Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love, stuff that’s essential listening for students of extreme metal that you’ve probably never heard of. Stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This time around, we have definitive proof that disaffected teens existed outside of the US in the 80s: Raw Power’s Screams from the Gutter (Toxic Shock).
Decibel seems to love crossover, so it’s probably about time we covered one of those bands in this column, especially since they’re ineligible for Hall Of Fame status due to the untimely death of one of their founding members. Raw Power arose in Italy in 1981, same year as Suicidal Tendencies (and before DRI and COC), right in the middle of the first wave of American hardcore. You can probably guess where their name came from. As with most punk groups of the time, they recorded some demos and a couple terrible-sounding, instantly deleted albums for obscure local labels. Then they came to the attention of Bill Sassenberger, owner of Toxic Shock Records in beautiful Pomona, California. He signed the four kids, and even had them record in the bustling metropolis of Indianapolis at the end of 1984. That’s where they laid down the songs that would become 1985’s Screams from the Gutter. And they weren’t too far behind the rest of the pack – Suicidal Tendencies and the Dirty Rotten LP came out in 1983, while Animosity also came out in 1985.
The first thing you notice is the disgusting mutant melting in a sewer on the cover, courtesy of artist Vince Rancid, and while not entirely apropos of the sounds on the inside, it does certainly reflect the ugly world that Raw Power portray in their songs. The second thing you notice (once you pop the actual disc in, anyway) is the fact that they kick off “State Oppression” with a freaking drum solo, albeit a brief one. The third thing you notice is that, well, this is an early crossover record, there ain’t a whole lot more to it than antiestablishment lyrics, doubletime drumming, and the occasional effort at musicianship in the form of a guitar solo. Okay, there’s also a cowbell in there. Special notice goes to Mauro Codeluppi, whose slobbering comes across as particularly deranged. The songs whip by like they should on a proper record of this nature, and one can imagine the slam dancing was pretty awesome in the basement shows they played with the Dead Kennedys back in the day.
After Screams, Raw Power released one more record for Toxic Shock, the equally excellent After Your Brain, which was also well-regarded in underground circles. Mauro’s brother, guitarist Giuseppe, tragically passed away in 2002, but the band soldiers on. They still put out albums to this day, although none have equaled the success or quality of those first two. Considering that the really successful crossover bands, the ones that lived in the States and were able to tour constantly, were still never really that popular in the big scheme of things, Raw Power were never going to be the ones to break through. Still, they have their fans (including Cripple Bastards and Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway), and one listen to Screams shows that these Italians can hang with any of the hardcore legends.