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Raven - "Walk Through Fire" (CD)

Raven - "Walk Through Fire" CD cover image

"Walk Through Fire" track listing:

1. Intro (0:52)
2. Against The Grain (3:52)
3. Breaking You Down (3:02)
4. Under Your Radar (4:05)
5. Walk Through Fire (3:20)
6. Bulldozer (3:53)
7. Long Day's Journey (4:50)
8. Trainwreck (3:34)
9. Grip (3:31)
10. Running In Circles (3:40)
11. Hard Road (3:45)
12. Armageddon (The Beginning) (6:31)
13. Attitude (3:22)
14. Space Station #5 (4:03)
15. Live At The Inferno (Live) (4:16)
16. Rock Until You Drop (Live) (5:32)

Reviewed by on March 24, 2010

"When the Raven trio jumps onstage to play their 'athletic rock' live it must be like wrestling a grizzly on speed with your ears."

Raven had the most potential during the late 70s rise of NWOBHM. Along with Neat Records label mates Venom they were ready to take their brand of hard rock and punk to the masses and 1981’s full-length “Rock Until You Drop” became a breakthrough of sorts on the U.K. Charts. Follow up albums solidified Raven’s reputation for a hard driving metal sound, but in the mid-1980s new label Atlantic pushed the band in a more pop/commercial direction. By the late 1980s former Raven fans had joined on with the burgeoning thrash or glam metal movements, or had just returned to their Maiden and Priest records. Raven has persevered over the last couple decades despite the lack of mainstream recognition, and judging by “Walk Through Fire” that lack of recognition is a shame.

Delayed for more than five years due to injuries sustained by guitarist Mark Gallagher from a collapsing wall, “Walk Through Fire” delivers pent up aggression and energy in spades. Despite NWOBHM’s preference for bloated five, six, and even seven member ensembles, Raven uses the power of a trio to their advantage. Guitarist Gallagher’s leads sear and sizzle off the amps as the band takes more from Eddie Van Halen’s arrangements than they do the multi-tracked bombast of Steve Harris’ layers.

But far be this from a late 1970s guitar-only showcase, Gallagher is happy to swap with brother John’s vocals. Alternating from off-kilter shrieks and wails to more measured mid-range croon, John Gallagher carries the choruses to fist-pumping glory as he inspires himself to climb the ladder, and by the time the refrain comes we all think we can fly.

The key ingredient to Raven’s return to power, however, is the songwriting. Tight and compact, nine of the twelve original songs are under four minutes, and that keeps the album energetic – nothing gets old. “Armageddon (The Beginning)” reaches for a deeper, more epic composition style, but otherwise it is riff-melody-chorus all the way, with more hooks than a deep sea fishing trawler.

The consistency of the riff and hook can be difficult to manage for an entire album, but Raven succeeds more often than not. To wit: “Against The Grain” is a syncopated left-hook frenzy, “Trainwreck” is a glorious tribute to hair metal complete with a shout it out loud chorus, and the title track is a little slower groove that manages to be muscular while keeping an easy smile. But all is not perfect, as “Grip” doesn’t get it together until after Mark Gallagher’s fantastic solo and “Running in Circles” is a pretty banal pop-rock ballad. But the motorcycle chug and bad-boy snarl of “Hard Road” gets us rolling again.

When the Raven trio jumps onstage to play their “athletic rock” live it must be like wrestling a grizzly on speed with your ears. The canned studio stuff on “Walk Through Fire” doesn’t come off quite as viscerally as the two live bonus tracks, but it is still pretty rowdy – like wrestling a sober bear, more or less. And for a bunch of determined NWOBHM hold-outs, that’s pretty darn good.

Highs: Mark Gallagher’s guitar leads and hooks drive the best parts.

Lows: Drummer Joe Hasselvander is competent, but he gets locked behind the Gallagher brothers.

Bottom line: Unsung NWOBHM vets come back and set the record straight with fantastic album.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)