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Before thrash and speed metal was truly a genre, you had certain NWOBHM bands such as Venom and of course, Newcastle's Raven that were developing this sound. Rock Until You Drop, the first Raven studio effort definitely is a speed metal album- there weren't many albums or bands like this at the time. And unfortunately Raven are often overlooked despite having released a fair few studio and live albums.
Although this album generally doesn't recieve as much credit in the development of thrash/speed metal as albums such as Motorhead's Overkill or Venom's Welcome To Hell, either way it certainly is one of the pioneering releases. And I bet if you asked a leading thrash band's influences they would point to this album at some point. It has so much crazy energy! And the band themselves' were perfect for the style- the Gallagher brothers and drummer Rob 'Wacko' Hunter provided an attitude the band deserved. Hunter even wore hockey gear, making the band even more unique.
In terms of music, the album is fast and furious, rarely slowing down throughout. There are two singles, 'Hard Ride' and 'Don't Need Your Money', both excellent metal belters. The lyrics in 'Don't Need Your Money' are oh-so cool and express the bands punk-ish attitude! 'Hell Patrol' is probably my personal favourite song on here- John Gallagher gives a great vocal performance on this track holding a high note for around ten seconds! 'Over The Top' has a Motorhead-sounding main riff to it (in my opinion anyway) but then again what NWOBHM wasn't influenced by Motorhead? '39/40' is pretty much the only part of the album that slows everything down a little- it is a short, well written acoustic instrumental with a nice bass backing. Of course, after the short break the metal mayhem breaks out again with 'For The Future'. The title track, 'Rock Until You Drop' is easily one of the strongest points and contains an awesome bass solo and guitar solo. 'Nobody's Hero' features more of John's over the top vocals and tight riffs and rhythms from Mark and Rob Hunter. 'Hellraiser/Action' is a slightly lengthier tune broken down into seperate parts and instrumentals. 'Lambs To The Slaughter' is one of the heaviest songs on here and I love the lyrics. To end the album is 'Tyrant Of The Airwaves', a long effort with the typical speediness but also a small, slow breakdown in the middle.
The sound itself isn't the clearest you'll hear- production is rough and raw, just like the songs themselves'. This only makes the album even more metal than it already is! Even the cover is awesome- featuring the band crushed by all their guitars, drum kits, amps and equipment in a small room. As strong as the album may be, to many it isn't even their finest hour- 1983's All For One is often considered the band's best. Despite this, Rock Until You Drop is an album that any thrash metaller can enjoy, but most NWOBHM fans will most likely already have this is their collection. Either way, this is a genuine classic of it's time!
I honestly think there would be no thrash or speed metal without this album...just look at the year it was released: 1981!!! This is where speed metal was born, along with Motörhead's legendary "Overkill". In that time, Raven were the band with the most killer punk- influenced attitude, and no other bands had this energy, aggression and virtuosity. While other NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden contributed to styles like power metal, Raven's sound on "Rock Until You Drop" inspired a different direction, one more focused on speed and anger, what would be known as thrash metal a few years later.
These 3 young Newcastle musicians (brothers John and Mark Gallagher, and Rob "Wacko" Hunter) make it clear in the album cover photo of Raven buried in their own equipment. It's a telltale story of what you will hear in the music: killer metal filled with amazing riffs and solos, outstanding crazy vocals and fast double bass drum rhythms, a style never before attempted by any other band. From the first song to the last, "Rock Until You Drop" rocks heavy and demonstrates whom the most outrageous NWOBHM band was in 1981. Just listening to raw tunes such as "Hell Patrol", "Nobody's Hero", the title track or the classic NWOBHM anthems "Lambs To The Slaughter", "For The Future" or "Don't Need Your Money" you realize what this band was able to do in their beginnings. Even the covers of the 70's glam rock band Sweet classics, "Hellraiser" and "Action", sound thrashy, powerful and hyperactive. "Tyrant Of The Airways" is just one of the best speed metal tunes ever released, it also in! cludes a cool instrumental part in the middle, and of course, the craziest John Gallagher's vocals on the album ("...Contaaact!!!"). "39/40" is also a remarkable short acoustic instrumental song, the only relaxing moment in the whole great metal smash.
The review could be summarised in just one sentence: "Rock Until You Drop" is an awesome display of brutal NWOBHM that will blow your speakers, one of the biggest moments in metal history." After almost 30 years this album remains one of the most heavy and influential records ever (ask Kreator, Slayer or Metallica!). Essential to know how thrash metal was built; its true roots are here.
The remastered version includes their 1980's debut single "Don't Need Your Money" and "Hard Ride" from the next year, and what can I say about that stuff? ALL songs Raven released by that time are legendary NWOBHM anthems: "Inquisitor", "Wiped Out", "Let It Rip", "Crazy World"...And after listening the following Raven albums, just look at the "Rock Until Drop" song titles, it alone reads like a greatest hits CD! Essential!
“…get into metal. That`s what it’s about…”
Pure energy. The stunning debut full-lengther from not only Raven, but also Neat Records, is frenetic fury that rode the brewing Euro-metal storm as if it had a saddle and made mincemeat of just about every other album that had the unfortunate timing to be released that year. A grossly underrated lp as far as I’m concerned, it bullied Loudness like a freckled pre-schooler, smacked around Saxon, Samson and Saracen, possessed the confidence and fluency Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol were still striving for, and unlike Motley Crue, failed the commercial test. Still, Neat Records was but an eyelash on the body of metal, and because of its mild distribution Rock Until You Drop was destined to splash small in a large growing market. Today, the three-piece is often adored by those who heard them over the years, though I still meet young metal mongers on a regular basis who’ve only just ‘heard of’ the group and pass them off as ‘some old metal band with a guy in a hockey mask’. - sigh -
If you’re gonna jump up and down over Maiden’s Killers, you may as well dedicate a jumping jack to this. It's the least we can do. The reason why many don't is because Raven, despite being one of the first half dozen or so important original bands (that should be) mentioned when speaking of early NWOBHM, have the uncanny ability to become invisible. Their albums aren't collectible, their compilation inclusions are a dime a dozen, and the sad truth is that they haven't survived time all that well. Maiden has 'cause you can't go into a blue collar, non-old man bar and not find Maiden in the jukebox or a DJ who doesn't have at least a self-made, mostly generic 'best of' disc within reaching distance. I'd rather hear "Take Control" over "The Trooper" any day simply because it's just not played...ever.
Usually a trio doesn’t have the amplitude to fill the resonance of a five-piece, but Raven pull it off. Tandem guitar odysseys are a bit on the infeasible side for a three-piece, but top honor track “Over the Top” and the commanding “For the Future” feature passages of such that are bold bordering on heroic, and describing Raven’s simplistically savory sound as heroic doesn’t happen every day. Okay, so maybe the album’s knob-twiddler overlapped the guitar tracks for the illusion, but it still sounds cool. Either that or guitarist Mark Gallagher can bend sound physics to his will. Vocally, John Gallagher’s enthusiastic and often shrilling mid-tone is wilder and more compelling (and to some more annoying) than Di’Anno’s mostly straight-shot confines. Unshaven shrieks that can blow light bulbs to pieces aren’t uncommon, and the electrifying “Hell Patrol” is a magnet for them.
Of all the songs, opener “Hard Ride” received the most radio exposure and maybe it’s not the most creative of the band’s stuff, but its conventionalism steers a course that’s clean and fun without losing its underground ruggedness. Like many of the early British bands, catchiness not overtly complex pervades their songwriting like an enjoyable infection as heard in “Don’t Need Your Money”, “Action”, and the rest of the stable. Wordless acoustical ditty “39-40” and a rest stop in the middle of the tumultuous “Tyrants of the Airways” are the only intermissions where the band isn’t rockin’ out.
While many artists were slowly venturing into more cryptic conception where tales of life and death, the occult, and other off-Broadway topics are spun with a fiendish grin, Raven never seemed interested in setting more than a foot on the dark paths that probably looked inviting. “Hellraiser”, “Hell Patrol” and “Lambs to the Slaughter” may seem kinda inky on the surface, but like “Nobody’s Hero” the album’s dynamism is nothing but up-tempo and adrenaline-injected – a good time album at all angles.
Let’s face it, there isn’t a NWOBHM band that hasn’t had sand kicked in its face by Maiden’s popularity. That’s just the way it is, and Raven’s small but flourishing fan base couldn’t even begin to change that, but any of their stuff prior to their Americanization (i.e. Atlantic signing) is worth hearing. Very soon, they’ll create ‘athletic rock’, probably the hokiest metal style ever proposed that began and thankfully perished, big red pustules and all, with this band.
It’d be pressing to find a more hard-charging effort of ’81.