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, Screaming Murder Death From Above: Live in Aalborg
SPV Records, 2019
Genre: NWOBHM/traditional heavy metal
11 tracks, 54:21
For most bands, the recording of a live album requires weeks or months of careful advanced planning. They have to find the perfect venue with the best acoustics, then double and triple check the sound and balance of every microphone, amplifier, and instrument, come up with the perfect setlist, and hire the very best recording engineers to ensure they capture the ultimate live sound. Then they just have to pray that nothing goes wrong while they're onstage and the tape is rolling!
The process that led to Screaming Murder Death From Above: Live in Aalborg was much simpler for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts of Raven. The gig captured on this new live CD was just another night on the trio's late 2017 European tour opening for former Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider. According to the notes from the band in the CD booklet, they didn't even know this particular show in Aalborg, Denmark, had been taped till their sound man gave it to them on a flash drive weeks later. When the trio played it back, they were knocked out by the sound quality of the recording and the intensity of their performance, and so they decided that it deserved to become their first live release in more than 20 years. If you've ever been lucky enough to witness these Newcastle nutters in concert, then you know that they're a totally energetic, balls-to-the-wall live act. It's been quite a few years since my last Raven gig, but it certainly sounds like nothing has changed in that regard. It's obvious that the band and the audience were both having an absolute blast on the night that Screaming Murder Death From Above was taped.
"Hung, Drawn & Quartered"
The album's title comes from a lyric in the song "Destroy All Monsters," from 2015's Extermination album, which kicks off this 11 track collection in fine style. From the get-go, bassist/vocalist John Gallagher and his guitarist brother Mark show why they're still one of the tightest duos in the metal biz. John leads the charge with his muscular bass lines, working the crowd into a frenzy with his trademark high-pitched, squealing voice, while Mark pummels the audience with riff after heavy riff. These guys still have more energy onstage than most bands half their age!
Screaming Murder also serves as the recording debut of Raven's new drummer, Mike Heller, who took over for longtime basher Joe Hasselvander in 2017. Mike is a veteran of extreme metal bands like Fear Factory and Malignancy, so he's definitely qualified to keep up with the Gallagher brothers' high intensity and manic tempos.
The Aalborg set list is essentially a "greatest hits" package, leaning heavily on tracks from Raven's golden early '80s era like "Hell Patrol," "All For One," and "Rock Until You Drop," though the then-current Extermination album gets a few nods via the aforementioned "Destroy All Monsters" and "Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red)." The new tunes sit comfortably next to the classic, vicious speed metal burners like "Hung, Drawn & Quartered" from 1983's All For One (a mid-set highlight), and Mark's squealing, chugging guitar solo "A.A.N.S.M.M.G.N." (no, I have no idea what all those initials stand for...). The appearance of "On And On" from 1985's mostly-maligned major label debut Stay Hard was a particularly nice deep-cut surprise for me, because that was the song that got me into Raven back in the day (and made me into a fan boy for life)!
Just as they do at every show, Raven stretches out the midsection of their classic anthem "Break The Chain" to include a bit of "whoaaaa-whoa-whoa" audience participation and a mini-cover medley/jam that features bits of AC/DC's "It's A Long Way To The Top" and Sabbath's "Symptom Of the Universe" before bringing the party to a close with a fine, frenzied rendition of "Crash Bang Wallop" that leaves the audience screaming for more. I wonder how Herr Dirkschneider must have felt about having to follow fiery performances like this one every night of the tour!
"Break The Chain"
Summing It Up
Honestly, the only way to truly experience the mayhem of a Raven live show is to catch them in person (as I have been fortunate enough to do twice in years past) but if they're not playing near you anytime soon, then a few spins of Screaming Murder Death From Above at properly ear-bleeding volume should give you a pretty close approximation of what it's like. It does my heart good to see that Raven are still out there bringing their metal to the masses, and I wish them another few decades of rocking till they drop!
Rock Until You Drop - Neat, 1981
Wiped Out - Neat, 1982
Crash Bang Wallop (EP) - Neat, 1982
All For One - Megaforce, 1983
Live At The Inferno - Megaforce, 1984
Stay Hard - Atlantic, 1985
The Pack is Back - Atlantic, 1986
MAD (EP) - Atlantic, 1986
Life's A Bitch - Atlantic, 1987
Nothing Exceeds Like Excess - Combat, 1988
Architect of Fear - SPV, 1991
Heads Up! (EP) - SPV, 1992
Glow - Zero Corporation, 1994
Destroy All Monsters: Live in Japan - Zero Corporation, 1995
Everything Louder - Zero Corporation, 1997
Raw Tracks - Zero Corporation, 1999
One For All - Metal Blade, 1999
Walk Through Fire - Metal Blade, 2009
Extermination - SPV, 2015
Screaming Murder Death From Above - Live In Aalborg - SPV, 2019
© 2019 Keith Abt