New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Raven were no strangers to playing Halloween shows in the New York City area – their first American gig ever had been just over 4 years to the day, October 30, 1982, when they opened for Riot and Anvil in Staten Island at the ‘Halloween Headbangers’ Ball.’
Raven hail from Newcastle, in England, and their first three albums – Rock Until You Drop (1981), Wiped Out (1982) and All For One (1983) – still stand as ahead-of-their-timel classics, raw, fast real metal records, all hailed being massively influential to the thrash metal scene in the later 80s.
The band – made up of brothers John and Mark Gallagher on bass/vocals and guitar, and hockey-helmeted Rob ‘Wacko’ Hunter on drums – had also made significant headway in the USA in the early/mid-80s, first with a New York/New Jersey-area late 1982 tour with Anvil, and then the legendary ‘Kill Em All For One’ US tour in 1983, where the band had crossed the States with opening band Metallica, bringing underground metal to all corners of America.
By the time of their 1984 ‘Live at the Inferno’ US tour (with New York’s own Anthrax as support band), the band were signed to legendary NY/NJ metal indie label Megaforce Records, and big enough to sell out Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, where they headlined in August 1984 with Metallica and Anthrax opening – a show which resulted in Raven (by this time New York State residents, living in Cortland, NY) being signed to major label Atlantic Records.
Opinions differ on whether the band’s Atlantic Records output advanced their career, or damaged it. The 1985 album, ‘Stay Hard’, certainly raised the band’s profile outside the metal underground, especially via the MTV video for the single “On & On”, but their hardcore metal demographic scoffed at the less-thrashing sound of Stay Hard, and the rear-cover photo of the band looking more airbrushed and cleaned-up, as opposed to their more street-level, rough-hewn image of yore.
Their underground credibility was further damaged by the early 1986 LP The Pack Is Back, on which producer Eddie Kramer gave them a more slick, polished sound, and the band dabbled with guitar synths and a more commercial sound. The band’s slicker sound on TBIB, combined with a frankly ill-advised album cover, featuring the costumed band bursting out of sports lockers, damaged their standing with the growing thrash metal audience, yet was still too heavy to appeal to the Ratt and Motley Crue demographic.
In Summer 1986 the band righted the ship with the ‘Raven Mad’ EP, a welcome, raw return to form after the woefully overproduced and unusually weak The Pack is Back LP. This Halloween 1986 gig was the final date of the ‘Mad’ tour, after which they went upstate to make follow-up album Life’s A Bitch.
First band Never More did not impress: strange, horror-themed costumes and warbling vocals, terrible stuff. Second band Liege Lord were much better, Iron Maiden-stye metal, fast and powerful.
Raven, however, were on total form this night and erased any concerns that the TPIB record had changed their high-intensity metal assault. L’Amour was pretty packed, and the set-list was fantastic – the band hit the stage with the All For One-era classic “Hung, Drawn & Quartered”, high-speed and raging, straight into the then-recent “Stay Hard,” heaver live than he recorded version. The set featured more stuff (5 songs) from the great ‘All For One’ than any other album, three tunes each from ‘Mad’ and ‘Rock Until You Drop’ (including the classic 1980 debut 7” single “I Don’t Need Your Money”), a couple from “Stay Hard” (the title track and the “hit”, “On & On”) and only one from The Pack Is Back: “Young Blood” which sounded much heavier live than on the record.
The only album they skipped was ‘Wiped Out,’ which is the only remotely negative thing I can say about this amazing show. Early in the gig John Gallagher’s wireless mike packed it in, and he played most of the show singing at a mike stand, which gave it a cool ‘early Raven’ vibe. The encore included a cover of the Status Quo song “Big Fat Mama” which, because we are in America, almost no one recognized, and they finished with the classic “Hell Patrol” from the first LP, with the band virtually destroying the stage at the end, Wacko tearing his drum set to pieces, and John Gallagher hanging over the crowd from ceiling pipes. Truly, the band erased any fears that The Pack Is Back had turned them into lightweights. A tremendous show.
Three and a half decades later, the band is still going strong, with a new drummer and a killer 2020 album, Metal City. All hail Raven!
Raven at L’Amour, Brooklyn, NY, October 31, 1986
Setlist: Hung, Drawn & Quartered/Stay Hard/Gimme Just A Little/All For One/Young Blood/Mark Gallagher Solo/Speed Of The Reflex/I Don’t Need Your Money/Rock Until You Drop/John Gallagher solo/On & On/Seek & Destroy/Break The Chain/Mind Over Metal. Encores: Do or Die [w/ drum solo]/Big Fat Mama/Hell Patrol.