Armed And Ready – Kerrang! 1981

RAVEN; ‘As subtle as Nellie The Elephant in wellies’, Raven are another Neat Records band. To date their recorded output has included one single, ‘Don’t Need Your Money’, and a track called ‘Let It Rip’ on MCA’s ‘Brute Force’ compilation album.

However waiting in the wings (geddit) is a fully-fledged LP. Titled ‘Rock ‘Till You Drop’, it contains a fistful of originals as well as volcanic versions of two old Sweet songs, ‘Hellraiser’and ‘Action’.

Raven’s line-up runs as follows: Mark Gallagher (guitar), John Gallagher (bass/vocals) and Rob Hunter (drums). And although their career suffered a serious setback recently when John Gallagher broke his arm protecting his favorite axe from ‘bandits’, the group should by now be back on the road. See ’em and watch those feathers fly.

September 1981
“WE DID this gig for the Hell’s Angels once. Ended up playing ‘Born To Be Wild’ five times. Or else!”

Raven’s vocalist/bassman John Gallagher chortles to himself as he and his guitarist brother Mark recount a bit of hairy dues paying. Still only in their early twenties, Raven had been around the Newcastle heavy scene for a good five years before settling on the classic power trio format with the recruitment of Skinsman Rob Hunter and releasing ‘Don’t Want Your Money’ on the independent Neat label last year. So, they’ve seen a bit.

“We had this drummer before Rob” carries on Mark, taking up the story. “He was a right blabbermouth and he’d got talking to these Hell’s Angels. They told him he could join, which he thought was great. And then asked him if we’d do the gig. He couldn’t really refuse or they’d have filled him in. We were a bit dubious but he convinced us it’d be well organised.

“Got there and all there was was a field with a small generator and a bunch of Hell’s Angels with booze! It started to rain at the end but they still wouldn’t let us go. I had to fake an electric shock to get out of it. I was writhing around on the floor and this bunch of Angels came up, banging their fists together, saying ‘Ya gonna play?!?’ ‘But he’s had an electric shock!’ ‘What’s that got to dae with it? Play Born To Be Wild!”

As it happens. ‘Born To Be Wild’ would be an ideal theme tune for Raven. Over the top at going over the top, they throw themselves and their equipment around stages like a wrecking crew whose latest assignment is a music shop – Goes down a storm and fine when it’s the band’s own gear but a bit tacky when otherwise.

Like when the trio supported Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Oz and Budgie at Newcastle Mayfair and John got into the spirit of the occasion.

“I was throwing water into the audience and some went into one of the monitors and burnt it out. Then I threw my guitar at Budgie’s drum kit”

“Another monitor fell into the crowd.” takes over Mark. “Just little things like that y’kna? It was a really good gig. The road crew weren’t very happy, mind”.

“There were five monitors along the front proceeds John gleefully “Next gig there was one!”

“The PA company had learned their lesson after we destroyed their equipment,’ assesses Mark proudly – Surprisingly, da boys have never had to cough up for any of their journeys into carnage. “I’ve got this great address!” explains Mark “Sure! Just send us the bill’

THE QUESTION that’s raised out of all this mayhem making is, of course, how much is real and how much is show? As the Gallaghers hop around like nuclear kangaroos, even at sound-checks chances are that the enthusiasm is gen enough. But could they actually stop mid-smash if they wanted to? Mark and John reply in unison.

“Sometimes! Not always!”

“John’s the worst!” sneaks Mark.

“It’s frustration’, counters the bass player ‘if the crowd aren’t interested that’s when things really get broken. And when we do it we really do it. Some bands like Saxon smash guitars against dry ice and the readies sneak a carpet underneath to make sure nothing gets damaged.

Raven got the Newcastle Mayfair gig after Ozzy Osbourne had heard ‘Don’t Want Your Money’ at a radio station while waiting to be interviewed. The Oz liked it more than somewhat and eventually tracked the band down, insisting they were added to the bill. Jet. Blizzard’s label, were instructed to watch and opportunity looked all set to knock for the mop tops – Then, as John explains,

“Ozzy and Jet really liked the band at the Mayfair. The next gig was at Hammersmith and Jet were going ‘Great lads! See you later on! before it. They seemed really interested

‘Played the gig. We were told that the audience at Hammersmith might be a bit funny. A couple of kids stood up when we played the single. But otherwise, a pretty cold reception. We thought we played a blinder. But after that the record company stayed away from us, never approached us. We never saw much of anyone. They just pretended we didn’t exist.

“As far as we’re concerned” snorts Mark, “if they don’t want to know, stuff ’em”. Blizzard still liked us apparently. But then they vanished and reappeared later with a new line-up, so maybe they were having problems themselves, suggests John.

‘DON’T WANT Your Money’ was probably the best single Neat put out. Lunatic frenzy with a built-in sense of fun and a John-vocal so shrill that every bat within a quarter of a mile radius stands a good chance of being deafened every it’s played. Lots of airplay but no offers from any of the major record companies.

‘It came out just as the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ thing was starting to fizzle out as far as record companies ware concerned.’ states Mark, matter-of-factly.

‘Also, Fist and White Spurt, the other Neat bands signed after the Tygers of Pan Tang success, hadn’t done anything. So being on Neat may have worked against us. Nothing against Fist or Spurt mind. They re good bands of you like that sort of thing.

So, an album has been recorded at Impulse Studios, Wallsend, AKA Neat HQ. This was to emerge on Neat, but at the moment this doesn’t seem too likely if the stories about Neat’s alleged problems have any foundation. Raven have been taken under the wing (cough) of a London management who are trying to arrange the release of ‘ Rock Till You Drop’ via a major label.

So what do you think about all this then Rob? That evil glint must mean something.

“If we had the finances of a record company behind us we could destroy everything at practically every gig.

Live Nottingham Boat Club HOWARD JOHNSON
TO HAVE a gig blown out due to an incompetent agency must be the pits for any band just breaking out of its native area. But when a review is in the offing from it, disastrous is an understatement. Thus when Raven’s Manchester gig was lost, it was my duty to catch them somewhere – Nottingham’s Boat Club in fact.

When the opening bars of ‘Hard Ride’ rang out, I knew that that sense of duty was to be rewarded. The hardest of the hard, Raven have more meat than Sainsbury’s, and come across infinitely more powerful in the flesh than on vinyl (hard to achieve you’ll agree!).

Which isn’t to say that the gig was perfect – of course there were the odd ‘technical problems’ such as Mark Gallagher’s lead falling out but when a band show such total commitment (you can see the strain on their faces) and couple it with the meanest set of rifts this side of Angel City, then you can’t help but be satisfied.

The 13 number sat, incorporating most of their debut album and odd tasters from the soon-come newie (watch out for the excellent ‘Crash, Bang, Wallop’ single), is all no compromise heavy metal, and though I yearn for a good commercial hook from 90 per cent of HR bands, Raven are such efficient metallurgists that I make no complaints!

Three-piece limitations are hardly in evidence thanks to John Gallagher’s nimble eight-string bass work and his use of a wide array of
pedals, while his vocals are the craziest, leaving a tingle in your ear each time he hits a peak. 95 per cent of bludgeon bands are worthless and plodding, but the remaining few who get things right are the meanest bunch of muthas around. Raven are one of the few. Catch ’em with Girlschool.

LIVE – Aardschock, August 1983

Next up were RAVEN who were, quite simply brilliant. How they could play this well to this sort of following in Holland, yet mean so little here at home is almost unbelievable. They went down the proverbial STORM depite, or probably because of, a mysterious 20-minute P.A. failure at the mid-point of their set. Most bands would have died a death, but Raven just whacked up their backline and soldered on , and 5000 pairs of arms aloft showed just how much the crowd enjoyed this Trooper Attitude.

Mark filled in with a guitar solo before John and Rob returned to belt out the the hell-raising new single ‘Break The Chain’, then ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Light’. A moving “Raven” chant broke out but, rather than bask in the glory, the band just hammered into ‘Hard Ride’ until the P.A. sureged back into action amid huge roars of approval. ‘Seek And Destroy’ from the new LP, ‘Crash Bang Wallop’, ‘Live At The Inferno’ and their first single ‘Don’t Need Your Money’. then hurled the set to a breathless climax. Throughout their encore Raven really let their delight at the response show. Guitars were bounced, bashed and stomped on and Rob Hunter all but demolished his kit. A mervellous performance that must rank among their best and one that prompted a giant block capital “follow that!” scrawl in my notepad.

RAVEN – Break The Chain – Single Review, June 1983 – Howard Johnson

Always had a soft spot for Raven’s manic dementia, but I’ve recently had the incling that they needed to take stock and rethink their approach. Maybe a touch of sofistication would be in order, a slowing down?

On ‘Break The Chain’, however, they seem to be caught between two stools, mixing screaming thrash with a more middle of the road grind. Pleasant but not inspired – maybe they should’ve gone the whole hog.

RAVEN – ‘All For One’ (Neat) 1983 HOWARD JOHNSON

IT’S A SHAME that this isn’t 1979, ‘cos the collective Raven footwear is firmly embedded in that musical time zone. Blasting forth with collectors’ fervour for stockpiling riff-upon-riff-upon-solo-upon-solo was the stuff that mayhem dreams were made of during those heady days. But as fans grew up, they thought a little more, matured somewhat and started to look for (9uIPl1 sophistication in their music. They didn’t want an overall dissipation of power and basic energy, but they were looking for muscle AND melody for class. In short kids wanted variety. You don’t believe me? Well, musical blinkers are being shed slowly but surely, and class rock ‘n’ roll is stronger than it’s ever been in the UK – the album charts prove it!

Raven now stand as a duck without water. They have their deals, but wild winds are blowing, times have changed and they sound committed but hopelessly lost. The Raven call to arms is ‘Athletic Rock’ and that’s a fair description of the band’s stance, but I was only ever good for 140 metres, long distance treks were never my scene! ‘Don’t Need Your Money’, the band’s first single remains an absolute gem of three–minute dementia, but Raven LPs have always paled immeasurably after an initial explosion. The same is true of ‘All For One’ despite its more mid-paced (only in Raven’s book) approach and superior production.

A week-end’s constant crushing has resulted in a discerning blur of screaming vocals, smashing axes, and wild, wild drums, but very little at all which will last. Only ‘Take Control’ and ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’ grip on to your mind as anything remotely approaching ‘enthralling’. There’s very little more that is worth mentioning specifically and all that remains with me is a huge admiration for its passion but also a distinct emptiness which the best music always fills.

Raven have a number called ‘Mind Over Metal’ which sums what I’d like to hear-above all, songs with thought behind them, but songs played powerfully because that’s the only way to do it. One without the other simply can’t cut it.

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