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Over The Top! Neat Years 1981-1984

Review by Gary Hill

Raven is considered to be one of the original bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They are also considered to be a huge influence on thrash. You will hear both of those things present on this four CD box set. The disc includes their Neat Records catalog. A lot of die-hard fans consider those to be their best albums. You can get all of that here with bonus tracks. The four CDs are each contained in mini-record sleeves (the live album is in a gatefold version). The whole set is in a clamshell cardboard box with an informative fold-out poster/booklet. This is a great set that serves as an excellent introduction to an important band. I should note that I've also reviewed the debut album as a separate retro review in this issue Music Street Journal. The track review here is the same as the one for that one (although this includes the bonus tracks). I'd recommend getting this over buying the separate discs, though. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Accept's Udo Dirkschneider guests on the third studio release.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
CD1 Rock Until You Drop (1981)
Hard Ride

They waste no time. A count in gives way to hard rocking sound. This is part AC/DC, part pure metal and part punk rock. This is fierce, catchy and so cool.

Hell Patrol
This definitely makes me think of early Iron Maiden. This is another metal screamer. It's not as instantly accessible as the opener was, but the guitar riffs are all class. I can make out some K.K. Downing in some of the little guitar fills here. The closing section really reinforces the Judas Priest thing.
Don't Need Your Money
Fierce old-school metal is on display here. This has more of a mainstream hard rock vibe to some of the vocal parts. There is even a punky edge to this in some ways. Iron Maiden is a valid reference again.
Over the Top
As cool as everything to this point has been, this ups the ante. It's a screaming hot, raw metal stomper. It's one of the best cuts of the whole first CD.
Less than a minute long, this instrumental features delicate and melodic acoustic guitar work. It's a classy piece and a nice interlude.
For the Future
Feeling even fiercer after the sedate piece that came before, the opening riff on this again makes me think of Judas Priest. These guys drive out into some killer raw metal from there. The sound on this is classic and very strong. It's easy to see how this influenced Metallica and the thrash scene, but I think Motley Crue took something from this, too. The closing bit definitely has that early Metallica thing at its core.
Rock Until You Drop
The title track comes in percussive. It launches out with an almost raunch and roll kind of vibe. There are some cool instrumental breaks on this thing. The vocal sections are pretty straightforward hard rock, but those instrumental bits definite foreshadow thrash.
Nobody's Hero
Frantic, furious and very cool, this is screaming hot rocker. It gets a bit of a parental advisory on the lyrics. This is another that calls to mind Iron Maiden. It's also another that's an obvious precursor to Metallica and the whole thrash school. There are some intriguing shifts and changes on this.
No frills hard rock meets metal on the screaming first half of this. They turn it out into a punk meets early metal version of the classic Sweet tune for the second part.
Lambs to the Slaughter
This definitely makes me think of "Steeler" by Judas Priest. It's high energy, fierce and so tasty.
Tyrant of the Airways
There is a furious, vicious edge to a lot of this song. Yet that ferocity is tempered by a melodic mellower movement, too.
Bonus Tracks
Wiped Out

This is fast paced, seriously hard rocking and so cool. It has some awesome guitar work. The vocals are often literally screaming.

Crazy World
Another furious raw metal number, this is hot. It's not a big change, but when it's this good, who cares?
Another that makes me think of Judas Priest a bit, this is seriously fierce and mean. It's a particularly meaty cut.
Let It Rip
Another raw, screaming rocker, this has some definite punk built into it. It's also another that foreshadowed early Metallica.
CD2 Wiped Out (1982)
Faster Than the Speed of Light

A bit of a noisier weirdness bit starts this. A distorted voice that calls to mind something from "Doctor Who" is heard. Then the guitars scream out with a serious metallic fury. Iron Maiden is a valid reference point. This is definitely proto-thrash.

Bring the Hammer Down
Loud, raw and furious, this is killer NWOBHM music. It's a real stomper.
Fire Power
Some of the riffs on this again make me think of Judas Priest a bit. This is scorching stuff. It's raw, fierce and tasty.
Read All About It
Iron Maiden is a reference point here, particularly their first couple albums. This has a punk angst and immediacy, but it's all metal.
To the Limit/To the Top
Coming in with a mellower, more melodic movement, there are parts of this that make me think of Uli Jon Roth era Scorpions. At almost eight-minutes of music, this is an extended piece. They make good use of that time packing a lot into it. This is scorching hot and really rocking at times. Other points even lean toward progressive rock in their mellower, more melodic modes. The section after the three-minute mark makes me think of Rush to a large degree. The guitar solo based closing movement mark is one that calls to mind the Scorpions reference point.
Battle Zone
This comes in feeling just a bit like AC/DC. Krokus is another valid reference point here. Frantic and raw, this is also very cool. The percussion break is classy.
Live at the Inferno
Another screamer, there a couple bits that make me think of the middle of Judas Priest's "Sinner." Overall the cut is fast paced and raw.
Star War
A lot more of the raw side, this is also fierce. The metal is uncompromising here. The penultimate section really screams. This is another with some hints of Judas Priest in the mix.

This is another screaming hot metal stomper It's suitably raw and very fierce.

An acoustic guitar solo, this is intricate and pretty.
Hold Back the Fire
Another fierce screamer, this has a real high energy magic built into it. The guitar solo section is purely on fire.
Chain Saw
The album proper is closed by this scorching hot cut that calls to mind both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest at different times. It dissolves into some weirdness after the song ends.
Bonus Tracks
Crash Bang Wallop EP
Crash Bang Wallop

This is so fierce. It has a lot of that Iron Maiden thing on display. It's also fast tempoed and furious.

Run Them Down

Not a big change, this is intense and furious.

Rock Hard
This is more of a rock and roll tune than it is a metal tune, but it does have a metal edge to it.
20/21 (Outtake)
Earning a parental advisory, this is a weird montage of studio bits in the production of the guitar solo on the album proper.
CD3 All For One (1983)
Take Control

This screamer is a bit more polished than the stuff on the band's first two albums, but it doesn't lose any of their edge in the process. This is heavy, screaming hot and very tasty. It has some catchy hooks, and guitar riffs are mean. The cut makes me think of the kind of stuff Megadeth would release later to some degree.

Mind Over Metal
Another screaming hot metal stomper, this isn't a big change. It doesn't need to be, though. It's strong enough to stand among all competition.
Sledgehammer Rock
There is a punk edge to this. It's definitely metal, but there are elements that are raw and punky.
All for One
The gang vocal bit on this is a cool touch. The track has some Krokus in the mix along with hints of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. It's another metal stomper.
Run Silent Run Deep
The guitar sound on this is so fierce. This is classic metal at its best. This is very much the kind of thing that made this guys so legendary in the scene. It does have hints of Iron Maiden, but there is so much more here, too. The break on this is so powerful.
Hung Drawn & Quartered
Furious and mean, this is raw metal at its finest.
Break the Chain
This isn't a big alteration from the concept. It doesn't need to be to work, though. It's a raw metal stomper.
Take It Away
With a bit of a punk edge, this is another winner. It has some catchy hooks and great guitar work.
Seek & Destroy
Not to be confused with the Metallica song of the same title, this scorcher is all Raven.
Athletic Rock
I dig the hooks on this cut. The guitar riffs are particularly meaty, too.
Bonus Tracks
Born to Be Wild

This cover of Steppenwolf is on fire. It's a great party styled tune.

The Ballad of Marshall Stack
The old-school metal on this screamer is so classic. The lyrics are clever, if a bit silly. This stomper is a highlight of the set, despite being a bonus track.

This version of "Inquisitor" is on fire. It's stronger than the previous rendition.

Power and the Glory
Uptempo and rocking, this really has a lot of that NWOBHM meets punk element on display. I can even hear a little of this in some of the Dead Kennedys' music. The guitar soloing on this has an interesting, almost non-metal sound at times.
CD4 Live at the Inferno (1984)
Intro/Live at the Inferno

Starting with some familiar classical music, this is just a short introductory piece.

Take Control
They deliver a smoking hot live version of this cut.
Mind Over Metal
The fierce metal onslaught continues with this cut that feels very much like early thrash. The guitar solo segment is purely screaming.
Crash Bang Wallop
This is a no frills live version of the earlier song. It has some fierce energy and really rocks.
Rock Until You Drop
There are some cool little instrumental spotlights built into this. The cut has a great rock and roll meets metal and punk vibe to it.
Faster Than Speed of Light
Fast paced, meaty and quite cool, this isn't a huge change, but it rocks.
All for One
With its anthemic chorus, this works well in the live setting.
Forbidden Planet

This is screaming electric guitar solo that has some definite science fiction leanings.

Star War
Pretty much what you'd expect, this is a potent live take of the track.
Tyrant of the Airway/Run Silent Run Deep
If anything this seems stronger than the studio rendition of these two cuts.
Crazy World
While there is definitely a punk ethos to this thing, the guitar brings the fierce rock and metal texture to bear.
Let It Rip
This screamer really rocks in this live performance. They really do let it rip.
Here we get a cool bass guitar solo. It almost sounds like a guitar solo. It's rather neo-classical in nature, too.
Wiped Out
This is a powerhouse thrashy cut. It makes me think of early Iron Maiden. This live rendition is strong.
Fire Power
Here we get another no nonsense, straight-ahead live performance.
I Don't Need Your Money
This raw stomper is hot. It has some cool guitar soloing, too.
Break the Chain
Another straight-ahead rocker, this is particularly strong here. I dig both the guitar riffing and the vocal hooks.
Hell Patrol
More powerhouse metal is on hand here. This is seriously fierce in this live performance. There is some really intense stuff here.
Live at the Inferno
Another hot tune, they pull no punches here. It is literally a screamer and has some killer instrumental work.  The bass and guitar battle later is a highlight.
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