The Gallagher brothers are back and, well, they're doing pretty much what they always have. There's a lot of nostalgia in rock and metal nowadays, with bands looking back at the seventies or eighties and adapting styles from back then to today. Raven, of course, were there at the time, but there's little on this album that I can describe as adapting to the 21st century, let alone twenty years into it. Sure, the production is far better than on their debut album back in 1981, because technology has advanced no small degree, but the music itself isn't far different to their eighties heyday.
It starts out well, with an excellent fast riff on The Power from Mark Gallagher and the rough working class vocals of his brother John hitting the sort of scream territory we expect. Mike Heller, who's only been with Raven since 2018, is easily up to the task, blistering along at speed from moment one. He's the replacement for thirty year veteran of the band, Joe Hasselvander, who suffered a heart attack in 2017 and had to take a long break to recover. Heller is still the drummer for Fear Factory.
The catch is that I could end this review at this point and you'd have everything you need. If you're a Raven fan, you'll enjoy this and you don't need to read any more. If you're not a Raven fan, there's no chance for this to convince you otherwise.
I'll carry on a little anyway, for my own reference if for nobody else's. For the most part, it carries on as it starts out but a gear or two slower, Top of the Mountain setting the pace. What I found was that the faster material is consistently the best on offer across the whole album, because all the mid-pace songs feel dated but the faster ones at least have a real energy to them. The Power never loses its spot as the album's highlight.
Metal City is the epitome of that observation, because it's a slower paced heavy metal song and quite a routine one until it ratchets up a gear a couple of minutes in and suddenly engages during a speedy midsection. Battlescarred does something similar, going from a sort of early Ozzy/Quiet Riot sort of sound, albeit without any flash guitarwork, to an interesting midsection where the guitars wail and scream as if they'd been waiting for the opportunity for three minutes.
There are a few interesting moments. Cybertron is catchier than songs before it that clearly wanted to be anthemic, but it's the instrumental side that works best, with some neat interplay between guitar and drums. Motorheadin' features exactly the sound you expect, but it needed Lemmy's dulcet tones to sound right. When Worlds Collide, the closer, is the one exception to the fast is better rule, as it's a slower but heavier song that still kind of works, even if it outstays its welcome at over six minutes.
The most positive spin I can put on this is that, as much as I've enjoyed Raven over the decades, I tend to lump them into the dumb but fun category of heavy metal, along with other long running bands like Anvil and The Rods, and I enjoyed this at least as much as the recent albums from both of those, maybe just a little more because it isn't as cheesy.
The negative I'd add to that is that it's a close call and, even if this edges out the others, none of them are even close to the standard of the recent Canedy album, which is what I expect bands such as these to do in 2020 if they want to be seen as progressing forward at least a step since, say, 1981. I listened through this album three times today and I enjoyed it but I'll surprise myself if I remember any of these songs when I wake up tomorrow morning.