Heavy metal veterans Raven are playing in Edinburgh tonight, their first show in Scotland’s capital since 1982. This was precisely a year before their seminal All for One album came out, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. This tour pays tribute to this release by having the band play it from start to end. Bannerman’s is a cavernous yet cosy venue and its busy for this rare Raven appearance.
Raven waste no time igniting their set with Destroy All Monsters from their 2015 EtermiNation full-length. The volume is surprisingly loud and initially the sound quality is sluggish, but is rectified promptly as the song progresses. Formed by Newcastle brothers John and Mark Gallagher in 1974, the energy of these Englishmen puts bands a third of their age to shame. Their music is entertaining in itself but their engaging stage presence and animated expressions, ensure eyeballs are glued to the band. The fans’ collective gratification is delayed as the trio play a few highlights from throughout their career before opening up All For One. Rock Until You Drop, Top of the Mountain and Faster Than the Speed of Light are frenetic and bristling with adrenaline. Mark Gallagher also dishes up a fret-melting heavy guitar solo, something that feels sorely absent from too many metal live experiences these days.
Then Raven get to the pièce de résistance; All for One. “From soup to nuts,” as bassist and singer John Gallagher remarks. Opener Take Control gets heads banging and fans singing along. Impressively, John can still reach those lofty high-pitched notes, illustrative of the importance of looking after your voice as a heavy metal singer. In 2018, long-time Raven drummer Joe Hasselvander left the band. His position has since been filled by Joe Heller, former skin slammer in a range of bands including Fear Factory and Malignancy. Heller does a fantastic job of not only occupying the drum stool but also in modifying the songs with heavy double bass drumming, which raises the crushing power, compliments Mark’s increasingly heavy guitar riffs and ultimately refreshes the songs in a hyper beneficial way.
John Gallagher reminds the crowd of the importance of metal in our lives – it’s not just a phase; it’s an all-consuming passion that plays a core part in our lives. This segues into the catchy Mind Over Metal and it’s really classic after classic. The epic Run Silent, Run Deep makes the mood ore serious, while the unifying and punchy All for One demands a raucous response. John introduces Hung, Drawn and Quartered as being about “The only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions,” and Seek and Destroy sharing the same name as a song from a bunch of lads in the ’80s from the West Coast….but John assures us that Raven’s version is heavier, much heavier. Here, John leaves the stage to get intimate with the crowd and play bass in the audience.
Before long, it’s time for the genre Raven picked for the unique take on the new wave of British heavy metal, Athletic Rock. This is an accurate description of their musical and stage abilities today and it’s hard not to sing along. The punters are eager for just one more song and are rewarded with the vicious Chain Saw, a poignant reminder of these classic metallers’ abilities to devastate a venue nearly half a century after their inception.