Friday, December 31, 2010


Raven are easily looked over, hidden under the hullaballoo surrounding Anvil. But unlike Anvil, who are three parts Spinal Tap and only one part prophetic metalheads, Raven are actual heavy metal pros.
They began honing their craft in Newcastle in 1974 (from the same evil town that spawned Venom and, highly recommended by this author, Newcastle Brown Ale), and never really stopped, albeit going through a lineup change when their drummer/hockey goalie went off to become a session musician for Harry Connick Jr., and being briefly interrupted by a wall falling on Mark Gallagher and crushing his legs.

 This armor could only contain the jazz hands for so long...

I never thought about Raven much until I saw them live. I saw the video for On and On and was taken by the song's catchiness, but ultimately dismissed the band as just another cheesy British act confused about whether to go heavy metal and make real music or go glam and sell records.
But Raven were never confused, and I witnessed proof of their sense of purpose and direction at one of their 35th Anniversary tour gigs.
They got off to a start - the first thing you notice about Raven on stage is that they're real cartoon characters, the Gallagher brothers look like they came straight out of Asterix and Obelix.

Unlike Anvil, who get a bit neurotic (and who can blame them? Living in Toronto's frozen suburban wastelands and working shitty jobs between gigs would depress anyone), Raven actually have a sense of humor, an attitude that metal is the funnest thing in the world (like Scott Ian from Anthrax).
At first, John Gallagher's screaming banshee vocals were a brutal assault on the ears, but after getting acclimatized, what followed was unstoppable headbanging. What's more, respect to Gallagher for singing the way he does. One of the new generation of metalheads' greatest weaknesses is that they all sound exactly the same, either singing with their cookie monster death growls or their melodic crooning whines. Original voices, like Hetfield's used to be, or Bobby Blitz's, or Rob Halford's, or of course John Gallagher's, are rare and endangered indeed.
The setlist was:
Take Control
Live at the Inferno
All For One
Breaking You Down
Rock Until You Drop
A facemelting solo by Mark Gallagher
Speed of the Reflex / Run Silent, Run Deep / Mind Over Metal
A blistering bass solo by John Gallagher
Long Day's Journey
Lambs to The Slaughter
On and On
For the Future
and for the encore, another faceblasting bass solo followed by Break the Chain / Symptom of the Universe / Won't Get Fooled Again / Summertime Blues / Genocide / Break the Chain (reprise).
Take Control, On and On and Rock Until You Drop were the highlights. The guitar solos were prodigious and John Gallagher was a major rager on the bass. Raven deliver the metal goods with such boundless enthusiasm that it's impossible not to like them.
The night ended with a hug from John Gallagher - yes, that's right, one of the UK's metal gods hugged me! One of my proudest moments.

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