Sunday, May 18, 2014

Raven - Live at the Inferno

After Raven put out those 3 pioneer metal masterpieces in a row, it was the right time to release a live record. The Newcastle lunatic trio reached their finest moment that glorious year and went on tour to conquer the States. Metallica, Exodus and Anthrax opened for them in those cathartic legendary shows, with the band at their best, going crazy on each number. It was really exciting, for those who didn’t have the chance to be at those gigs specially, to check out if the group would offer something as perfect and incredible as their supreme studio work. This double long-play features a huge bunch of classics that give you the opportunity to enjoy Raven on stage and makes clear they prefer it to perform on a cold boring studio.

Once the Bach “Toccata And Fugue In D-Minor” intro is over and the band attack with that short “Live At The Inferno” prelude, you’d better get ready to headbang because action has just started and it won’t stop during the 20 cuts of this record. The material from the new album they were introducing to the fans in that famous 1983 Kill ‘Em All For One tour sounds immense, powerful and merciless. “Take Control”, “Mind Over Metal” and “All For One” are performed with stunning passion, guts and energy. The studio versions are incredible, but these live ones are even wilder and bestial. Mark Gallagher’s tremendous killer riffs are brutal on the second LP tracks “Fire Power”, “Star War” and “Faster Than The Speed Of Light” as well, that last one in particular is faster, harder, louder than any other number on the pack, totally thrashy, with Wacko beating his double bass-drums with rage and fury. “Hell Patrol” (John Gallagher emulates Ian Gillan’s unforgettable screams on that one), “Rock Until You Drop” and “Crazy World” are absolutely intense and relentless, featuring that outrageous combination of weighty heavy riffs and hooks, frantic loose speedy tempos that achieve a higher level of virtuosism and vigor than on the studio originals. The magnificent skills, musicianship and creativity of these crazy mad guys is admirable on the progressive instrumental passages of the hyperactive “Crash Bang Wallop”, “I Don’t Need Your Money” or “Let It Rip”, which are a brilliant exhibition of raw speed metal with rough riff sequences that vary during the compositions with coherent complicated alterations, along with unpredictable rhythm changes, superb bridges and elaborated breaks, and insane shredding pickin’ parts. Both Mark and John shred like crazy during the whole album, making an exposure of controlled complex technique with their insatiable fast fingers, far from the incompetence of those who just wanted to play fast to impress all the chicks. “Forbidden Planet” (tribute to Fred M. Wilcox’s sci-fi classic movie) and “I.G.A.R.B.O.” are the proof of the Gallagher brothers talent, consistent tapping technique with no weak spot, they whip Eddie Van Halen at his own game.

The most superb moments of the set are the 2 in 1 track “Tyrant Of The Airways/Run Silent, Run Deep” and “Live At The Inferno”, which make clear why they were introduced as England’s fastest metal in the concert posters and tickets of that tour. Did anybody make it like that by the early 80’s? Definitely not that aggressive, violent and dynamic as this hyperactive threesome. When you listen to songs like “Break The Chain” and “Wiped Out”, is easy for you to imagine Mark and John headbanging to their music and running from side to side of the stage, making the crowd go crazy with their insane facial expressions, charisma and presence. The atmosphere and climax on each number is so intense, with the audience clapping, screaming and singing along all the lyrics, moshing in those early 80’s primitive pits that impressed Raven themselves, who never saw anything similar in their home continent. Once again I must highlight the extremely high tone John Gallagher performs on his terrifying screaming lines, he doesn’t miss a single note and reaches each during the whole long-play. He never gets exhausted or unable to sing like a tenor, even after 82 minutes of raw shouting. That is the vocal style that influenced people like Schmier, Mille, Tom Araya or Stace Sheepdog Mclaren. Mark Gallagher’s guitar work is solid and harsh, each tough riff, hook, solo, pull-off and harmony is executed perfectly, I think it’s time to give that guitar god the credits and recognition he deserves for such a superior job during more than 30 years by now. These 19 tracks demonstrate what he is able to do and create. And what can I say about Rob Hunter? He’s one of the true pioneers of double bass-drum blast beats and rhythms, like you can check here. His impressive performance is plenty of virtuosism and technical details; I can imagine him wearing his distinctive American football helmet, hitting the cymbals with it, simply spectacular. Other people did something similar, Thunderstick for example wore a mask on stage, but only Wacko had that unique power and professional skills, still I wonder why is he so underrated.

The 70’s had passed and the rock/metal scene changed into something completely different, including the live concerts. Black Sabbath already back then, Judas Priest, Motörhead and each NWOBHM group would play their songs on stage with the same structure they used in the studio, away from the complex impossible alternative arrangements and lenghty improvisated jams of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow or King Crimson and many other classic bands. Raven weren’t an exception and most of the songs here, apart from some numbers, don’t offer something different to what we heard before on the studio album...if we refer to composition structures and patterns. But the power, strenght and unbeatable sound live is definitely bigger and greater, that’s what makes this stuff reach a higher level than the original versions. What you will find here is perfection, catharsis and ecstasy, the culmination of genuine speed metal at is best. As John himself sang on the title-track: “Do you want it loud?”.

Raven are remembered by quite a few people as "That band who toured with Metallica". It's a shame really because this band surely can pack a punch, and this live album catches them on one of the better nights.

What we have here is a live album containing material from their previous 3 studio efforts. It's a nice little collection and is basically all a casual fan of the band would need to get a feel for their early NWOBHM sound. This basically contains every early 80s heavy metal cliche, spandex clad front men, swinging drum beats, high pitches yells and screams, big riffs, even bigger guitar solos and generally great, upbeat music. This is a live album in one of it's purest forms, as the album in lay proclaims "There are absolutely no overdubs on this album!" which is really the way it's meant to be. Pure early 80s heavy metal with all the trimmings, great stuff. This album really shows that Iron Maiden definitely weren't the definitive NWOBHM band, more often than not that album sounds alot better than alot of what Maiden have done.

The only real bad point of this album is the final track, "Live At The Inferno". The song itself is great, it's just the crazy "metal ending" that lasts about 5 minutes at the end of the song which sucks, there's only so much out of key fret wanking, trem picked guitar chords and random cymbal bashing anyone can take, if I wanted that I could go and buy the new Nile album. But overall I guess that's just another heavy metal cliche, and this album is just brilliant to listen to.


1. Intro/Live at the Inferno
2. Take control
3. Mind over Metal
4. Crash Bang Wallop
5. Rock Until You Drop
6. Faster Than The Speed of Light
7. All For One
8. Forbidden Planet
9. Star Wars
10. Tyrant of the Airways/Run Silent, Run Deep
11. Crazy World
12. Let it Rip
13. I.G.A.R.B.O.
14. Wiped Out
15. Fire Power
16. I Don't Need Your Money
17. Break The Chain
18. Hell Patrol
19. Live At The Inferno

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