Raven – Metal City (Steamhammer/SPV)

January will see Raven celebrate the 40th anniversary of seminal debut Rock Until You Drop.

And you’ve got to hand it to the Gallagher brothers: they’ve done exactly that.

Still flying the flag for balls-to-the-wall metal, the NWOBHM pioneers are true survivors in the unforgiving world that is the entertainment business.

But is Metal City really home to music that’s relevant in 2020?

Damn right it is.

Not only is Raven’s latest long player built on solid NWOBHM foundations but it’s streets ahead of the opposition.

Metal City is a metropolis of unflinching riffs and raucous lyrics.

And there’s not a dead-end song in sight.

The album title pays homage to the Gallaghers’ home city of Newcastle.

And at times a bullish album sounds like a nasty scrap at the bottom of the Bigg Market.

It’s loud, proud and passionate in the extreme.

But then Raven never took any prisoners and they’re in no mood for mercy now.

What’s clear is that 2015’s ExtermiNation provided the building blocks for Metal City.

The band’s first album in five years somehow manages to eclipse its critically acclaimed predecessor.

And if this is some kind of Indian Summer for a trio reinforced by the addition of drummer Mike Hellor then long may it last.

Opener The Power does what it say on the tin and Raven could hardly have penned a more apt song.

The title track is a terrific reminder of the Gallaghers at their unrelenting best: it’s fast-paced, furious and…fun.

Raven never took themselves too seriously. Perhaps they should have done during the band’s 80s pomp.

But Metal City is further evidence that heavy music shouldn’t always equate to a heavy emotional load.

Then again epic set closer When Worlds Collide proves Raven can cut it as 21st century commentators with a key message to peddle.

Who knows whether there’ll be another Raven record anytime soon.

But for now Metal City provides ample sanctuary for those seeking to revisit NWOBHM’s golden era.