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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.
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.