes towards AOR territory but maintaining that metallic edge Raven always seamlessly deliver.
Aside from the fact that ExtermiNation
obviously sets out to deliver the goods to those who have always loved Raven, and who also know what they're going to get, Raven's latest effort is hampered only by how unnecessarily long it is. This proves a divisive opinion, but heavy metal albums should rarely exceed a solid hour if their sole intention is simply to entertain their fan-base. Nonetheless, as it turns out, ExtermiNation
is just a great record, depending on your pre-conceived opinion of a)Raven and b)early 80s heavy metal. Listen to it and love it, or listen to it and cast it aside to gather dust. Whatever you do, you should already know if you're going to enjoy it or not.