There is a story I’ve heard several times from my old friend Aaron Rubin (note 1: bass player for SAMIAM when they got signed to Atlantic, earlier bass player for MR. T EXPERIENCE, first bass player for I LOVE YOU, later for the ACTIONSLACKS and others) (note 2: turned me on to the PIXIES, Funhouse, THE FASTBACKS, THE CHILD MOLESTERS, Young Loud and Snotty, RADIO BIRDMAN, THE CELIBATE RIFLES, and many others) (note 3: got censured by “free speech” KALX radio in Berkeley for doing a whole show of songs about underage girls) (note 4: was down the hall from me in Berkeley dorms in fall 1986 and later spent time walking with me between Wittgenstein seminar and Kant seminar seriously thinking these things mattered, which was way crazier than thinking pop music matters)
Anyway, the story goes that he was talking to his younger brother’s metal friends. He mentioned that RAVEN was the craziest, heaviest thing out there. They laughed at him and cited SLAYER. That was an important moment.
It was important because before the advent of palm muting and downtuning, RAVEN were going to extremes on the high end of the register. This is Maiden and Priest up the fretboard til there aren’t any notes left. After them, the only place to go was down.
RAVEN were/are a three piece. Brothers Mark and John Gallagher handled bass/vocals and guitar, respectively. In their heyday, “Wacko” Rob Hunter handled the mighty drum kit and played with a hockey helmet to hit the cymbals with his head.
Their first three albums (Rock Til You Drop, Wiped Out and All For One) are essential. (If we’re countin comps, double live Live at the Inferno caps off the first era nicely.) Wiped Out may as well be punk it’s so fast, except for the hooks, solos and screams that would make Geddy Lee proud.
And they sang about stuff like guitar amps having a gun fight (“The Ballad of Marshall Stack”) and the theory of relativity (“Faster than the Speed of Light”). They even tried to launch a new fad that fat Sbarro mall kids would be smart to follow: “athletic rock.” Then they got signed to a major, all started wearing hockey outfits, and drank their own Kool Aid, never to return.
It’s fairly well known that RAVEN's Black album, All For One, launched the tour that launched Metallica. Psycho metal writer Martin Popoff thinks Dave Mustaine had the rhythms of this masterwerk in his subconscious for “Symphony of Destruction.”
RAVEN are still around, playing a few festivals and showing the youngsters how it’s done. They never got back to that pinnacle of All For One but that is partially due to many forces outside their control. So track down Wiped Out or All For One. It’s a Crash, Bang, Walloprockin’ good workout.