I’m fond of Metal clichés, because despite the fact that they never change, they never fail to put a smile on my face. There is no greater cliché than the notion of a small fold of metallic warriors sticking it out, against all of the capricious changes in mainstream sentiment, and continue to offer the same fast, sleazy, hard edged, high octane blast of Rock infused Heavy Metal that burst out of Great Britain between 1978 and 1983. But such is the story of England’s own RAVEN, who has been smashing the shields of easy listening junkies with the mighty sword of metal for more than 30 years.
With their latest album “Walk Through Fire” there’s no beating around the bush, no time for making nice with current day trends, nothing but the finest brand of that same hammer pounding Speed Metal that inspired James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine to push Metal into the beginnings of Thrash. The riffs are fast and raucous, yet heavily reminiscent of the archaic pentatonic style of too fast for Rock riffing that typified DIO'S reinterpretation of the BLACK SABBATH and DEEP PURPLE approach. This approach is pushed a little bit closer to RAVEN'S later 80s albums, which were informed a bit more by the Thrash scene, but they are not totally out of character for a NWOBHM band, and actually flirts with METAL CHURCH territory at times.
As far as the entire album goes, barring the occasional slow rocker, this album seems like it’s trying to outdo JUDAS PRIEST at their fastest and most vicious, yet still maintaining an aura of a band seeking good times like SKID ROW. Speaking of which, apart from the obvious similarities that exist between vocalist John Gallagher’s rowdy performance on here and the sleazy vocal attack of later Metal singers like Blackie Lawless and Mark Boals, I can’t help but detect a similar spirit to that of Sebastian Bach. Naturally a band like this had a strong influence on all these singers and their respective bands, though RAVEN'S earlier take on the genre is more heavily informed by MOTORHEAD'S grittier, nastier approach, and it really shows here in spite of a fairly polished production.
There really isn’t much to gripe about here, save the occasional down tempo stinker like “Long Day’s Journey”, which see the band backsliding into pre-Metal Rock clichés and scaling back the combination of speed and power that works so well for them. Just one listen to lightning bolts like “Against The Grain”, “Grip” and “Attitude” and even the most cynical trustee of the notion that Metal hasn’t done anything great since 1990 will be won over. Some may go for younger retro bands to get their latest fix of the old school, but speaking for myself, there’s always time to get it straight from one of the bands that first brought it to us.
(Online October 23, 2010)