Hey, they weren’t kidding with this title!
There are many versions of extreme that have cropped up in the metal realm over the decades, but only a select few can claim to be among the originals that took the old formula of hard rock played too loud and too heavy and turned into an entirely different beast. Though often overshadowed by the ubiquitous melodic influence of Iron Maiden and the dark ferocity that Venom used to inspire legions of death and black metal disciples, power trio and speed metal trailblazers Raven could arguably stake an equal claim to shaping metal into what it would become as the traditional style gave way to the numerous sub-genres that still endure to this day. In essence, they functioned as the missing link between Judas Priest and Metallica, pushing the boundaries of high tempo mayhem in a manner comparable to Motorhead, but also turning the technical factor up to 11 with zero apologies. Now 15 albums deep into their nearly 5 decades long career, this 3 person killing machine have opted to up the ante yet again with the release of “All Hell’s Breaking Loose”, and album that lives up to its name and then some.
Since hitting the ground running with a string of pioneering studio recordings in the early 80s, the brothers Gallagher have staked their claim at being the heavy metal answer to Rush’s Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, maximizing the excitement factor on both the 4-string and 6-string respectively while pushing the boundaries of acceptable velocity. In contrast to many of the younger bands beholden to the NWOTHM craze, however, they’ve taken a similar path to many of their old guard contemporaries by continuing to embrace the subsequent evolution of both the style and recording technology to further refine their sound and keep things current. But the true ace up their sleeves that has allowed them to barrel forth into the 2020s with arguably the most insanely fast and frenetic version of their sound has been the acquisition of New York-based drum virtuoso Mike Heller as the third column of their towering monument of sound, and suffice it to say, his highly precise and rapid fire approach to making the kit roar brings the sonic possibilities of heavy metal into brand new territory this time around.
Holding true to their enduring status as a NWOBHM staple with an eye for the archaic, Raven kicks off this veritable blitzkrieg of metal mastery with a blistering nod to the days of the inquisition dubbed “Medieval”. Right off the bat the cacophony of glass-shattering high notes out of John, whom somehow manages to keep his bass in sync with brother Mark’s wild thrashing riffs, meld seamlessly with Heller’s crazed, fill-happy yet utterly precise drum work to paint an image of armor-clad knights rounding up heretics for the fire of purification. The intensity factor is dialed even higher with the entry of speed metal monster and single “Surf The Tsunami”, which does to the airwaves what its namesake has often done to many a hapless structure near the shoreline, while the screaming fury of the title anthem “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” mixes the same mixture of blinding speed and inhuman shrieks with an intricate riff set out of Mark’s guitar that could make James Hetfield blush, to speak nothing for the super-chaotic lead segments that rival Kerry King. To put it plainly, 75% of this album could be likened to a meth-infused response to Judas Priest, with occasional asides like “The Far Side” seeing John Gallagher’s bass input going beyond berserk while sporting an utterly brilliant chorus hook.
While the lion’s share of this album wails away at the edge of where speed metal begins to flirt with thrash, there are some truly unexpected moments that culminate in highlights by either bucking this tendency to some degree, or by exaggerating to the point of breaking through to the other side (apologies to Jim Morrison). In the latter camp, the wild ride that is “Desperate Measures” manages to fool the ears at several key points into thinking that Raven has wandered straight into death metal territory via Heller unleashing several insane blast beats, though John keeps his signature snarl painted over with frequent high wails regardless of how insane the machine gun double bass work beneath him gets, and the somewhat more guitar happy “Edge Of A Nightmare” and the chunky cruiser “Turn Of The Screw” sees the drums almost matching the same chaos factor. The somewhat more punk-infused closer “Go For The Gold” dials back the frenzied moments just a tad, but even here the double kick work manages to continually beat against the boundaries of thrash metal. The album’s de facto creative apex “Invasion” is the only song that shows any occasional elements of nuance and groove, but also sees the Gallagher brothers shell out some of their most off the hook guitar and bass work to date.
About the only strike against this album is that it goes so heavy on the speed and fury that it borders on overkill, leaving nothing in the way of a denouement at any point in over a half an hour of the pedal being put to the metal. Groove hounds and those who like an occasional ballad to go with their metal cuisine should beware, as there is scarcely a trace of the former to be found here, and absolutely nothing resembling the latter.
It’s hard to know what is the most impressive feat accomplished here; the fact that John Gallagher can hit all these insanely highly notes at the age of 64 like he’s in the midst of his 20s while also slinging the bass like he’s the elder brother of Cliff Burton, that Mark Gallagher has this many insane riffs left in his arsenal this far along, or that what Mike Heller brings to this album is actually performed by a mortal man. For some it may prove to be too much to handle, but for those who can, whether they be long time fans of the Raven brand or not, this is on par with just about every masterwork in this band’s 40 years plus history.
Release Date: June 30th, 2023
Genre: Heavy Metal
- John Gallagher / Lead Vocals, Bass, 12-String Bass
- Mark Gallagher / Guitar, Vocals
- Mike Heller / Drums
“All Hell’s Breaking Loose” track listing:
2. Surf The Tsunami
3. Turn Of The Screw
4. All Hell’s Breaking Loose
5. The Far Side
6. Desperate Measures
7. Victory’s Call
8. Edge Of A Nightmare
10. Go For The Gold
Order “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” HERE.
Newcastle-born NWOBHM darlings and speed metal trailblazers Raven reinvent the concept of the power trio by launching it beyond the reaches of this galaxy with 10 frenetic, visceral, and utterly infectious anthems that live up to the moniker "All Hell’s Breaking Loose"