RAVEN / WRATH / SPEEDFREAK / CRUSADIST
This could have been a tough one as it was the Thanksgiving week and maybe the focus was not on going to a concert. On the other side of this coin, there was RAVEN, a band that has proven its worth at any given chance and therefore getting one’s mind off the holiday spirit and into the headbanging mood did not require a lot of effort. Indeed, entering Reggies minutes before the WRATH set, proved that Chicago is a good location for RAVEN and inside the venue was already a buzzing atmosphere.
WRATH were ready to hit the stage with a brand new album under their belt, and their enthusiasm was obvious. Yes, “Rage” was hot from the press and the Chicagoan band made sure to let everyone know about it by setting two banners onstage with the album’s cover artwork. Like in previous show by this band, there was a strong support of WRATH fans in the first rows and this is always a plus because no one likes the awkwardness during an opening act’s setlist. Especially in instances like this one, where the band onstage is proven to deliver the goods that in WRATH’s case Thrash was in store for us. As it was expected, WRATH kicked off their set with a song straight from the new album, with “Tension On High” being the appropriate kick-in-the-butt I needed to dust my shoulders off from the stress of a working day. There was a lot of excitement on the stage, and soon enough it was spread among the metalheads inside Reggies who had grown in numbers by then. “How are you tonight?” Gary Golwitzer asked but did not wait much for an answer because WRATH were looking to fit as much music as they could in the time given. The pounding “Mutants” hit us hard with the snare-drum driven intro and without pausing gave its spot to “Draw Blood”, also from the new album. This has become a setlist favorite of mine long before the album release, and this is kind of unconventional when considering that liking the music from a studio recording before going to a concert is the norm. On the other hand, if a song sounds great live, then you don’t really need to affirm this by listening to the studio version, right? “Insane Society” is a killer song straight from the ‘90s with an awesome TESTAMENT vibe that works like a charm in a concert setting, and is also a nostalgic reminder of the days when MTV actually meant musical television and not the nowadays full of “reality TV” crap version. The last old-mixed-with-new combo featured “Abuse It (‘Till It Bleeds)” and “My Rage”, and I have to admit the transition was smoother that one would be expecting considering the three decades separating the albums those songs come from. In the usual tradition, the set ended with the “Ace Of Spades” cover that served its purpose getting everyone involved no matter whether they liked WRATH or not. Although, if I were to choose, I would say that the scales lean in favor of WRATH who I have seen getting better and better with each and every show. Check ‘em out.
01. “Tensions On High”
03. “Draw Blood”
04. “Insane Society”
05. “Abuse It (‘Till It Bleeds)”
06. “My Rage”
07. “Ace Of Spades” (MOTÖRHEAD cover)
(click to enlarge)
There are a lot of things happening in the RAVEN camp, starting off with the release of a live recorded album all the way to a brand new studio LP. That’s right; the NWOBHM legends are still going strong and keep releasing concert-worthy material and do not rely exclusively on the old songs. RAVEN is what I like to call a musicians’ band and not a performers’ band and this means sweating your arse off in the studio to write setlist-worthy music.
Like in every RAVEN concert (especially of this age), watching the Gallagher brothers setting up their gear has nothing to do with what’s happening once the music starts off. It is like calm before the storm and, on top of this, it is quite easy to think that the years have taken their toll… Well, this may be true to some extent but once the lights are off and the music starts blasting off the PAs, then you better hold your socks unless you want them blown off... That’s right; John showed up first onstage and asked “Let me hear you!” and then let his brother pull the trigger with the “Take Control” riff. Oh yeah, the trademark rhythm of this hit-song along with John’s scream removed age from the RAVEN equation from the get-go. Behind the drums sits Mike Heller and not the iconic figure of Joe Hasselvander who had to hang his drum-sticks for good after his health issue (I hope he’s doing great). Anyways, Mike seems like a good fit and he matches the youngsters’ enthusiasm the Gallagher brothers have in abundance. To prove my point about RAVEN being a musicians’ band, “Destroy All Monsters” came without pausing and to my delight lots of metalheads knew the chorus and were eager to sing-along. Indeed, this has become a must-have in setlists making me feel more excited about the band’s next studio effort but more about this in a sec...
“Good evening, how are you doing, Chicago? Thank you for battling the cold on a Tuesday to be with us!” John said and he was absolutely right. Aside from Thanksgiving being so close, the weather had put his coldest November face and could have been a good reason for not leaving your home. Fortunately, lots of people did not choose to do this, and instead became parts of “Hell Patrol”. Mark and his crazy-ass grimaces added an extra flavor to RAVEN’s Athletic Rock (I love this term) and I knew what would follow after his rhetoric question: “Are you with us?”... and that was another rhetoric / trademark question asked by his brother: “Are we all together?” Damn, this gives me goosebumps each and every time, and of course the fists started pumping (some jumping up and down happened too) the moment “All For One” started. For some reason the Reggies stage lights were not fully on, but this soon changed after Mark asked for some more lights, and once this happened, he added: “Now I can see the white of your eyes” before getting back to business with “Hung, Drawn & Quartered”.
John introduced Mike and then let everyone know that RAVEN will be releasing a live-recorded album which was done without them knowing it at show in Aalborg which he added “sounds like a Danish testicular disease” in the trademark British way of humor. Apparently this was not the only news we learned that night. You see, RAVEN are working on a new studio album too and that Tuesday night we got the chance to get a nice sample with the song “Top Of The Mountain”. This turned out to be a RAVEN pounder with a killer main riff and a catchy chorus that I think made this a great addition to future setlists. That was a great new album teaser alright! And to follow this with “Rock Until You Drop” made it clear(er) that RAVEN still have the song-writing mojo, mixing the really old with the really new. Ok, the guitar solo could have been a tad shorter, although it is super-entertaining watching Mark delivering the goods and being all over the place at the same time, but soon we were back at it with “Faster Than The Speed Of Light”. “This song is very important because it is dedicated to you, the fans” John said before “Mind Over Metal” that went down frickin’ awesome. But this was not the only dedication John made that night; “Are there any veterans here tonight?” he asked and I believe he got a positive response before dedicating “Fire Power” to them.
“Stay Hard” still remains the less played RAVEN record (along with “The Pack Is Back”) but “On And On” is a killer concert song and I enjoy singing-along the chorus every time, and this was not an exception. I have made a promise to myself to give these albums another chance and will do so. To honor the festive days approaching, John started his bass sole with “Silent Night” but soon enough he added “Oh, fuck Xmas!” and switched gears to something different. Following RAVEN’s usual tactics, the bass solo led to “Break The Chain” and the covers medley that goes with it. We got “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)”, “Born To Be Wild” and “Rock Bottom” – unless I am forgetting something – before circling back to “Break The Chain”. This was the moment for RAVEN to say the first ‘goodnight’ for the night, but we knew that it would not last. Yeah, the pack was back (pun intended) with “Wiped Out” and “Seek And Destroy” putting one more great RAVEN show in the books. Despite the sweat and the energy this band put onstage, RAVEN took some time after the set to greet the fans who remained inside Reggies for that reason. No, this was not a paid event, but a gesture to keep the connection with the fans strong, and it was greatly appreciated. I am sure we will get this NWOBHM machine back as soon as the new album has hit the stores!
01. “Take Control”
02. “Destroy All Monsters”
03. “Hell Patrol”
04. “All For One”
05. “Hung, Drawn & Quartered”
06. “Top Of The Mountain”
07. “Rock Until You Drop”
08. Guitar Solo
09. “Faster Than The Speed Of Light”
10. “Mind Over Metal”
11. “Fire Power”
12. “Wiped Out”
13. “Seek And Destroy”
(click to enlarge)