RAVEN
Rock Until You Drop: The 4 CD Over The Top Edition
(Hear No Evil Recordings / Cherry Red Records)
268:31min

I guess everybody here knows about the legendary days of Heavy Metal in the early 1980s when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) hit the musical world hard and laid down the foundation of everything Metal to follow. There’s no need to tell about all those brilliant bands of the era that became household names over the years. And thanks to a certain Lars Ulrich a lot of underground acts and bands from the second line got at least a more than honourable mention. Back then me and many other (more or less) shy (pre-)teenagers were lit forever and we still listen to our heroes from the glory days of the NWOBHM. And one of those bands that lit the fire were RAVEN from Newcastle. Started in 1974 already by teenage brothers Mark (guitar) and John Gallagher (bass and vocals), they gained a following in their home area over the years. In 1980, the band was downsized to a power trio with drummer Rob “Wacko” Hunter and got a record deal with the uprising (and meanwhile legendary) label Neat Records in 1980 at a still very young age. The first result of this collaboration was the 7” single “Don’t Need Your Money” in that same year, followed by the first RAVEN album “Rock Until You Drop” a year later. And this album is one of the most praised debut albums of the NWOBHM and a legend 41 years after its initial release. Songs like the opener ‘Hard Ride’, the single hit ‘Don’t Need Your Money’, ‘Rock Until You Drop’, ‘Lambs To The Slaughter’ or ‘Over The Top’ had a huge influence on the Speed and Thrash Metal scene a few years later. The same goes for the vocal delivery of John Gallagher that was, like some of the songs, always a little over the top with his high pitched screams. But there are also some quite underrated songs on “Rock Until You Drop” like the grooving, yet melodic ‘For The Future’ and especially the long ‘Tyrant Of The Airways’ with some early JUDAS PRIEST vibes and more than one hint on 1970s Progressive Rock, especially RUSH. But what really made “Rock Until You Drop” a special album was the incredible over the top energy that always was a trademark of RAVEN. The unspectacular, but still transparent recording of the album was a perfect equivalent to a live recording and really made this album rock like hell. The original cover art was the perfect visual transformation of this sound that RAVEN themselves called “Athletic Rock”, as it shows the band in the midst of their completely vandalized rehearsal room. And even 41 years later this album has not lost a bit of its magic and energy – that’s what I call a timeless masterpiece! And this masterpiece finally got a really worthy and ultimate re-release by English Hear No Evil Recordings, a sub label of Cherry Red Records. Asides from the 11 songs of the original album, this edition (fittingly subtitled “Over The Top Edition”) features no less than 41 (!) extra tracks, spread over four discs. The first disc features the original album in a very well restored sound plus four more studio songs from these times. Of course we have two 7” B-Sides, ‘Wiped Out’ (from “Don’t Need Your Money”), an old favourite of mine, maybe due to the slight IRON MAIDENesque moments, and ‘Crazy World’ (from “Hard Ride”), a typical early RAVEN song. And two more songs could have been found only on compilations back then. These were the fine ‘Let It Rip’ that was used for the “Brute Force” compilation and ‘Inquisitor’ from “Lead Weight”. The latter was later re-recorded with a certain Udo Dirkschneider as guest singer for a special 7”. On the second disc, we find really rare recordings from the early days of RAVEN. The first three tracks were recorded by Neat Records as a “Live To 2-Track Demo” in 1980. All the three songs, ‘Don’t Need Your Money’, ‘Let It Rip’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were used again not more than a year later. Yet they sound pretty different, as the final versions were faster and a little more straightened. Eight more songs on this disc are from a demo session in 1978, when RAVEN still were a four piece with Paul Bowden on second guitar and Sean Taylor on drums, who later joined SATAN and still plays there. As far as I know, these recordings were not released back then and only ‘Inquisitor’ from this session was used later in a rearranged and rewritten version. Of course RAVEN sound different here in their pre-NWOBHM days, maybe these songs can be described best as classic Hard Rock with a hint on contemporary Progressive Rock (‘Going Home’ and ‘Turn It Down’). Sometimes the guitar players sound like they want to be Ritchie Blackmore, John Gallagher’s voice is much more tame and far from being over the top. And even though some songs are not bad for the time they were released, it’s only the final ‘Hit And Run’ with a fine JUDAS PRIEST vibe that’s really interesting for a Metalhead. Yet these eight songs are, of course, pretty interesting for the sake of Metal history. The final two discs of “Rock Until You Drop: The 4 CD Over The Top Edition” consist of damn rare live recordings. The main part is an audience recording of a complete show RAVEN played at the Sasso Marconi in Bologna, Italy on December 02, 1982. This means of course that the set list here includes not only songs from “Rock Until You Drop” but also material from the second album “Wiped Out” from 1982 with classics like ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Light’, ‘Read All About It’ or ‘Firepower’. Of course the sound quality here is a million lightyears away from official RAVEN live albums like “Live At The Inferno”, for example. But given the fact that these roundabout 90 minutes were recorded 40 years ago with probably minimalist equipment, it is still okay, as they were carefully restored. Yet these recordings don’t completely catch the energy of a RAVEN show, even though the long jam session version of ‘Don’t Need Your Money’ is really cool and has the spirit of 1970s live albums. Seven more songs were taken from an audience recording of a show at the Manchester Apollo, UK on May 21, 1982. The sound of these recordings is more powerful but extremely raw and thus pretty tough to enjoy. The focus on the songs chosen are definitely on “Rock Until You Drop” with the (back then) new song ‘Bring The Hammer Down’. I guess you need to be a die-hard-fan of RAVEN to really have fun with this extra material. In the end, we get a sixteen minute long interview with RAVEN that Alan Robson did for Radio Metro. In my eyes, this is really redundant, as it is nearly impossible to listen to the interview due to the poor, dull quality and the North Eastern English accent. The whole box features a 24 page booklet with a long essay on the early days of RAVEN by John Tucker and a lot of rare photos from the archives of the band. So you will surely get value for money, it’s just up to you to decide if you need all this extra material or if you are happy with a basic version of “Rock Until You Drop”, which is, in my humble opinion, a must-have for any Metal lover. Visit www.facebook.com/ravenbandofficial or www.cherryred.co.uk

Thomas Meyer

Thomas Meyer

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