Raven – Faster Than The Speed Of Light (3CD set)


I don’t know what they were putting in the north west’s water back in the late ‘70s, but it must have been pretty potent. Venom, White Spirit, Atomkraft, and Tygers Of Pan Tang were just some of the bands born from that fertile soil, along with the pioneers of “athletic metal”, Raven. Pivotal in the formation of both speed and thrash metal, this Tyneside trio have been terrorising crowds for well over four decades and some of that frenetic magic has been captured on the aptly-titled Faster Than The Speed Of Light. Compiling two live sets, along with a covers album, this collection finds Raven at their blistering best and spreads their magic over three speaker-melting discs.

Disc One: Live At The Inferno (1984)

Originally released in 1984 as a way to thwart label Neat Records from releasing a greatest hits compilation, Live At The Inferno pulled tracks from the bands previous three studio albums and played like a “best of”, only with added live oomph. A good live album can often encapsulate a band’s modus operandi far better than a studio outing (think The Eagle Has Landed) and Raven’s first live offering was a foot-on-monitor, horns-held-high, metal-fest of double album proportions. The extended running time mirrors an actual Raven gig, and it ebbs and flows as such with the heart-attack inducing ‘Crash! Bang! Wallop!’ nestling next to the mean and moody ‘Rock Until You Drop’, making this one of those rare beasts; a live album that authentically recreates that in-concert buzz.

In the case of a three-piece band as powerful as Raven, each band member must come to the fore. There’s no room for slackers here and drummer Rob Hunter attacks the skins with great gusto while guitarist Mark Gallagher is all over the fretboard like a rash. There’s plenty of crowd participation with vocalist John Gallagher constantly riling up the crowd, and his balls-to-the-wall falsetto, often acting like another instrument, could easily shatter glass. When he introduces ‘Let It Rip’ as “The same effect as a curry, a blast from your arse!” he’s not lying, and its sheer brute force is indicative of this record. Of all the bands who are credited as being the inspiration for thrash metal, it’s undoubtedly Raven who were the genesis, and if you don’t believe me, then get your ear ‘oles around Live At The Inferno.

Disc Two: Destroy All Monsters – Live In Japan (1995)

In the decade since the release of their first live album and Destroy All Monsters – Live In Japan, a lot had happened to Raven. From Newcastle to New York, and from indie label to major (and back again) the band experienced the ups and downs of the music industry while picking up new drummer Joe Hasselvander (ex-Pentagram) along the way. As so often is the case, a new member has revitalised the band, and Hasselvander’s hard-hitting style ensures this album packs more of a punch than Inferno, and their first ever tour of Japan was documented with this album, a 15-track stomper made in heavy metal heaven. Renowned for their rabid fandom, the Japanese audience add an extra dimension, and their excitement seems to have riled up the band, and the two fire off each other like a top spinning so fast that the colours become blurred.

The great thing about Raven is they give their fans exactly what they want, and Destroy All Monsters deals it out in spades. Raven aren’t the type of band who’ll try to slip a ballad under the radar or anything, and that make Destroy All Monsters a no-holds-barred affair. Everyone from Exodus to Onslaught has ripped off John Gallagher’s vocals, yet they’ve never been sung with the same gusto as John screams here. Cherry picking the best from the band’s discography, this affair veritably smokes with fury and even the drum solo (usually a sign to hit the bar) holds your rapt attention. Cheekily throwing in a few lines of The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ into closer ‘Break The Chain’ attests to the band’s roots and provides a fitting finale.

Disc Three: Party Killers (2005)

The past two decades have seen a craze for covers albums, and to be honest, most of them have been mediocre at best. Often the covers were mere facsimiles, which seemed pretty pointless (we have the originals for that) yet Raven’s Party Killers was an album that bucked the trend. They’ve imparted their own personality on proceedings and each of these 11-tracks are given the indelible Raven brand. It seems opening track ‘Fireball’ was waiting for the Raven treatment, and if any vocalist could match Ian Gillan pound for pound, then its surely John Gallagher, while the bass solo mid-song allows him to display his finger skills. Likewise, the guitar solo allow his brother Mark to unleash fretboard fireworks as Hasselvander charges forward like a rhinoceros on speed.

Of course, Party Killers doesn’t always work and Thin Lizzy’s ‘Bad Reputation’ sounds a little strange with two guitars entwining mid-song. However, that proves to be the exception rather than the rule as Raven stomp all over Budgie’s ‘In For The Kill’ and Nazareth’s ‘Too Bad, Too Sad’. There are some deep, unexpected cuts too, such as Queen’s ‘Ogre Battle’ and while you might remember Sweet as “only” a glam band, Raven will make you think again with their insidious version of ‘Cockroach’. Party Killers isn’t the type of album you should take too seriously, rather it should be cranked out on a boozy Saturday evening. So, get those beers in…

Track List:

Disc One: Live At The Inferno (1984)

  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. Firepower
  16. Don’t Need Your Money
  17. Break The Chain
  18. Hell Patrol
  19. Live At The Inferno

Disc Two: Destroy All Monsters – Live In Japan (1995)

  1. Victim
  2. Live At The Inferno
  3. Crash! Bang! Wallop!
  4. True Believer
  5. Medley: Into The Jaws Of Death/Hard As Nails/Die For Allah
  6. Guitar Solo
  7. Medley: Speed Of The Reflex/Run Silent, Run Deep/Mind Over Metal
  8. Gimme A Reason
  9. Inquisitor
  10. For The Future
  11. Bass Solo
  12. Architect Of Fear
  13. White Hot Anger
  14. Drum Solo
  15. Break The Chain

Disc Three: Party Killers (2015)

  1. Fireball (Originally by Deep Purple)
  2. Bad Reputation (Originally by Thin Lizzy)
  3. He’s A Whore (Originally by Cheap Trick)
  4. In For The Kill (Originally by Budgie)
  5. Is There A Better Way (Originally by Status Quo)
  6. Ogre Battle (Originally by Queen)
  7. Queen Of My Dreams (Originally by Edgar Winter Group)
  8. Too Bad, So Sad (Originally by Nazareth)
  9. Cockroach (Originally by Sweet)
  10. Tak Me Bak ‘Ome (Originally by Slade)
  11. Hang On To Yourself (Originally by David Bowie)