1983 was an incredible time to be the NWOBHM troupe known as Raven. With a very solid debut album (1981′s Rock Until You Drop) and an extraordinary sophomore release (1982′s Wiped Out) that is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the first Speed Metal albums ever, the young band found themselves with incredible upward momentum. With that in mind, the then current line-up of John (Bass and Vocals) and Mark (Guitar) Gallagher, plus Rob “Wacko” Hunter (Drums) needed to choose whether or not to continue on the road toward hyper-speed annihilation or to switch gears and create a bulkier, skull-crushing, marginally more melodic affair. They chose to split the difference.
From the second John let’s loose his unhinged, raw falsetto at the opening of “Take Control”, the changes in Raven are all too clear. The ever so slight speed reduction from the previous album does nothing but let Wacko crush skulls like everyone knew he could. That new found percussive power lets Mark and John’s work breathe, letting them perfect the AC/DC caliber groove that some previous Raven songs had nearly achieved. A literal bang of an opening salvo.
“Mind Over Metal” is up next, showing that Raven hasn’t so much slowed down as they have learned to use both pedals. Achieving roughly the same pace as classic B-Side “Wiped Out”, the track is one of the bands best ode’s to the Rock club experience. Even John’s vocals have become more controlled, more varied, while remaining the pure sonic incarnation teenaged chaos. Every note is a challenged issued to the listener as he accomplishes inhuman insanity through “Sledgehammer Rock” and combat anthem “All For One”.
Coming through as the A side’s final track is arguably Raven’s finest moment: “Run Silent, Run Deep”. Musically the perfect summary on this record’s thesis on the use of varied velocities in the creation of raw power, it also manages to tell a compelling story of a U-Boat Captain and his ship as they’re persude through the darkness of the Atlantic by Allied destroyers. The instrumental bridge even serves as the perfect illustration, conjuring images of the submarine creeping through the ocean, depth charges exploding all around like lightning in a deep-sea thunderstorm.
Following up that magnum opus is another groove-laden speedball known as “Hung, Drawn, and Quartered”. Lyrically a precursor to the gore fixation of early 90s Death Metal, a tale of torture and execution, it also let’s loose with Marks most manic solo on the whole album. “Take Control’s” lead-booted cousin,”Breaking the Chain”, and a tantrum against tax-collection called “Take It Away” follow suit, combining for the second side’s 1-2 punch combo prelude before ”Seek and Destroy”‘s nuclear apocalypse.
Album closer ”Athletic Rock” is, quite simply, the period on the end of Raven’s early, golden-age. Functioning as a de-facto title track for the boys, you can tell by the performances that all involved were smiling as this was committed to tape. This was Raven’s take no prisoners, our way or the highway statement. A fun, groovy, neck-snapping track.
Coming in to the Neat Records catalogue at number 1011, All For One was produced by a german duo under the shared psuedonym of “Double Trouble”. A searing, state-of-the-art production would be applied: a smoked and grissled exterior encapsulating a fine-tuned engine. An essential component of this record’s core and, let’s face it, one could expect nothing less from Udo Dirkschnieder and Michael Wagener.
Raven would grab their greatest level of success on the back of this record, touring America with Metallica on the now infamous Kill ‘Em All For One tour. They would also be picked up by Atlantic Records on the strength of All For One, and would record the under-rated Stay Hard and the dismal The Pack is Back. Soon after they would return to their original style, but they would sadly never achieve the heights they could have had it not been for their major-label handlers.
Regardless, All For One is nothing short of a monument. A legendary opus in the early years of Speed Metal that has undoubtedly inspired many a Metalhead to push their playing and songcraft to outrageous and over-the-top heights of hysteria. For that, three dudes from Newcastle will remain an ever growing colossus in the pantheon of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Rating: \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ (10 out of 10)