Sunday, May 18, 2014

Raven - Stay Hard


There's no denying that Raven is one of most recognized bands of the NWOBHM aside from Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Saxon. They delivered hard, driving and speedy metal great enough to inspire the likes of Metallica in their early days. Their music was more than just what they called "athletic rock", it was the driving force of heavy metal as we know it, and we owe our debts to them just as much as we do Iron Maiden. But when we do owe our debts, we must stay from the albums they recorded under Atlantic Records. They were made during a time when they sold their souls to a major label, and said label wanted to make "rock stars" out of them. Their first album under Atlantic, "Stay Hard", is the beginning of the slippery slope towards the band making absolute fools of themselves.

When Raven signed to Atlantic Records, I'm pretty sure the executives told them this; "You guys have a lot of potential, but you know what, you sound too scary. You need to cut down on the speedy tempos and the violent lyrics. The kids will not buy your music if it has those things in there, they'll just run and hide under their beds and wait for those big, scary monsters that made that stuff to disappear. If you want to be rock stars that make tons and tons of money and that the kids will follow, you've gotta have people buy your stuff, and they're aren't going to buy music that sounds threatening to them." The members of Raven might have been hypnotized by the executives advice that would affect them for a few years. That advice totally shows in "Stay Hard", as the time signatures are completely stripped of their speed. There is not one song on here that has that speed that can be found in classic Raven songs found on "Wiped Out" or "All for One". Instead, we have songs that mainly have mid to slower-paced songs meant to be singles. They've even made a music video for "On and On", and man, did Raven look RIDICULOUS (more on those ridiculous looks later).

While the songs are a bit slower than usual, at least they're not abysmal, like anything on the album that would come after "Stay Hard". This is cos there is still a bit of NWOBHM magic left in Raven, even when they made this album. If you ignore the fact that the tempos are watered down, you can find traces of NWOBHM riffage in much of the songs on the album. You can find them in "When the Going gets Tough" and "Get it Right", and they prove that Raven isn't yet the band that would produce the abomination that is "The Pack is Back". They've still got some of their roots with them when they made this. On the other hand, though, the solos are a little watered down too. For example, the solo in "On and On" doesn't really sound like Mark Gallagher is really playing the guitar at all. It actually just sounds more like some 10-year-old guitar noob found his way into the studio, randomly picked up a guitar, played around with it, and recorded his playtime. The solo doesn't show as much skill as the solos in songs on Raven's previous albums, they just sound completely sloppy and unrefined.

The solos aren't the biggest thing to complain about on this album, oh no. There is a particular song on here that is a dead ringer for a sellout; "Pray for the Sun". It starts off with a completely soft, psychedelic-sounding intro that only a Pink Floyd fan could love. You would think that the song would accelerate into something that sounds even better, like something driving and at least having a NWOBHM-influenced hook. Nope! Not this time! Here you get something that Raven has never done before or since; a ballad. A soft, meatless candy-coated ballad. The complete polar opposite of what Raven was meant to be. I swear, John Gallagher's voice does not go well with a softer-sounding song like this. He's used to screaming at the top of his lungs when delivering speedy NWOBHM songs that borderline thrash metal, not ballads. It sounds like Max Cavalera of Sepultura trying to record a Rod Stewart song. It just doesn't work. Combining Mark Gallagher's rough, tough voice with sweet-sounding balladry is like combining Metallica's aggressive sound with Lou Reed's voice (and we all know how well that turned out!). Oh, and then there's the instrumental song that closes the album, "The Bottom Line". It features a horn section. All I can say is, "uh-oh, a horn section? that's never a good sign". Surely it isn't cos Raven would have never placed a horn section in their earlier albums. A NWOBHM/speed metal band with a horn section would be like putting synthesizers on an Overkill album.

Raven's sound isn't the only thing that suffered during their stint with Atlantic Records. They also had to play dress-up in order to create an image for themselves. If you look on the back of the album, you'd be in for a nasty surprise. The members of Raven don't even look like a NWOBHM band at all; They look like wannabe glam rockers. John and Mark Gallagher, have eyeliner, their hair is permed up, and worst of all, is the image of Rob "Wacko" Hunter, the drummer. I can't decide on whether to laugh or to cry when I look at him, he looks so terrible. He's decked out in a hockey outfit complete with a mask, and he's got some facepaint on his face. It's like they wanted to make Hunter the loveable star of the band that's so goofy that people would love him. It's really not like the NWOBHM giants they used to be at all. A true NWOBHM band would NEVER go that far.

Man, have I stumbled upon a truly sad case of Def Leppard's disease. Their next album, "The Pack is Back" would be even sadder, cos they've completely abandoned their roots in that album. That being said, "Stay Hard" is one of the weakest efforts put out by Raven. It had some cool riffs, yes, but it could have been better if those pesky executives at Atlantic would have been more tolerant of Raven's signature sound. The "kids" that the executives speak of might never buy albums like "All for One", but we heavy metal fans surely would. Just cos the kids won't buy the music doesn't mean that NOBODY would. Unfortunately, the executives and the kids would cast a huge, dark shadow over Raven that would last for a very long time. Enough time to crank out one more album, one that be one of the worst metal albums this side of the "Cold Lake".

Trax

1. Stay Hard
2. When The Going Gets Tough
3. On & On
4. Get It Right
5. Restless Child
6. Power & Glory
7. Pray For The Sun
8. Hard Ride
9. Extract The Action
10. Bottom Line
11. Gimme Just A Little
12. Do Or Die

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mh4d48qemrmhhxe/Stay%20Hard.zip

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the Raven albums nekro, liked them all except for Wiped Out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. cool man they are a pretty decent power metal band. thanks to my friend ronnie for letting us enjoy his money.

    ReplyDelete

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