Album review: RAVEN – Rock Until You Drop (the 4CD Over The Top Edition)

Cherry Red/Sanctuary [release date : 27.05.22]

Raven, the legendary heavy metal band from England’s industrial North East, have the perfect resume. They have recorded for six different labels (and never been without one) including major and major-ish imprints like Atlantic, Megaforce and SPV, and have released over twenty albums since their inception in 1974. The numbers tell their own story.

The band was formed by brothers Mark and John Gallagher in Newcastle, in the early seventies, just about the time the UK was reeling from the Miners’ Strike, the 3 Day week, The Troubles in Northern Ireland and other elements of social disorder. The band’s music reflected that turmoil, as did many others, joining together under the NWOBHM banner, delivering Heavy, Proto Thrash Metal to all who would listen.

The band’s near legendary 1981 album Rock Until You Drop – as close as you’ll get to the live experience in the studio – is the lead CD of this 4 CD package. It’s a nine track album opened by calling cards, ‘Hard Ride’ and ‘Hell Patrol’, and is expanded by the addition of 6 bonus tracks. The highlights of those being culled from two NWOBHM compilations. ‘Let It Rip’ from Brute Force (1982), and ‘Inquisitor’, from ‘Lead Weight’ (1981).

An almost total lack of radio airplay led labels and bands, across a wide spectrum of “below the headlines” rock and metal to issue these “sampler/ compilation albums”. It was often the only way fans could get to hear new bands at a reasonable price.

Rock Until You Drop found many advocates among the UK Metal Media. In turn that led to support gigs with Motorhead, Metallica and Megadeath. The band was on the rise.

CD2 comprises a dozen demo tracks from Neat Records in 1978. A must for metal afficionados in general and Raven fans in particular. Some of these went no further. Others, like ‘Don’t Need Your Money’ made it onto the debut, and a few made it as bonus tracks on later album reissues.
Taken in context, they are reminders of the band’s musical roots, but they also serve to remind us how quickly the band developed their own, relatively unique sound, as they moved into the next decade. A real bonus CD.

CDs 3 & 4 : Just listen to the high energy dynamics here. These tracks (26 in all) come from a bootleg recording made at the band’s Sasso Marconi Stadium gig in Bologna (beautiful city) in 1982. A fan in the audience had a quality tape machine and recorded the entire concert.
Majority of the tracks, understandably come from Rock Until… with a trio plucked from the band’s just released second album, Wiped Out.
And arguably, those two albums saw Raven at their fiercest and most undiluted:
Live, the ferocity of John Gallagher’s primal howl, and the eruptions of sonic turbulence that punctuate brother Mark’s fiery riffs are fine substitutes for hi fidelity. Perfectly imperfect.

A handful of the same songs, recorded at the Manchester Apollo gig earlier that year are included on this CD. You can hear the band rehearsing and refining (if that’s the right word) the huge sound that was about to lay waste to the Sasso Marconi stadium a few months later.

The package includes a most informative essay by John Tucker, highly regarded NWOBHM authority, and a de rigeur booklet of rare and previously unpublished photos.


Review by Brian McGowan

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