without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Hello, I am Doctor Brainded Binky. Today, I am going to talk to you about a very serious condition that affects metal bands of all subgenres. Some may never recover from it, but those that do chose not to look back. This is Def Leppard's Disease, or DLD for short. It is named for the band that was especially known to have be afflicted with it. Others that have been afflicted with this condition are Metallica, Saxon, and possibly the worst case, Celtic Frost. The symptoms of this condition consist of signing with a major record label in the hopes of charting and selling millions of records. In other words, selling out. Others include writing bland pop songs with run-of-the-mill hooks and lyrics. The case of the NWOBHM/speed metal band, Raven, was a very serious one indeed, for their album "The Pack is Back" definitely showed some of the worst possible symptoms of this condition.
Let's have a look at the album cover first. What are the members of the band doing? Are they holding swords or axes or is there anything on it that suggests metal? No, they are dressed as hockey players and bursting out of school lockers. Usually when sports and school lockers are involved, this suggests pop music, music that would appeal only to the high school crowd. That crowd usually consists of jocks and cheerleaders care nothing of metal and write it off as just talentless noise. While we are on the subject of noise, we shall take a close look at the music that the cover advertises.
The unnecessary use of synthesizers is a very common symptom of those afflicted with DLD and they are present "Gimme Some Lovin'" which is obviously a cover song. The original song itself isn't that appealing to metalheads like ourselves, but it is made absolutely horrifying by the synthesizers imitating the organs of the original. Covering popular songs of the past is a more rare symptom, but it shows just how nasty it can get.
Another rare symptom is the use of a horn section, shown the songs "Hyperactive" and "Don't Let it Die". This shows that bands that are affected with severe DLD can go to great lengths to sell records and hit singles, even when disregarding their musical roots. And speaking of disregarding musical roots, we also have lyrical themes. The themes in the songs on this album do not relate to metal or even hard rock.
Lyrics aren't the only things to suffer in this kind of crisis. Guitar riffs can be affected too. Whereas Raven's earlier work consisted of amazing hooks that required skill to play, the riffs on the album consist mainly of three or more chords. This proves the apparent degeneration from a band in the NWOBHM scene to a group of sellouts. The solos on this album aren't all that impressive either. There aren't much tricks that are used in the solos and they end up coming out quite bland.
In conclusion, this case of DLD was quite horrific, but the story of Raven does have a happy ending. After the release of this album in 1986, Raven had recovered from the condition and decided to return to their roots. They produced "Life's a Bitch" a year later. Other bands, like Metallica, and of course, Def Leppard would not be so lucky, for they never recovered. They are testaments as to why we metalheads should be more aware of DLD, so that we can find ways to prevent it.
Let me tell you the story of Eddie Weinbauer. He’s the typical mid-'80s long-haired heavy metal maniac teenager with problems at high school, limited intelligence and an untidy room. He drives his mother crazy with the volume of his beloved music and loves a girl madly, but she belongs to his rivals’ gang. His room has plenty of posters hanging on the walls of bands like Judas Priest, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe...and surprise! Raven’s “The Pack Is Back” cover poster and a photo of Mark Gallagher with make-up and weird clothes as well! That’s the story of the 1986 movie “Trick Or Treat”, which was just another lame imitation of the Wes Craven classic “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. The film is quite mediocre with plenty of goofs and cheesy songs by Eddie Clarke’s pop band Fastway. Apart from that, the movie makes clear Raven achieved certain fame and success in the U.S.A. mid-'80s adventure.
The extreme pressure from a commercial record label such as Atlantic forced Raven to sell out and modify their sound into something completely opposite from their original music and attitude. That significant change already began on the previous record “Stay Hard”, although the commercial attempt wasn’t so evident and explicit as here. The brutal progressive speed metal of the Newcastle trio turns into something less aggressive, heavy and violent. As you can listen on “Screaming Down The House”, “Get Into Your Car” and the opening title track, now vocals and insistent choruses are taking complete control of the compositions while the instrumental parts are relegated to the background. The main lines are repeated endless times during each track to make people remember them, inevitably catchy. But that doesn’t mean that the talent and distinctive technique of the band has been forgotten: “Rock Dogs” and “Young Blood” demonstrate Mark Gallagher is still able to perform killer riffs and harsh hooks along with very solid elaborated pickin’ parts. The musicianship and skills of Raven are still outstanding and admirable. The tunes are slightly easier and more simple than before to sell more records, but consistent and musically strong enough to satisfy. Definitely with a tougher production and less exhausting vocals this same stuff would have sounded completely different and heavier. But there’s a bunch of new elements in these songs that make clear the intention of the group and the nature of the numbers. Some that I could have never expected from these guys, like that horn section of trumpets, saxophones and trombones, synthesizers and Casio keyboards, that omnipresent choir and the silly Spinal Tap-style lyrics. “Hyperactive”, “Don’t Let It Die” and “All I Want” feature all those characteristics that make it hard to take them seriously. The result is not that bad actually, but simply bizarre and inappropriate for the genuine concept of Raven as a true speed metal band.
So yes, this record has really great moments and many listenable cuts, catchy words that will get engraved in your mind at once (“Nightmare Ride”, particularly) and you will have no other chance than singing along. The only cover of the pack is the The Spencer Davis Group classic hit “Gimme Some Lovin’”, which was a very nice surprise and quite unpredictable. The arrangements are totally alternative and different from the original, so the band is not just playing the same structure note by note and they introduce their own style to it. However, the weakest spot is the scandalous lack of aggression and violence I mentioned before. There’s still passion, energy and power, but following the wrong direction. It was obvious that such an unnaturally radical change would be no good for the band whose music is decent, but doesn’t seem to come from their hearts and souls. They just tried to please the greedy Atlantic bosses. That terrible change didn’t include the music, lyrics and production only, the guys emulated their admired heroes Slade and Sweet by wearing motley glam clothes and extravagant make-up in the style of Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, Bret Michaels and Jani Lane. It didn’t work at all, not even with the priceless support and contribution of legendary audio engineer and producer Eddie Kramer, who did a great job that fitted the nature of the songs and the commercial intention of Raven by that time. John, Mark and Wacko made a brilliant performance and versatile songwriting work, demonstrating they could sound convincing and satisfactory under pressure in a different musical path. There’s no doubt about it that’s something remarkable along with the amazing instrumental display on each track, immaculate and perfect. There’s many differences from their previous stuff though, in particular John Gallagher’s voice is not so insane and high, leaving his lunatic tenor screaming behind to concentrate more on defining the backing vocals and the choir. The rhythms are loose and dynamic, but not that fast compared to their earlier double bass drum beating tempos. The merciless, raw riffing sequences became mellow, soft and kinda inoffensive here.
Fortunately, Raven realized their huge mistake before it was too late and in November and December of that same year they would get rid of those stupid pop elements and ways to bring back their raging speed metal. Many other NWOBHM bands failed on their commercial attempt, but at least Raven did something amusing and enjoyable, even if it’s comical and silly at times, there’s some fine moments. I’m afraid this decent album is condemned to be the black sheep of Raven’s discography, but I recommend it to anybody who still hesitates and doubts the possibilities of the Newcastle trio wearing make-up and glam clothes, you might get a big surprise! So our friend Eddie Weinbauer didn’t really have a bad taste in the end. In fact, you can see Exciter’s “Unveiling The Wicked” and Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!” among his LP collection in one of the movie scenes. The ending of that film was happy, but Raven’s Atlantic years' risky adventure was rather bitter. Luckily, they could get over it and offer amazing music to this date.
Raven has long been one of those bands difficult to take seriously; their gaudy and ridiculous stage outfits and balls to the wall attitude have likely turned off many a metal fan. Theatrics aside, they have always been one of the creme de la NWOBHM creme, delivering many albums of high quality melodic heavy metal which is both catchy and fun. They are also one of the best live bands I have ever witnessed, especially for a three piece.
The Pack is Back (their 5th full-length) may not be the equivalent of a Wiped Out or All is One in terms of memorable riffing and impact, but it deserves mention alongside the band's other killers like Stay Hard and Life's a Bitch. This is also one of the band's more accessible records, saturated in some synth and guitar effects and with numerous built for radio tunes. The title track kicks things off with a mid-paced anthem and catchy layman chorus, as well as a nice guitar melody. "Gimme Some Lovin'" is a melodic hard rocker so if you're into that cheesy strutting style ala David Lee Roth then blast it. "Screamin' Down the House" should appeal to fans of Ratt or Twisted Sister who desire some rebellious party metal. The album picks up a little with "Young Blood" which is all the more metal, yet still very catchy. "Hyperactive" and the silly head banger "Rock Dogs" return to the more commercial vibe. Some of the other standout tracks are the heavier "Nightmare Ride" and "All I Want".
As I said, this was built for some radio play. The mix is clear and professional, and I'm not sure this entirely works in its favor. A dirtier approach would have livened up a few of the tracks, and it does feel as if some of the raw energy of the band is constricted. Regardless, there are still plenty of good hooks and John Gallagher's catchy vocal melodies. Sadly, this album did not catchy on, a lot of Raven's fans don't like it because of the ramped up accessibility and excessive party metal atmosphere. However, if you can listen past your preconceived notions and accept it for what it is, it's a great album with a lot of that lost 80s hairspray/hard rocking appeal, and there is enough pure Raven here to at least pick up on a few tracks.
Am I listening to 101.5 Orlando, Florida's 80's Pop station? I thought this was suppose to be a Raven album?
I am left speechless. Ever since I really started to listen to NWOBHM, Raven have always been my favorite one due to their very proto-thrash sound. Nowhere near the doom and gloom of Witchfinder General, or the satanic mischief of Venom, no Raven had all those killer metal sing-alongs and anthems that were all and all great and classic in their heyday when what was extreme was still in a very embryonic stage. Now this is not to say I was already forewarned about this album, but I had to hear for myself. I couldn't even conceive the fact that Raven would try to sell-out like whores. Well they did.
"The Pack Is Back" is in short, 80's Pop music. It barely even touches anything that would even be considered hard rock or metal. I mean Twisted Sisters is fucking thrash and Anvil is black metal compared to this. It's so damn weak and light. First and mainly why this is is the guitars; Mark Gallagher has been completely neutered here. All the great dizzying NWOBHM riffs he came up with? Forget them. Here he sounds like a reject for Def Leppard while trying to wink at Huey Lewis & the News at the same time. Listen John, if I want to listen to Huey Lewis & The News, I'll do so while reminisceting about Patrick Bateman from "American Psycho", but it is clear that your riffs don't even deserve a fresh new business card that was picked up from the printers on Friday. And yes it HAS a watermark on it, due to the fact that you have not only tinkled on your die-hard fans but the rest of your career. Oh and where the hell were John Gallager and Rob "Wacko" Hunter in when the band was going to be fitted for their corporate suit?
Outside of the cheesy song titles and the most inane lyrics, I will have to admit that "Gimme Some Lovin'" has the same Roland 707 guitar synth that can be found on Judas Priest's "Turbo Lover" but minus the speed. "Rock Dogs" is ok. I mean, you kind of hope for something that is just barely digestible but in this case, the majority of what you will find on "The Pack Is Back" is nausea-inducing.
When referring to Raven, you think of songs like "Faster Than The Speed Of Light", "Live At the Inferno", "Chainsaw", "Mind over Metal", and even "Break the Chain". You think of the days of being in the front, shaking your fist with studded leather gloves and banging your long greasy mullet....but "The Pack is Back" will want you driving an I-Roc, drink wine-coolers, and think Journey will actually get you laid. Avoid if you are a die-hard Raven fan.
If you thought Live At The Inferno ruled, or that Wiped Out was great then dont buy this. If you ever had a positive opinion of Raven at any point, with out being aware of this, dont get this album.
This is without a doubt the worst thing Raven ever did. Its just obvious from the cover where things were going..., and let me tell you they were going down fast. This album is about the pinacle of Raven's comercialization. This album is also an abysmal failure. Its not even worth going song by song on this one. This is a picture of all thats wrong with the music buisness, today, and then.
Raven even admitted that this album was a mistake. They were basically trying to really get that elusive (for them) mainstream acceptance, and record sales. Greed is a destructive force, and Raven fell prey to thinking they were infallible. This is the sell out point for Raven, and luckily I guess it never really manifested into anything, but a shitty album. They admittedly wanted to cash in on their image, and really be a part of the mainstream at that time, so really who could blame em...mistakes happen. I forgive em, and thats why I warn you.
The music on here is cheesier than most anything I've ever heard. Its catchy, but done so in a horrible way. The lyrics are just toss away kinda garbage, and way too soft. The drum sound is thin, and the rythms often times get annoyingly repeatitive. Some good leads on here, but do very little to make up for the rest. Overall, there is no reason to buy this album except to complete your Raven discography, or if you really like bad 80's corporate glam.
I gave the album a 45, cause its a unique, well done, piece of shit, and certainly deserves something like that. Again, Raven have better albums to buy, and this album is not representative of their sound at any other given point.