Raven was formed in 1974 in Newcastle, England, by brothers John and Mark Gallagher, and Paul Bowden.
Raven began creating a sound which was rooted in British hard rock, with progressive rock tendencies, and a willingness to take musical chances. The band's highly energized live show and interaction between band members developed a unique image and style of play, described as "athletic". They began wearing guards, helmets, and plates from various sports (hockey, baseball, etc...), and incorporating them into the playing of their instruments (for instance, elbow pads and hockey masks were used to strike cymbals). Their music began to develop into a unique amalgam of speed and power – heavily influencing the genres of speed/thrash metal and power metal.
The band have a reputation as an extremely energetic live band – and for regularly destroying their equipment.
They started by playing local pubs and working men's clubs in the North East of England – occasionally opening shows for punk bands such as The Stranglers and The Motors.
Early years (1980–1983)
Eventually, the band signed with Neat Records, the legendary, low-budget metal label of the North. They released their 1st single "Don't Need Your Money" in 1980 and embarked on a number of UK shows opening for bands such as Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz, Motörhead, Whitesnake and Iron Maiden. Their first album Rock until You Drop was released to wide acclaim in 1981, leading the band to tour Italy and the Netherlands.
Their second album, Wiped Out was released in 1982 and was influential on creating the burgeoning thrash and speed metal genres, making an impressive showing on the UK charts at the time.
Sufficient noise was made for the American market to take notice and New Jersey's Megaforce Records signed them, issuing their next recording in the States as All for One in 1983. The band came stateside in 1983, and toured extensively on the "Kill 'em All For One" tour with young thrashers Metallica (on their first tour) as their opening act.
Commercial success (1984–1987)
The manager and founder of Megaforce Jon Zazula believed that Raven was major-label material and kept them touring constantly until the big labels noticed. The infamous Live at the Inferno recording, released in 1984, was a product of one of those tours. Atlantic Records signed Raven to a worldwide contract after a minor bidding war (major label contracts would follow for Metallica and Anthrax in the following year). The band moved its permanent base from Newcastle to New York City.
Stay Hard was released in 1985, and proved a minor hit on the strength of single and video "On and On". The Atlantic years proved to be less than stellar for the band. A drastic shift in a more commercial direction came at the label's behest, with many die-hard fans being alienated by the slick, lightweight production of The Pack Is Back. However, the band redeemed themselves with a return to form on the Mad EP in 1986 and the Life's a Bitch album in 1987, before arranging their departure from Atlantic.
After the tour for Life's a Bitch, drummer Rob "Wacko" Hunter left the band in late 1987 to spend more time with his new wife and family. He would later pursue a career in audio production and engineering, eventually working with jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr..
Post Atlantic era (1987–2000)
Joe Hasselvander (ex-Pentagram) joined as drummer in late 1987 and the band dropped the outlandish image for a more conventional denim-and-leather look for their 1988 release Nothing Exceeds Like Excess, which was self-produced and continued the band's return to form with fast, involved compositions. A concert at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia was released by Combat Records as Ultimate Revenge 2 in 1989, and featured the band on 4 cuts, alongside a number of thrash bands such as Death, Forbidden and Dark Angel. Next was a US tour opening for Testament, and then a European tour with German band Kreator. The advent of grunge and the dissolution of their record label Combat Records led the band to concentrate on continental Europe and Japan, where they retained more of a following.
In 1990 the band recorded the album Architect of Fear in Germany (again self-produced) showcasing the band's heavier side. They toured Europe in 1991 as special guests of German band Running Wild. 1992 saw the band releasing an EP called Heads Up, featuring 4 new studio songs and 3 live tracks from the 1991 tour. They again toured Europe with German band Risk as openers.
The band spent the first half of 1993 writing and demoing new material, delays ensued due to John Gallagher having a house fire and thieves stealing guitars from the remains. In the following year, the band regrouped and inked a deal with Japanese label Zero – an album entitled Glow was recorded at Showplace Studios, Dover NJ (notable for having a strip club connected to the tape closet!) The album was self-produced and varied in feel, even sporting a few ballads alongside heavier material such as "Altar" and "Enemy". A cover of Thin Lizzy's "The Rocker" also made the album. Also in 1994, the band attended and played live at the Foundations Forum metal convention in Burbank, California, alongside acts such as Korn, Yngwie Malmsteen and Machine Head.
The band toured Japan for the first time in May 1995, a live album called Destroy All Monsters/Live in Japan was recorded featuring songst from Glow, as well as older cuts such as "For the Future".
1996 was spent writing and recording a new studio album Everything Louder – sessions took place in Manassas VA at future Brett Michaels guitarist Pete Evick's studio and the recording was a frantic affair done over 4 weekends with almost no reheasal – the better to get a "live" feel onto tape. The album came out in 1997 in Japan, Europe and the US, and the band went on the road in Europe with support acts Tank and HammerFall.
1999 promised a Raven box set with the NY label Spitfire Records. However, after a "lack of communication" John took the extra live/studio/bootleg tracks and working with engineer S.A. Adams compiled a collection entitled Raw Tracks, featuring unreleased material from 1984 to the present. The band also reunited with producer Michael Wagener and worked on an album titled One for All recorded at Wagener's Wireworld Studio in Nashville TN. Following its release, the band toured opening for old friend Udo Dirkschneider's band U.D.O. in Europe and also with them in the US in 2000.
Mark Gallagher's accident, hiatus and Walk Through Fire (2001–2014)
The band recorded and toured until 2001, when a wall collapsed on guitarist Mark Gallagher, crushing his legs. Raven went on hiatus for nearly four years, from 2001 to 2004, while the guitarist rehabilitated. A number of shows were played in 2004 with Mark in the North East of the US with him in a wheelchair.
Following a number of United States shows and European festival appearances (Bloodstock Open Air in the UK in 2005, Keep it True in Germany in 2005, Bang Your Head!!! in Germany in 2006) the band started work on the new album Walk Through Fire, initially released in Japan on King Records in 2009, then securing releases in 2010 for Europe on SPV and in North America on Metal Blade. The album was well received both critically and by the fans, and the band have been steadily playing live, playing the European festival circuit, making a triumphant return to Japan, and playing their first shows in South America, returning there in 2012.
In 2013, a retrospective DVD was released, entitled Rock Until You Drop – A Long Day's Journey, featuring never before seen footage of the band from 1982 onward, interviews with musicians including; Lars Ulrich, Dee Snider, Dave Ellefson, Chuck Billy, Jon Zazula, and Chris Jericho. The band played the first full-scale tour of the US since 1989 headlining on the East Coast and joining forces for a double headlining jaunt through the West Coast with fellow UK NWOBHM stalwarts Diamond Head. November and December had the band playing Europe with old mates Girlschool as support, garnering favorable reviews for the energetic performances.
In January 2014 the band were featured on the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise from Miami to Mexico and played South America in March. Metallica invited the band to open for them at a soccer stadium in São Paulo Brazil in March 2014 in front of almost 70,000 fans. The band started work on a new album ExtermiNation in September 2014 and were special guests on three United States showcase gigs with Accept. They then played a 43 date United States tour in October and November.
In order to cover additional recording costs for a new album to be titled Extermination, the band initiated a Kickstarter crowdfunding project; in the process they recorded 11 songs
for a cover album entitled "party killers" exclusively for the contributors. The album rehearsals & recording of "party killers" were held at Etching Tin Studios in Richmond VA.
As with the Walk Through Fire album, Extermination was recorded at Assembly Line Studios in Vienna VA USA with Kevin "131" Guitierrez
engineering and the band producing. Recording took place in August 2014 with a short break as the band played special guest on three shows by the German band Accept in the USA.
The band spent a lot of time in the writing/arranging phase of the project...actual recording took approximately 2 weeks.
ExtermiNation was released in late April 2015 and consists of 14 songs plus the bonus track "Malice in Geordieland" (sung entirely in the Newcastle "Geordie" accent). It was released worldwide via SPV, except in Japan via Spiritual Beast and in South America via Die Hard. The album garnered both favorable fan reaction and critical acclaim noting the production, songwriting, performances and especially the aggression of the band which harkened back to the early albums.
A lyric video for "Destroy All Monsters" kicked off the album release...followed by a band video for "Tank Treads – The Blood Runs Red"<John Gallagher>
In 2015 the band played their first shows in Colombia – in Pereira & Bogota, where they were present for a 6.2 earthquake....then the Pentaport Festival in South Korea was followed by
dates in Japan. After a two-week run of dates in the USA the band embarked on their longest headline European tour for many years from September through October, visiting a number of countries for the
first time. <John Gallagher>
New drummer and new album (2017–present)
In May 2017 Joe Hasselvander suffered a heart attack 2 days before a string of US/European dates...in order to fulfill these obligations the Gallagher brothers had a number of drummers to assist..Jimmy Mess did the Chicago show, Mike Heller(Fear Factory, Malignancy) did 3 US dates.. Fabio
Alessandrini ( Annihilator) did the Muskelrock (Sweden) festival..and Dave Chedwick did the 11 date tour of Europe.
When it became obvious Joe Hasselvander would not be physically able to play drums for the foreseeable future, the Gallagher brothers invited Mike Heller to play the upcoming Euro festival dates they had booked (Bang Your Head, Leyendes Del Rock, Headbangers Open Air, Metal Days and Alcatraz) as his fiery playing was a perfect fit.
The band then embalked upon a 70 date European run with 50 dates as special guests on the Dirkschneider " back to the roots 2" tour...and 20 select headline shows.
Currently the band are hard at work on a new studio album.<John Gallagher>