Album Review: Raven – All Hell’s Breaking Loose

Album Review: Raven - All Hell's Breaking Loose
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh

Who would think that 42 years after releasing their debut album, Tyneside legends RAVEN, formed by Gallagher brothers John (bass and vocals) and Mark (guitar), would still be releasing albums, let alone albums that are still top quality and worthy of both fans old and new. This is a band that it should be noted are named as massive influences for the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Kreator, to name but a few. A band who never, and not for the want of trying, quite hit the levels that they should have reached.

After 3 absolutely classic albums (‘Rock Until you Drop’, ‘Wipe Out’ and ‘All for One’) they took the decision, and the band freely admit to making this mistake; to drastically change their style with the following album  ‘Stay Hard’ and compounded this error of judgment by doubling down with ‘The Pack is Back’, losing all momentum, and for some, the respect that their early success mustered.

The band then steadied the wheel and got back on course with ‘Life's a Bitch’ (1987), ‘Nothing Exceeds Like Excess’ (1988) and ‘Architect of Fear’ (1991), which were all solid, speedy, thrashy affairs, but were perhaps too little, too late. The late 90’s saw them release the lacklustre ‘Glow’ (1994), with a misguided, down-tuned, grunge influenced sound, while ‘Everything Louder’ (1997) and ‘One for All’ (2000) are lost to the ages, and so difficult to track down, I’ve never heard them to comment on their style or quality.

During all this time, the band have continued touring with all the enthusiasm they had in their youth, even when things seemed to conspire against them like in 2001 when Mark’s leg was crushed by a wall and he had to spend much time convalescing, and once recovered enough, even performing on stage in a wheelchair. After Marks recovery, and rehabilitation, they released a very strong album, 2010’s ‘Walk Through Fire’, and then 2015’s ‘ExtermiNation’ was even better, a very strong release, and then more tragedy struck, with long time drummer Joe Hasselvander having to retire due to health reasons after suffering a heart attack in 2017.

Undeterred, the band recruited drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy, and many more) which has proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the man is one of the best in the business at the moment, he is an absolute monster and has added even more enthusiasm to the Gallagher boys, not that they really needed it, but this revamped trio is a force of nature, as 2020’s ‘Metal City’ proved, with what was quite possibly their best album since the early eighties.

On this new creative wave, the band is about to release its fifteenth album in the shape of ‘All Hell‘s Breaking Loose’, so let’s see what they have got to offer.

Album Review: Raven - All Hell's Breaking Loose

‘Medieval’ kicks things off, during the intro the drummer himself, Mike Heller, does his best ‘sinister priest’ impression over a dark religious organ refrain, with massive chords, feedback and pounding drums, before the song proper blasts off with a trademark Gallagher riff. It’s fast, heavy and like many RAVEN songs, extremely catchy. Second single ‘Surf the Tsunami’ is ushered in with a massive drum flourish, before a cool winding riff, and a bass twang heads into a real album highlight, of which there are many, ‘Turn of The Screw’ and the title-track are two more speedsters, more classic riffs and again some real earworms.

Just from these four opening tracks, it’s evident that RAVEN 2023 is a band in full control of where it wants to be at this stage of their career. Honestly, apart from the production, any of these songs could have easily fitted on one of their first three albums, that’s how strong they are and you just get the impression throughout that even after going for 49 years, the guys are having the time of their lives, and they know just how to deliver the best 10 metal songs they can, nothing is wasted and no song outstays its welcome, every one of them is wrapped into less than four and a half minutes, bar one, which is still under five, and there are a few other veteran bands who might do well to take a leaf out of the RAVEN book in future, less is more sometimes!

On ‘The Far Side’ the band throttles back for the first time on the album, a bubbling bass intro, before the hint of a gallop, with a very strong vocal melody and Heller is just a little bit more restrained, while Mark pulls off an incredible, escalating solo. ‘Desperate Measures’ meanwhile ramps up the intensity, with probably the fastest, and heaviest track, with absurdly cool drumming and pulverising riffs, although still insanely catchy, and John pulls off some absolutely ridiculous shrieks, you’d never guess the man is 64, his range is still the same as it was in 1980.

Produced by the band, at Heaven and Heller Studio (Mike Heller’s own studio) in LA, the album sounds absolutely fantastic. As perhaps you’d expect, the drums are huge, but they don’t dominate the sound, the guitar tone is perfect, there’s plenty of crunch, yet plenty of clarity on Mark’s always inventive riffs, leads and solos, while John’s bass provides both rhythm duties and cool fills where appropriate, and as I mentioned previously, his vocals, are if anything, stronger than they have ever been, he can still hit those incredible highs and his ‘normal’ range is fuller and has more depth.

Back to the songs, ‘Victory’s Call’ is another mid-paced track yet has a few more intricate sections than any of the others, ‘Edge of a Nightmare’ is a real throwback track, with a driving rock beat to it, albeit rock on steroids. The riffs are a bit simpler, and the bass takes a real prominent role. ‘Invasion’ is the longest track and feels a bit more epic than some of the other songs, with a choppy, staccato rhythm. The last song, and the first single, sums up the album to perfection, and is a perfect encapsulation of RAVEN 2023, the song is fast, catchy, and heavy. The verse has a hard driven feel, while the chorus is uplifting with a heartening positive message and leaves you with a massive grin on your face.

In essence, RAVEN are the same guys, with the same enthusiasm and reckless abandon, that released ‘Rock Until you Drop’ 42 years ago, still striving, and succeeding, to make the best ‘kick ass’ album they can, whilst having a total blast! ‘All Hell‘s Breaking Loose’ might not make it into that many critics' and reviewers' top ten, but it’s certainly going to be in mine, so why not buy, listen, and rock until you drop, go get yourself wiped out!

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