While the rest of Amherst was off exploring the inner recesses of their eyelids, 30 or so brave souls ventured out to The Forvm on a Wednesday night to see if one of the forgotten gems from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was still capable of embodying thrash gone wild.
Who was it, you might ask?
Well, don’t feel bad if you’re in the dark, because local publicity didn’t exactly reach a fever pitch in the weeks leading up to their arrival.
The answer is Raven, the influential trio led by siblings John and Mark Gallagher, both of whom remain in complete command of their musical powers to this day. John’s pitch is impossibly potent after more than 30 years in the business while Mark’s six-string attack appears to get more feral as the set progresses.
They hit the stage around 10:45 p.m., and spent the next 90 minutes rewarding those who came out to support them by opening the door on classic cuts from “Rock until You Drop” and “All for One.”
For those in the know, both albums are considered sacred pillars of the NWOBHM philosophy due to their production and battering ram subtlety, and I think the owner of the venue should be applauded for bringing them to Western New York. There’s something about experiencing an underground band surge its way back from the dead with such force and conviction that makes the entire universe feel at peace, if only for that moment.
When I walked in and saw the flurry of fans wearing denim laden with vintage patches from Saxon, Accept, and Iron Maiden, I knew I was in good company. Appreciating heavy metal transcends mere music, folks, and the spirited lads from Raven are living proof that it’s a lifestyle you never have to grow out of.
Opening the show were homegrown talents Herod and Hair Nation, and both ignited the crowd as much they could under the circumstances.
Herod displayed a frantic mixture of thrash riffs and hardcore vocals, but the absence of a pit made the whole presentation feel a bit underdeveloped. Still, frontman Jesse Benker has all the makings of a leader, and the band brought it despite not really having any audience participation to propel them.
Hair Nation, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about the bar’s inertia, because vocalist Jim Crean was on a mission from Dio to make sure everyone in attendance had their fists in the air. As one of this area’s in-demand party bands, Crean and Co. aim to please with a collection of ‘80s staples guaranteed to strike a chord with metalheads of all ages.
“Shout at the Devil,” “Youth Gone Wild,” and “Balls to the Wall” were just a few of the songs trotted out on this night, with Crean singing his heart out every time without fail. Drummer Colleen Covo anchored the ship with authority and fill-in guitarist Dan Kaplin never missed a beat throughout his solos.
Not bad for a Wednesday night in Amherst.