I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Raven - "Metal City"
Genre: NWOBHM/Speed/Power Metal
Release: Steamhammer/SPV, 2020
10 tracks, Run Time: 38:54
Before I dive into the meat of this article, I want to be up front and admit that it might be tough for me to remain objective while reviewing this album. Raven has been one of my all-time favorite bands for more than three decades, so any time they release new material it's a reason to celebrate, as far as this fanboy is concerned!
Now that I've gotten that out of the way: Metal City is the Newcastle nutters' fourteenth studio album, and it features the recording debut of new drummer Mike Heller. Metal City picks up where 2015's thoroughly bad-ass Extermination left off, with 10 all-new tracks of muscular, punishing old-school heavy metal, delivered with all the power, energy, and bone-crushing intensity that we've come to expect from these legendary NWOBHM survivors..
In a nutshell: Metal City KICKS ASS, but you don't have to take my word for it... just press "play" (or perhaps that should be "detonate?") and find out for yourself!
"Top of the Mountain"
Metal City kicks off with "The Power," a crunchy speed metal burner which blasts out of the gate with the brotherly duo of Mark (guitar) and John Gallagher (bass/vocals) leading the charge. John's trademark glass-shattering screech has lost none of its edge, and his nimble bass work meshes nicely with the frenzied-yet-precise, nitro-fueled drumming of Mike Heller, who quickly reveals himself to be this album's secret weapon. Heller's background in extreme metal bands like Fear Factory and Malignancy gives these songs a noticeable extra "kick," and this has clearly injected the Gallagher brothers with an additional shot of musical adrenalin. Don't get me wrong -- I mean no disrespect to Heller's predecessor on the drum stool, the mighty Joe Hasselvander (who was forced to step down in 2017 due to health problems), but Raven haven't sounded this fast or furious in quite a few years.
"Top of the Mountain" has an irresistibly hooky chorus, leading into the ultra-crunchy "Human Race," where Heller's drums go for broke while John hisses "TOTAL DESTRUCTION!" atop a layer of shredding guitar riffs. If this one doesn't get your head banging, have the metal content of your blood checked - you might be a quart low.
The band pulls back on the accelerator and lets their '70s glam rock roots show a bit on the album's title track, an affectionate, mid-paced ode to the Gallagher brothers' home town of Newcastle. From there, it's back to more high-speed mayhem with "Battlescarred" and the sci-fi infused "Cybertron," both of which tie in nicely with the album's vintage Marvel Comics-inspired cover art and layout. The pile-driving, short-but-sweet (less than three minutes) "Motorheadin'" is a nice shout-out to their late colleague Lemmy, and the chorus of "Not So Easy" will stick in your head like glue from the first spin.
Raven approaches thrash velocity on the barn-burning "Break," which is sure to stir up a few mosh pits if they add it to the live set, before the sinister, slow-burning, six-minute-plus epic "When Worlds Collide" brings things to a suitably punishing close.
Summing It Up...
I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm enjoying Metal City a lot. It does my heart good to hear the Gallagher brothers still sounding so fired up and taking no prisoners after all these years. These guys practically wrote the book on speed metal in the early '80s and Metal City is proof that they're still capable of providing faithful listeners with a thorough ass kicking today!
Metal City was worth the five year wait and is another fine addition to one of the most consistent catalogs in all of metaldom. Headbangers, rivet heads and loonies worldwide should book a ticket to Metal City as soon as possible.
Hopefully the boys will be able to hit the road sometime soon to support the album on tour, because as any good Raven Lunatic knows, the best way to experience this band is live, loud, and in your face!
© 2020 Keith Abt