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The Athletic Rockers’ Early Sign of Fatigue - 65%

bayern, November 11th, 2017

Venom, Satan, Raven… those were the bands who were assigned to catapult the NWOBHM from the warm epic Maiden-esque odes to the more belligerent, not fully shaped at the time yet, speed/thrash movement. Although the Ravens’ debut didn’t sound as intimidating as the one of Cronos and Co., it was way more proficiently executed, and clearly showed the trio’s intentions on playing more boisterous music, one that wasn’t going to sit very well with the meeker hard’n heavy crowd.

“Wiped Out” was a blast, an early speed metal precursor if there ever was one, the band going beyond the occasional outbursts of aggression heretofore provided by Scorpions, Motorhead and Accept, fully shaping an opus that didn’t circle around inviting, friendly formulas anymore. Although this opus didn’t stick out single-handedly for very long, it was matched by Satan’s fabulous “Trial by Fire” in nearly every department a few months later, it proved that yes, Raven were up to the challenge, and it was very likely that they were going to lead the oncoming transformational period of their native scene…

I guess it must have been quite upsetting, for the fans mostly, that this scenario never came to pass. Raven never became a speed/thrash metal act, and the promises with “Wiped Out” largely remained unfulfilled. As they labelled their music “athletic rock”, obviously they decided not to stray too much from the “rock” tag, and here they are with the album reviewed here, back to a safer, much less formidable formula. If “Wiped Out” had never occurred, this opus could have passed for at least an above average entry into the annals of the classic hard’n heavy roster. But since said album is a tangible part of metal history, this collection of rousing, albeit poppy and not instantly memorable hymns doesn’t quite please all the way regardless of the involvement of none other than Udo Dirkschneider (Accept) as a producer.

With the frontman of the German powerhouse supervising the proceedings, this effort is expectedly oriented towards the good old heavy metal, and “Take Control” is a cool opener with the fist-pumping rhythms and the catchy chorus, a crowd pleaser that may have found a place on the B-side of “Balls to the Wall”. “Mind over Metal” shows more verve and bite with more uplifting riffage, but this is only a passing breeze compared to the aggressive package that “Wiper Out” was. “Sledgehammer Rock” is an arena-filling heavy rocker with which the works of Riot and Krokus were chokefull at the time, but the title-track rocks harder with faster-paced guitars, and the “Wiped Out” fans may start lining up on the sides. “Run Silent, Run Deep” may not keep them there for long, though, with its milder hard rock-ish jolts and the lengthy balladic interlude, but comes “Hung, Drawn and Quartered”, and things go towards the speed metal scales this cut the highlight here, the band admirably keeping the high energy for over 5-min.

A redeemer on all counts, this number hardly has the most distinguished continuation in the face of “Break the Chain”, another sing-along rocker, but “Take It Away” serves more dynamic rhythms and nice melodic tunes, a memorable piece also enriched by John Gallagher’s cool high-strung vocals which here reach glass-shattering proportions on the several more dramatic moments. “Seek & Destroy” is the song that was immortalized by Metallica mere few months later on “Kill’em All”… kidding of course, both cuts have nothing in common this one the next in line heavy metal bouncer adding more to the pleasant, feelgood melee, but also a possible reason why Metallica had agreed to tour with the band the same year: anyone who chooses such a “destructive” title should not be ignored as a touring partner… Comes “Athletic Rock”, the guys’ emblematic hymn, both title and music-wise, to wrap it on in the expected radio-friendly manner, without breaking the congenial aura of this anthemic, but not very ballsy, openly timid at times, saga.

Yeah, Udo indelibly had his stamp on the album; as Accept toned it down for “Balls to the Wall” compared to the less bridled speed metal-ish stance on “Restless & Wild”, the same had to happen in the Raven camp as well; simply cause both acts were just not suitable for the speed/thrash metal movement with the melodic vocalists, the rock-ish roots, and the penchant for catchy anthems. The heavy metal arena was way more welcoming for them, and this is where they belonged; but while Accept covered themselves with fortune and glory in the years to come, Raven remained in the side-lines… life’s a fuckin’ bitch for sure as there’s no explanation or logic as to who should go up there with the winners, and who should stay buried in the underground. The decision to move with the mega-label Atlantic was a most unwise one as under its wing they reduced themselves to cheesy glam rockers with the next two showings…

and again, why they failed to cover themselves with fame remains a mystery provided that the style on those wasn’t far from the one of box-office successes like Motley Crue’s “Theatre of Pain”, DIO’s Sacred Heart”, and Judas Priest’s “Turbo”. I guess no one wanted to see the once-promising proto-speed metal purveyors in such sleazy light; a mistake that was eventually corrected with “Life’s a Bitch”, the album-title very precisely reflecting the guys’ feelings at the time. From speed metal progenitors to Motley Crue-wannabes, and everything in-between… what the fuck is the way to please this shitty, capricious music industry?

By sticking to what one can do best, in the Raven case to play raucous rowdy old school metal, exactly what the guys have been doing since the late-80’s. A mega-selling status will never be an option for them, but it’s good to know that the veterans are still around and show neither signs of fatigue nor traces of adventurous musical aberrations. I guess they have finally managed to come to terms with this flippant bitch called life…

Live The Metal Code - 96%

Danthrax_Nasty, August 16th, 2005

Recorded in London in 1983, and produced by Udo Dirkschneider of Accept, this was a major record for Raven. They had previously with their first two albums, and touring, solidified a strong fan base (doing tours with bands like Girlschool, and gigs with bands like (then) "young metal attack Metallica") which formatively uped the stakes so to say, or better put, it gave the band the ego boost they needed to move into the sound they were slowly growing into, and a hope of really cashing in one day as far as sales are concerned.

I'd argue that this is a turning point for Raven. The first two albums were total NWOBHM, with out a doubt, but this album really shows what the band was going to be turning into on future albums like Stay Hard, and Life's A Bitch, a more progressed sound with a more mainstreamed feel, but it still does have those NWOBHM leanings in its sound at points. Good or bad, this is a turning point, and this album gave Raven the opportunity for a major record label release (well their legendary live shows had a bit to do with that also).

Musically the bands really tight, and totally doing what only they did. Non-stop catchy rythms coated in high end vocal wails, shreding leads, and solos, and an attitude thats undeneibly metal. There are alot of total old school heavy metal riffs on here, but in alot of ways at the base of their music, Raven has always been a progressive hard rock band on speed, and playing at 11. Also, there is no lack for talent on this record. All the musicians are fully competent, overly energetic, and highly creative. These guys put alot into these songs, and its apparent. You wont find an album quite like this.

The production values are limitless, this is classic heavy metal with a sound unique to its time. Everything, from the vocals, to the drums, to the guitars has been masterly produced to hold a sound that is extinct. I highly recomend this album to anyone interested in classic 80's metal.