Sunday Old School: Athletic Rockers, Raven
Arguably, without Venom, thrash metal would never have been as fast and ferocious as it was. But many of the genre's best musicians state that Venom wasn't the only band to influence them in such a way, but another band from Newcastle had just as big an impact; a group by the name of Raven. Although Raven was classed as part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the band's formation predates the movement, as they were founded in 1974 by the Gallagher brothers Mark and John (not Noel and Liam) and guitarist Paul Bowden, before adding drummer Paul Sherrif to their ranks. Even in their early days, the band was known for their energetic live performances and taking musical risks, but it was to be some time before they received a record deal. Eventually, they landed such a contract with local label Neat Records, which is now regarded as one of the most important labels in British heavy metal as a result of them signing so many N.W.O.B.H.M. acts, including Raven's fellow Geordies, Venom.
Under Neat, the group released their first album, "Rock Until You Drop" in 1981, which found critical success straight away and is considered by some to be Raven's best album. Commercial success was also found with the record, as it entered the British albums chart at number sixty three. The album is also remembered for it's fantastic front cover, which shows a trashed stage with the band's members buried beneath the rubble of amps and instruments.The band then wasted no time in recording a follow up, which came in the form of 1982's "Wiped Out." Although it didn't chart in the United Kingdom, it was just as highly regarded by fans and the music press alike and did well enough to attract the attention of record companies in the United States, resulting in Megaforce Records offering them a deal. Their next album, "All For One" was released the following year and, like the two albums before, was cited as another heavy metal masterpiece. The album allowed them to perform in America for the first time, giving support slots to such young American bands as Metallica and Anthrax.
After releasing a live record, the band signed with major label Atlantic Records for their next album, and released the record "Stay Hard" in 1985. The album proved to be a minor hit thanks to the song, "On And On" and it's zany music video. Unfortunately for the trio, their time with Atlantic proved detrimental to their potential, as, like with many talented metal bands at the time, they were forced by the label to go in a more mainstream musical direction, leaving many fans of the band disappointed with their next output "The Pack Is Back." The band decided to respond to the pressures from the label with the more aggressive, "Life's A Bitch" album in 1987, but this would prove to be the group's last album with drummer Rob Hunter, as he decided to leave the band to spend more time with his new family. Taking his place was American sticks man Joe Hasselvander, who was best known for his time with doom metal legends Pentagram.
With their new member on board, Raven signed a new contract with Combat Records for their next release, "Nothing Exceeds Like Excess," which was released in 1988, however Combat went under a short while after and the band signed with German label Steamhammer. They then tended to focus on touring more in areas such as mainland Europe and Japan, where they still retained a following despite the decline in metal's popularity after the grunge explosion.
Although Raven continued to tour relentlessly and record new material, their momentum ground to a halt in 2001, when a wall collapsed on guitarist Mark Gallagher, crushing his legs and nearly resulting in the loss of one of them. He then spent the next five years rehabilitating his injuries, though the band never officially broke up. The group finally resumed their touring activities in 2006, playing to their dedicated fan base across the globe. Eventually, the band recorded and released a new studio album in 2009 entitled, "Walk Through Fire," which was their first since 2000's "One For All" and have been touring in support of the release since. Today, the band are rightly regarded as one of the true heroes of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, sounding different from their contemporaries and influencing some of the biggest metal bands since. We can only hope that they continue producing the excellent music they are known for, and performing with an energy and enthusiasm that even many young bands would kill to have.
Raven - "Don't Need Your Money"
Raven - "Chainsaw"
Raven - "Bring The Hammer Down"
Raven - "Crash Bang Wallop!"
Raven - "On And On"
Raven - "Lay Down The Law"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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