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Music Review: Raven – Walk Through Fire

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Raven, eh? I was just a lad, straight out of school when their brand of Athletic Rock came bursting out of the North-East of England as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal exploded. Of course, what it really was, was proto-thrash. We just hadn't invented a name for it yet. So many thrash and speed bands owe a huge debt to Raven, and for a while there, in the eighties, it seemed as though the original Gallagher brothers and drummer Wacko were going to make it big.

Their first two albums, on the legendary Neat label, Rock Until You Drop and Wiped Out both breached the U.K. album charts. Heck, they even recorded the craziest version of "Born To Be Wild" ever, with Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider and Joe Gallager breaching every noise ordinance ever written.

Their third album, All For One saw them signed to Megaforce and touring the United States with Metallica and Anthrax. They based themselves in America after subsequently signing to Atlantic, and their Stay Hard album broke into the Billboard Top 100, as did the single "On And On". But despite what John Gallagher told me recently, they really did wimp out during their Atlantic tenure, and The Pack Is Back and Life's A Bitch saw their hard core fans disappear in droves.

Raven did return to their roots and Europe, albeit without drummer Rob 'Wacko' Hunter who'd decamped to the world of Grammy winning jazz albums (!), on a sturdy, if sporadic, set of albums right through until 2001 when a wall collapsed on guitarist Mark Gallagher, crushing his legs. That, naturally, put Raven on hold for most of the decade while he rehabilitated.

Now they're back with Walk Through Fire, 29 years after their memorable debut. And it does, to a degree, see them returning to the heady days of the eighties. Granted it's more mid-eighties than their first two albums, but it's remarkably vital for a band of their vintage.

Maybe it was having to take ten years off that made them buckle down and churn out some memorable riffs again, but whatever. They've certainly managed it as the opening "Against The Grain" comes crashing out of the speakers. A lot of the songs make obvious references to the struggles of the last decade. Songs like the title track, "Bulldozer," and "Long Day's Journey" all reference fighting against adversity. Musically, they break down into two camps. The speed metal of their youth, allied to a few brutal mid-tempo stompers like "Hard Road." They're equally adept at both, although the album does sag a wee bit in the middle. It's also impressive to hear the helium wail of John Gallagher still hitting all the heights of old.

The album finishes up with a couple of unnecessary tracks with a cover of the Montrose classic "Space Station No. 5" and a live version of "The King," which originally appeared on their 1988 album Nothing Exceeds Like Excess. It would have been better to close the album with "Attitude," showcasing the 13 new songs in all their glory. However, I really enjoyed it, despite being more Arthritic Rock these days. If you've never heard Raven before, then this is a worthy addition to their catalogue. But you really need those first three albums.

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About Stuart A Hamilton

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