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Raven – Metal City

I was a pimpled up 16-year old when I walked into my local record store and bought Raven’s
Stay Hard record. I remember buying the record simply on how “metal” it looked. The cover having a musclebound male torso with its skin being peeled back (by sensual female hands, of course) to reveal solid steel underneath, and the back cover having a photo of the band. I saw three leather clad tough guys, with a maniacal drummer named “Wacko!” in the middle, his helmet and facemask firmly in place. In those days, I bought anything that looked metal, and this looked metal. Of course, I put Stay Hard on that day, which caused me to dive headfirst into the Raven rabbit hole. The next day I went back and bought whatever I could find with the word Raven on it. I would’ve bought Poe’s poem if they had it.

The deeper I went into the Raven catalog the more enamored I became by the band. Their rapid fire rhythms and incredibly tight musicianship was like nothing I had ever heard before. They called this style of metal “thrash,” and Raven was at the top of the heap. It was hard for anyone to believe that all of that beautiful bombastic noise was coming from only three guys. They toured extensively too, taking out young up-and-comers like Metallica with them on the road, helping to bring this new sub-genre of thrash to the masses. We now have millions of thrash bands out there, but make no mistake, it all started with Raven and a small select few.

So, what does this trio of aging thrashers sound like now?  Listening to this
Metal City record will tempt you to Google what year it is. Raven not only sounds like they did at the beginning of their career, they sound even better. It only takes a few notes from anything on this record to realize that you’re dealing with the masters of the genre. Metallica has often sited Raven as one of those bands that is responsible for their existence. They laid the groundwork for all that followed, and their writing style here on this Metal City record affirms their influence.


The first thing that struck me square in the jaw when I put this record on was Mike Heller’s drum sound. It is sharp, energetic and filled with all kinds of intricate fills and cymbal work. It’s pure artistry, just like the work of Heller’s bandmates. Guitarist Mark Gallagher takes on the huge responsibility of matching the rhythmic energy of Heller’s frenetic pace, and he does so while adding an abundance of brilliant riffs and solos. The solos on songs like “Battlescarred” and “Top Of The Mountain” are epic. I want to hang the solo from “Top Of The Mountain” (which starts at the 2:30 mark in the song) on my wall. It’s a goddamn work of art. And perhaps the most fascinating component of Raven in 2020 is vocalist/bassist John Gallagher. His sharp and clear vocals, complete with his high-pitched screams, are exactly like they were in the early days. My throat hurts just listening to this stuff. But aside from his sustained vocal ability, John Gallagher is still one of the best bass players of the genre. He’s sliding up and down the neck and playing some incredibly complex bass lines, all while holding down the fat and heavy rhythms. Again, this is artistry – a blueprint for the way thrash should be done.  

For all the acne-riddled adolescents that put this record on as an introduction to Raven, do what I did. Dive into the band’s catalog and try to figure out how three guys can put out masterful thrash records over the course of almost 40 years and still sound sharp, fresh, vital, and relevant. While I bang my head in joyful aggression, I’m also shaking my head in wonder.

Bravo Raven, bravo!


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ARTIST INTERVIEW

John Gallagher of RAVEN


In this interview done just prior to the release of Raven's Metal City record, vocalist/bassist John Gallagher talks with us about Metal City as well as the journey through his long career in music.







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