"We know we’re good - As a live band nobody can touch us": Even after almost 50 years, Raven are still playing it hot, playing it hard and playing it loud

Raven larking about
(Image credit: Jay Shredder)

Formed in Newcastle by sibling noiseniks John and Mark Gallagher (bass/vocals and guitar, respectively), Raven have performed their own unique brand of ‘athletic rock’ since 1974. 

Below, John Gallagher gives Classic Rock a preview of the US-based trio’s new album All Hell’s Breaking Loose, their fifteenth.

Lightning bolt page divider

The new album follows a longestablished Raven formula of red-hot riffs, pounding rhythms and banshee vocals, but some songs also function on a melodic level – quite a tightrope to walk. Is it hard to write in that style? 

After all these years, not really. Without wanting to sound too calculated about it, we love putting together the opposing elements of chaos, craziness and energy but basing it around structure and melody. 

Do you regret going too far down the mainstream route with the 1986 album The Pack Is Back just as Raven threatened a breakthrough? 

That album is an example of what happens when things are out of balance. We were under pressure [the album was released via a major label, Atlantic] and we were naïve. It has too much craft. Craft is what you get with Rammstein. They’ve got a lot of craft and the biggest stage show you’ve ever seen, but where’s the substance? Could that band get a pub crowd on its feet? No. You couldn’t whistle one of those songs. 

After fifteen studio albums is it hard to avoid repetition or self-parody? 

No. My brain still functions. I know if I’ve done something before. Today there are nine hundred and fifty thousand other bands, but luckily for us most of them are still playing the same old bullshit.

Last year Raven played a gig with Metallica in Florida to honour the late Jon and Marsha Zazula, who managed both bands during the eighties. 

That was a great night, and Metallica treated us like gold. The biggest accolade I could pay Metallica is that despite all that’s happened to them they are still pretty damned normal. 

Metallica opened for Raven back in 1983, and here you were supporting them. Did that cause any jealousy? 

Nah. What are you gonna do? Metallica are a phenomenon. Lars [Ulrich] is a very smart guy. He learned from other people. I never dwell on the way things turned out for Raven. Life can be tough, that’s how it goes. Without the difficult parts you don’t appreciate the good stuff. 

It’s amazing to consider that although next year marks Raven’s fiftieth anniversary, the band have never played Castle Donington, at either Monsters Of Rock or Download

It’s a closed shop. Unless you’re hand-in-glove with LiveNation you’ll never get on to those festivals. We did Bloodstock in 2005 when it was still indoors, but since then [in the UK]… nothing. 

How does that make you feel? 

Without blowing our own trumpet too loudly, we know we’re good. As a live band nobody can touch us. There will be people who haven’t got a clue who we are, but we’ll win them over because we always do. All we need is an opportunity. I hope we get it, but even if we don’t these stubborn old bastards will carry on. 

All Hell’s Breaking Loose is out now via Silver Lining Music.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.