NWOBHM WEDNESDAY: RAVEN
Raven was formed in Newcastle, England in 1974 by brothers John & Mark Gallagher (vocals/bass and guitar respectively) and guitarist Paul Bowden. According to John Gallagher the band would settle on the name Raven because at the time it was the one everyone hated the least. Raven's sound was influenced by not only the British hard rock scene at the time but also progressive/experimental bands who were content to play by their own set of rules. Other band members would come and go such as guitarist Pete Shore (1979-1980) and drummers Paul Sherrif (1975-1976), Mick Kenworthy (1976-1977) and Sean Taylor (1977-1979 who also played in Satan, Pariah, Blind Fury, Blitzkrieg and Warrior). Rob "Wacko" Hunter would join the group as drummer though 1979 and it was the line-up of John, Mark and Rob that would prove to be the classic line-up. Inspired to create their own image the band took to wearing various hockey and baseball gear. Later dubbed "athletic rock" the band would wear guards, helmets, plates,etc. while the played live. The band's over the top sound and style (along with a willingness to play with just about anybody including punk acts The Stranglers and The Motors) would catch the eye of Neat Records.Released in 1981 Rock Until You Drop would go on to be considered one of the greatest NWOBHM releases ever. Both Rock Until You Drop and 1982's Wiped Out would make strong showing's in the UK charts and lead to a lot of exposure for the band. America took notice of the band's wild and crazy sound and Megaforce Records would come knocking. Once the band was stateside in 1983 All For One would be released. Tours with Megaforce bands Metallica and Anthrax followed. Live at the Inferno, released in 1984, was recorded during the tour. With all of the constant touring it wasn't long before the major labels smelled blood (or rather money) and after a minor bidding war Raven signed with Atlantic Records. The band would move permanently from Newcastle to New York following the signing. 1985 saw the band release Stay Hard which had a minor hit with "On and One". As history has shown us though signing with a major proved to be more of a curse than a blessing. The label would push the band to adopt a more commercial sound and 1986's The Pack Is Back alienated die-hard fans. After 1987's Life's a Bitch tour Atlanta Records dropped the band and Rob "Wacko" Hunter departed. Drummer Joe Hasselvander (of Pentagram fame) joined the group in time for 1988's Combat release Nothing Exceeds Like Excess. Musically Nothing Exceeds Like Excess showed the band dropping their gimmick in a desire to play a back-to- basics metal style. After Combat dissolved Raven returned to Europe where they still enjoyed a loyal following. The band carried on until an accident in 2001 left guitarist Mark Gallagher with crushed legs. Raven would be on hiatus for nearly 5 years while Mark recovered. 2009 would see the release of the excellent Walk Through Fire which saw the band thrash out with the best of them. It's no doubt that Raven helped create the early thrash scene as they were a huge influence on numerous bands. For those looking to check out Raven I'd suggest their first two albums which as I said are classics of the genre. Either that or All Systems Go - The Neat Anthology which collects the group's early material, singles, etc.
Metal Mark says-
Raven and Venom are two NWOBHM bands that I think were huge influences on the thrash scene that would take off in the mid-late 1980's. Just like with Venom I think Raven also got passed up by the bands they influenced, but that was later on. From 1981 until 1984 Raven were fantastic in my book. Knocking out fast paced, high energy metal with and often upbeat fun take on the style. To me that was great to show that not all British metal bands stood there looking grim faced in the black leather unwilling to show any personality. "Rock until you drop" might be my favorite of their studio albums. "Live at the inferno" is one of the best live metal albums of all time. Unfortunately their time with Atlantic records would suck the life out of them for several years. "Stay Hard" was okay, but the energy and speed level was dones considerable and "The pack is back" was downright awful with synthesizers and watered down sound. The "Mad" EP was hit and miss. "Life is a bitch" was closest they had been to their early sound in four years, but still just decent. I remember Rob "Wacko" Hunter getting hurt several times during this period doing crazy stuff on stage and the band tried hard to push this crazy image. It didn't take, it's a shame they didn't stick with the crazy sound of their early years. Bringing in Joe Hasselvander as Wacko's replacement was a great move because he has been with them for over two decades now and honestly he is a much better drummer. Still their best material since 1988 has been the albums that draw upon the sound of their works, but none of them touch the originals. It's a shame these guys got off track for a while, but they got back and are still going. Plus they left a fine legacy with those early albums.