Album Review: Metal City by Raven (Steamhammer/SPV)

Pioneering UK metal trio, Raven, released their 14th studio album titled Metal City on the 18th of September this year via Steamhammer/SPV.

Raven formed way back in 1974 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne here in the UK by brothers Mark and John Gallagher with Paul Bowden and Paul Sheriff. Sheriff, the drummer, was one of a number of drummers in a revolving door that only really settled in 1987 when Joe Hasselvander joined and remained on the stool until 2017. The brand new iteration of the band sees them as a trio. The two Gallagher brothers with Mike Heller (Fear Factory/Malignancy) on drums.

As well as being the coolest Gallagher brothers from a Northern City in the UK, Raven also have the honour of being a huge influence on the NWOBHM and 80’s thrash scene, especially with their first two album releases, Rock Until You Drop (1981) and Wiped Out (1982).

Metal City by Raven

The new album, Metal City is named after their home town, as explained by vocalist/bassist John Gallagher:

“Newcastle upon Tyne has been referred to as Metal City for good reason. We come from there for a start. But it’s about a mindset, the people there have a tenacity and an ability to go beyond the limits to get to where they are going.”

Raven hit us with 10 new tracks of blazing, high tempo goodness on Metal City starting with The Power. While I like this album a lot, I didn’t quite fall in love with this song. It has all the elements I love but it often felt a bit like a badly fitted jigsaw. It’s quick with wicked drumming and galloping riffs. Traditional styled vocals come out you with piercing velocity and we get a cracking bass vs guitar solo part way through. It just doesn’t gel particularly well.

Aside from that there are very few missteps on Metal City and the first real jaw dropper comes with the second track, Top of the Mountain. Something you are going to hear a lot over this review, and album, are how amazing Mike Heller’s drums are. He is on fire here. I love the vocals too, especially the harmonised backing that comes in during the chorus. There is plenty of melody, a cracking solo all in a song that just fills you with enthusiasm.

Human Race has a deeper groove to the intro as the double kick rattle your skull. This song has a darker edge to it and the riff is a ripper but man, those drums elevate the track. I love the vocal edge too. They have just the right amount of menace to their higher toned screams and yells, all while as the deep bass and drum power shake your core. Title track, Metal City, brings you back in time a bit with an 80s traditional vibe, a slower groove, infectious riffs and a huge sing along chorus. It’s a simpler song but cleverly placed on the album giving us a little breather from the breakneck speed we started off at.

Battlescarred picks things back up with more intense speed drumming and a huge scream to start everything off. There’s a bit more of a power metal vibe to this one as we are encouraged to raise our horns in the love of metal. I love the vocals in the verses here, and the catchy rhythm building up to a catchy gang vocal chorus. Add in a blazing solo and a “oh, oh, oh” section and you have a crowd favourite here. Cybertron switches things up a little more. We still get smashed with quick in your face metal but with a bit more vocal showing off with some quirky style as they work towards the “cyber” concept of the song. It’s interesting though a little less exciting than what came before until you hit the solo. Man, that solo is a blast that you have to rock out to.

Motorheadin’ is a tribute to Motorhead (of course) and you do get that sped up, rough around the edges punk feel to the song. It’s really cool. Especially as the chorus hits and they use a little of Ace of Spades to make up the melody. It’s a great song with tons of energy and is a fantastic tribute. Not So Easy keeps the energy up with some really exciting intro riffing that leads into a more restrained verse. The vocals have loads of power and the chorus is so damn catchy, it gets stuck in your head for hours.

Break comes next and isn’t a tea break, it’s more of a neck break. The riffs are seriously heavy with more intense drumming. There’s a pit worthy start and that continues on with menacing vocals, a crunchy chorus and a screaming solo. It is probably the heaviest track on the album and the drumming is seriously impressive. Heller is essentially stealing the show here.

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The album ends with another switch up showing a more expansive side to Raven. When Worlds Collide  has an atmospheric start that switches in to doom like power with slower groove and ringing notes. It turns into a bit of a closing epic. Glorious drums and a chugging riff blend with the amazing vocals and culminate in a powerful and pleasing chorus. It’s a powerful way to end this fine album and really shows how much Raven still have to offer, after all this time.

Metal City is a fantastic release. Raven started their career off over 40 years ago, inspiring a generation of bands. 40 years later and albums like this should inspire a whole new generation of young metallers to pick up their bass, or their guitar or drumsticks. What an amazing achievement that is and what an amazing achievement Metal City is. Don’t miss out.

Grab your copy of Metal City in all different formats and from all different streaming services at this link.

Raven Links

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Metal City by Raven (Steamhammer/SPV)
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