"I think we need more people that can say, ‘I’m sober and that doesn’t make me less of a metal fan.’” Meet the people behind Raven Records, London's new heavy metal record store, coffee joint and, uniquely, alcohol-free bar

The Raven Records crew
(Image credit: Raven Records)

Camden has long had a reputation for being London’s most metal area. From legendary music venues like The Underworld, the Electric Ballroom and the Roundhouse, to beloved bars such as The Dev and The Black Heart, it’s a cornerstone of nightlife for any local – or visitor – who loves their music heavy. Raven Records is the newest – and perhaps most innovative – fixture of the community, offering not only an impressive selection of kickass records, but a fully stocked non-alcoholic bar and café.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic,” explains owner Ben Dean, who opened Raven Records with his fiancée, Chloe Marlow, in late 2023. “I got into Alcoholics Anonymous at the age of 24, so I’m over 16 years now without a drink, but I find it a bit of a struggle in terms of going out. A lot of the time, in metal bars, you’re limited to Coke, lemonade, Red Bull or water. We’re not judging people on how they drink. It’s just that, for me, I can’t drink, and I wanted to create a place where I’m comfortable with everything on offer.”

Comfort is paramount to what Raven Records provides – Ben and Chloe hope to cultivate a safe social space for metalheads and alternative music fans of all stripes. Their shop stocks albums from 80s glam metallers Cinderella to Greek black metallers Rotting Christ, and everything in between. But while their range of music is undoubtedly impressive, so is the fact that there’s a fully stocked 0% alcohol bar, offering everything from IPAs and ciders to non-alcoholic whisky.

And if you want something warmer? Raven Records also sells an array of metal-inspired hot drinks, including some decidedly kvlt coffee blends such as the “ultra dark roasts” from Black Coffee Worship (a company formed by a “Swedish-born, Liverpool-residing goth”).

Ben and Chloe met on a dating app in September 2021. Both have a deep-rooted love for metal, and while Chloe enjoys the melodic and brutal stuff alike, Ben’s music tastes have only grown more and more extreme. They also share a history of working in the music industry, he as an A&R representative and she as a DJ. So when it came to orchestrating a proposal, Ben did it in the most metal way possible: crowdsurfing during Download Festival 2023. “I went crowdsurfing dressed as a mermaid,” Ben remembers fondly. “I was hoping I’d see him on the big screen,” laughs Chloe, “but I’m quite short, so I didn’t see a thing!”

The seed for Raven Records was planted in November 2022. “I said to Ben that I’d been wanting to set up a shop for a while,” Chloe says. “He went, ‘I also want to set up a shop – this is really cool! Let’s have a think about it and see if we can make it work.’ We combined our two ideas, our two concepts, together.”

The search for a physical location took some time, however. Ben and Chloe initially eyed a shop near Shepherd’s Bush, but the deal fell through. They also scouted out a former kebab place in Tufnell Park, which Chloe reflects on as “the grimmest thing ever”.

“I’m never eating takeaway kebabs again for the rest of my life,” she laughs. Eventually, the spot at 24 Camden Road became available, putting them at the heart of the heavy community. The record-selling, bar and café components are all up and running, although there’s still room to expand. Ben and Chloe are planning to open up the decidedly Helvete-like space downstairs, so they can host tarot readings, artist signings and more.

In the longer term, the aspiration is for Raven Records to extend its influence beyond Camden and into the wider metal scene. Their ultimate goal is to set up shop at UK festivals to offer pastoral care, whether to metal fans who are trying to quit drinking, or those who just need to take a break. Ben also hopes that Raven Records will help change people’s perceptions about drinking on a night out.

“This should be a place where people can come and socialise and have a chat without having to lubricate themselves with alcohol, which I think a lot of society does at the moment,” he says. “I found Rob Halford, when he talked about being 38 years sober recently, really inspirational. I think we need more people that can stick the flag in the ground and say, ‘I’m sober, and that doesn’t make me less of a metal fan.’”

Find out more at ravenrecordshop.com. For support with alcohol addiction, visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

Raven Records

(Image credit: Press)

Raven Records

(Image credit: Press/Raven Records)
Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.