All Access Rating: A-
|Raven - ExtermiNation 2015|
As recently as 2014, the trio of Mark Gallagher (guitars), John Gallagher (bass and vocals) and Joe Hasselvander (drums) gave Metallica a run for its money in concert, opening up for the thrash-metal titans in Sao Paulo. Those who know their NWOBHM history will recall that it was Raven who took Metallica out in 1983 on their first U.S. tour as a support act on the legendary "Kill 'Em All For One" campaign – they would also do the same for Anthrax, before going through major-label hell and living through a life-threatening accident to one of its members.
Obliged to return the favor, Metallica might not even exist if it weren't for Raven, their tumultuous, hard-hitting attack having inspired the thrash/speed metal movement that spawned the famed Bay Area scene and its most famous progeny. All these years later, Raven's crazed sonic fury hasn't abated, the brawling, dizzying delirium of "Destroy All Monsters," the opening track to the Steamhammer/SPV release ExtermiNation, setting the tone for the attention-grabbing and brutally unpredictable insanity that follows.
Powered by boisterous vocals, rugged rhythms and muscular riffs – all of it taking cover from a bombardment of screaming guitar leads flying overhead – ExtermiNation is a slug fest, the heavy, menacing, brawny grooves and captivating pull of "Tomorrow," "Battle March Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)," a venomous "Thunder Down Under" and "Fire Burns Within" forcefully roughing up any doubters that would dare question why they haven't yet given up the ghost. Even more satisfying is "One More Day," with its insidious, strong hooks and a full-bodied chorus that bleeds '70s classic-rock soul. And if it's sophisticated artistry you want, the melodic prog-metal movements of "It's Not What You Got" are captivating, reminiscent of Empire-era Queensryche.
On a chaotic "Feeding the Monster" and "Scream," Raven go on a rampage, defiant to the very end throughout ExtermiNation and driving these vehicles like they stole them, pedal to the floor until there's no more road. And when ExtermiNation does end, and Raven gets pulled over for going over 100 miles per hour and doing so with wild, reckless abandon, let the authorities throw the book at these Geordies from Newcastle Upon Tyne in the north of England. Given the reverence for their classic first three albums, as well as their latest metal romp, Raven will have plenty of witnesses to testify to their character.
– Peter Lindblad