This album began a streak of classic record from Raven, extending all the way into the mid ‘80s. The trio consisted of drummer Rob Hunter and brothers John and Mark Gallagher, on bass/vocals and guitar respectively. They were firmly rooted in the blossoming NWOBHM scene, releasing a few singles before putting out Rock Until You Drop in 1981 on Neat Records. Trivia nerds should note that Neat Records was home for many NWOBHM talent, including Venom and Jaguar.
Raven was always ready to get rowdy, with the band lamenting about fun with women and getting down and dirty until sunrise. The songs reflect this attitude, with fist-raising riffs and high-pitched wails from John Gallagher that could shatter glass. His voice fit the music, and even hid a few surprises. His extended falsetto in “Hell Patrol” is matched by few, with one exception being Neil Turbin’s over-the-top performance on “Death From Above” from Anthrax's Fistful Of Metal.
The NWOBHM period produced an abundance of charming anthems. It’s like every band went out of their way to stack their albums with 10-12 sing-along tunes, and Raven follows the same routine. “Hard Ride” is a delightful opener, “Over The Top” is about as hum-worthy as Raven gets, and the title track includes solos from each member to give the song a live feel.
With the talking and playing around with instruments before most songs, Rock Until You Drop retains that spontaneity of a live show. It gives the album that raw emotion lacking from the majority of contemporary metal. Though Mark Gallagher handles all the guitar work here (and does a fine job at that), the songs still come off as done right in the studio with two or three guitarists present.
There isn’t much diverting from the formula for Raven, and when they do, it’s usually not a highlight. “39/40” is a brief acoustic break that doesn’t fit in with the other songs, and the pair of Sweet covers is pleasant, if not essential. Songs that work better are the Iron Maiden-inspired “Nobody’s Hero” and the lengthy closer “Tyrant of the Airways,” which tones down in the middle for a spacey instrumental spot.
Raven kept going through the ‘80s and ‘90s, changing their sound a few times (notably with the commercial The Pack Is Back), but always moving forward through the ever-changing metal landscape. The band went on hiatus in 2001 after Mark Gallagher’s legs were crushed by a falling wall in a horrific accident. A half-decade is what it took for Gallagher to get back on track. He recovered and the band came out reinvigorated on 2009’s Walk Through Fire.
Rock Until You Drop is one hell of a party album, especially with a few cold ones in you. It was a minor hit in the UK, but didn’t receive much of a reception in the U.S. (a common occurrence for 98% of NWOBHM acts). It still holds up well, minus the rough production and unnecessary acoustic interlude.
For being the opening chapter to a career that has spanned for over three decades as of 2012, Rock Until You Drop gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.