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The spirit of Britain w/o an I or M in the name - 90%

Gutterscream, February 11th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1981, 12" vinyl, Neat Records

“…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 of being released that year. A grossly underrated lp as far as I’m concerned, it can bully 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.