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The mid-80’s were great times for the metal genre: thrash got consolidated and reached peaks of bestiality and violence, nothing was the same since that glorious moment. Still nowadays, those legendary long-plays influence new young musicians and it’s very easy to recognize and identify the huge impact that music has on many modern bands sound. That evil thrash would also contribute to the creation of new subgenres such as death and many more, so those memorable years were crucial and essential in the history of metal. But curiously, the groups that inspired those thrash groups were following a completely opposite direction, imitating the embarrassing glam trend instead of getting heavier and harder as their disciples. Raven was one of them, the Godfathers of thrash were under pressure from their record company by that time to sell out, but brilliance still shone.
The previous releases made clear what Raven wanted by that time: leave behind their genuine sound and become something similar to Twisted Sister and co. Vocals, vocals and more vocals were added to their still heavy raw music, with a much more sophisticated production and expensive gear and equipment. The result was good and very amusing, successful although never get further than what other popular (in)famous glam bands made. The music on this EP is quite similar to what you can hear on the first Atlantic years release “Stay Hard”, in fact these 5 tracks could have been included on it, they’d have fitted it perfectly. There’s a surprising variety of songs in this short extended-play, even if it’s only 5 tunes in total. You can find straight fast numbers like “Seen It On TV” or “Do Or Die”, plenty of rough crude riffs by Mark Gallagher totally inspired, very solid elaborated song structures along with a notable vocal work. Those cuts are not as complex or progressive as the early Raven stuff, you can notice they put much more emphasis on vocals to make them still cachy and commercial. The instrumental passages are skilled and perfectly-executed though, with that amazing display of riff and hook alterations, bridges and tempo changes that provide the numbers of consistence and sense. “How Did You Get So Crazy” and “Gimme Just A Little” are slightly mellow and repetitive, you can realize the band focus more on melody and vocals this time, repeating the insistent main chorus, which is irresistible and so damn catchy. Those are more in the style of the previous “The Pack Is Back” material, but feature a tougher production and no horn section, trumpets or synthesizers anymore, luckily! The exception is “Speed Of The Reflex , “still a killer” as John recalls on the official web review. The fasters, heaviest and most violent moment of the whole extended-play. Very intense, aggressive and powerful, featuring a main relentless riff sequence, frantic doube-bass drum beatings and immaculate bass lines. Total headbanging thrashy speed metal with no compassion, a symphony of pure virtuosism and energy that has not much to do with the other 4 numbers. The only thing I dislike on it is that excessively lenghty quiet break and those silly synthesizer effects.
So it’s obvious Raven still had the guts, the passion and the speed to offer something decent and listenable. The production could have been more raw and and dirty to make these songs sound as heavy and harsh as they should, but I guess that’s not what the Newcastle trio (Or I should rather say, the Atlantic bosses) wanted back then. However, guitars sound remarkably strenghtful, loud and distorted, with riff god Mark Gallagher making an outrageous exhibition of technique, fast finger pickin’ parts and delightful hooks and harmonies. The rhythmic section John-Wacko is as effective and destructive as always, double bass-drums and bass lines are both hyperactive and constantly fast and loose. John’s vocals are uncontrolled, insane and high, extremely high in those mad screaming lines that are pure fun and only the chosen ones could reach. The song-writing is notably elaborated in most of the songs, away from simple or mediocre; in some other straighter and easier to make the music sound commercial. But the superior skills, talent and creativity of the group are present on each composition. The only weak spot is the exaggerated presence of vocals, which was an element they couldn’t refuse if they wanted to emulate the hair metal league. I think John Gallagher never really fitted that comical lame hyperactive glam vocalist role, he must have got exhausted after recording so much vocal parts in the songs.
The final result is great and splendid, I’m sure most of the lyrics will get engraved in your mind and become impossible to forget once you listen to them. Another fine excellent release from this unfairly underrated band that could do no wrong and still can’t. 5 highly recommended raw tracks that won’t disappoint any NWOBHM fan, satisfaction and headbanging are guaranteed here. Listening to such amazing tunes like these is hard to understand how Atlantic could kick out these great musicians, with their endless possibilities and abilities back in the magic 80’s...I guess the sales and cash was all that mattered to those silly businessmen. And if you feel skeptic after reading my review yet, you could take a look at the cover photography because it says it all!
Looking back over the fine catalogue this band has managed to release, a few elements seem to jump out as quite characteristic overall, and mainly those elements in their sound, or general attributes really, are a knack for presenting highly energetic rythms, led by wailing leads, and fist raising lyrics (some of which are very humorously original), a thrashy-heavy-traditional rocking metal sound, and just presenting an overall image, and feel of youth, Metal, partying, fighting, sexuality, etc. . Now listed as such, it really isnt conveyed in the same intensity as the songs themselves, but ahh I tried.
I really think this record is a classic release by a famed (and killer) band, and as such represents a good platform of their sound for say, an interested person, to check this out, and get an idea of what the awesomness of Raven truely sounds like. The chorus' are catchy as hell, the leads, and guitar runs are just all over the place, and done exceptionally well, the vocals seem genre epitomizing (high wails, powerfull notes, great vocal arrangements, etc.), and an endless list of why this rules you.
I think further elaboration is in order, and I'll begin with one word, "tight". I mean everything is played perfectly, and in my opinion there isnt a bad, or boring rythm on here. The drums hold the beat through out, and have some cool fills,...not a whole lot to mention here, but if drums are done right you wont have any complaints (as I have none here). The guitar tone, rythm, and lead melodies are very rememborable, and carry that 80's feel in a way thats almost saddening to compare to bands of this genre today. Lots of riffs all over the place done in a verse, bridge, chorus type structure, but with lots of hooks, and randomness to satisfy your mental cravings for guitar virtuosity (the bass also done just as well). Oh, and again...the guitar sound, fucking awesome.
The production is top notch analogue all the way. I'd suffice to say that you couldnt get much of a better production qaulity under any reasoning (and this was recorded in '86), except for one small spot where the short-comings of said medium of sound recording showed its ugly face, but that totally could have been the dude who mixed its fault (but we wont talk about that haha). Overall two metal horns raised, and not one complaint here, but I'm a total fan, and cant find fault in many of their albums so take what you will.
Pick of the crop:
Do Or Die, and Seen It On The T.V.