Raven- All Hell's Breaking Loose (Album Review)

July 10, 2023


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The Gallagher brothers have been a heavy metal institution since forming Raven in 1974, and while they may not have gained quite as much notoriety as the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Saxon their material arguably can stand toe to toe with any of those bands.  After an almost decade long gap from 1999 to 2010, Raven has been riding high on a string of well received albums.  2020’s Metal City brought one of the biggest changes in some time, as long-time drummer Joe Hasselvander departed and ex-Fear Factory drummer Mike Heller became a permanent member after touring with the group for a few years.  Even with the addition of some blast beats, this was still classic Raven NWOBHM, and the trio has continued that approach on this year’s follow-up All Hell’s Breaking Loose.  The emphasis this time is on fast, punchy songwriting and a meatier production that hits hard, and with songs that deliver from beginning to end this is another fantastic effort from this long-running act.

Opening track “Medieval” has a short, ominous intro that sets up an appropriately darker tone, and from that point on its off to the races for most of All Hell’s Breaking Loose.  The album title feels appropriate considering the tempos on every song is fast and the production is a bit heavier and rougher compared to some of Raven’s other albums, sometimes almost approaching a thrash sound that gives a different feel to their classic heavy metal sound.  The aforementioned blast beats that made an appearance on Metal City are back too, but Heller uses them sparingly so that when they do pop up you really pay attention.  “Turn of the Screw” is a standout song for this reason, as it starts off with a fast groove and transitions seamlessly into blast beats that make the energy level soar through the stratosphere.  I appreciate the weight behind each of the instruments, and while past Raven albums have had their fair share of high intensity riffs it hits harder here and feels like the songwriting is oriented around these flashier, scorching leads and solos.  That works well considering just how catchy so many of the tracks are, and while some of them do feel similarly constructed there are specific nuances that set them apart.  Raven is impeccably tight as a unit, and songs like “The Far Side” emphasize this as they give the guitar, bass, and drums equal time to shine while giving you some memorable passages to latch onto.  I really like “Surf the Tsunami”, the title track, and “Invasion” in particular for having some of the most air guitar worthy riffs and solos that will likely be stuck in you head for some time to come, but there’s really not a bad song out of the ten here. 

Older heavy metal bands can offer one killer riff after another, but age has caught up to some of the vocalists in the genre out there and they sometimes don’t quite have the same range of power as their earlier days.  Raven’s John Gallagher doesn’t seem to have much to worry about though, as his voice has remained high energy and dynamic on the band’s more recent albums.  All Hell’s Breaking Loose continues this trend right from the start, as “Medieval” has harmonized falsettos and rougher edged singing that delivers a bit more grit.  “Desperate Measures” is also a great demonstration of this, as in the first minute you get a very high falsetto that immediately transitions into a gruffer pitch.  The performance does fall into some predictable patterns, as some of the falsettos and harmonized vocals have a tendency to ramp up for the choruses, but when many of the choruses are so damn catchy I can’t complain too much.

Tweaks to tone and production don’t always have the same amount of impact depending on where a band started, but in Raven’s case it makes All Hell’s Breaking Loose feel noticeably heavier and relentless compared to some of their past discography.  They’ve traded in a bit of the NWOBHM crunchiness for a slightly more modern and thrashier sound that has some real force behind it, and with no ballads or interludes in sight this album will leave you with whiplash.  I think with every legacy band like this everyone’s going to have a different opinion on whether a later career effort can match up to the classics, but regardless of how you feel I think there’s no denying Raven can still write material that sticks with you.  All Hell’s Breaking Loose is available from Silver Lining Music.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg