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ROSANNA'S RAIDERS - FIRE FROM HEAVEN: The Collective Works (Collector's Edition) 3 albums on 2 CDs. The1987 release Calling Down Fire and the 1988 release Clothed In Fire (both originally on Pure Metal Records) in their entirety are both on disc 1. Disc 2 has the extremely collectible and previously impossible to find 1985 pro quality 10 song demo called We Are Raiders. Thoroughly remastered for brilliant sonic clarity. For fans of Vixen, Rez, Barnabas, and Heart.
The Christian metal label Pure Metal Records signed its share of quality talent during the decade of the eighties, releasing albums by such noteworthy artists as Bride, Saint, Messiah Prophet and Whitecross. Several lesser known – though no less able – groups were part of the label as well: Scarlet Red, Eternal Ryte and Rosanna’s Raiders. Rosanna’s Raiders was a group of particularly merit. A female fronted power trio from Australia, Rosanna’s Raiders recorded two albums on Pure Metal in Calling Down Fire (1987) and Clothed In Fire (1988) that, while not ranking with the heaviest releases of the era, delivered enough guitar driven edge to fall within the commercial hard rock and melodic rock categories. Those whose musical tastes trend towards Shout, Guardian, Angelica and Stryper, for instance, should be able to find a home in Rosanna’s Raiders. Likewise, I would expect fans of other groups of the time with female vocalists - Vixen, Heart, Scarlet Red and Ransom all come to mind – to embrace Rosanna’s Raiders as well.
Lead vocalist, guitarist and composer Rosanna Palmer is the driving force behind the band. Showcasing an abundant vocal style that can best be described as equal parts emotion and equal parts refined, Rosanna brings a bit more range when compared to contemporaries such as Lisa Faxson (Ransom) or Danis (Scarlet Red) but does not quite have the fiery touch of Nancy Jo Mann (Barnabas) or Christine Steel (Arsenal). Observation and not a critique in either case. As a guitarist, she proves quite the unheralded musician. While several tracks on Calling Down Fire do a good job of highlighting her abilities (“Run The Race” and “Not Gonna Let You Go Again” both come to mind), it is on Clothed In Fire in which she comes into her own: the likes of “Crying In The Night”, “Blind Eyes”, “Crazy World” and “Do It Right” all exhibit the growth and maturity demonstrated in her playing. Rounding out the bands rhythm section is husband David Palmer (bass) and drummer Johno Zaffarese.
It is a fairly well known fact that Calling Down Fire and Clothed In Fire, out of print for literally years, are hard to find and pricey collectors items. The good news, however, is that both were re-issued in late 2007 by Retroactive Records as part of a two CD set in which the first disc is made up of Calling Down Fire and Clothed In Fire and the second the groups even more obscure 1985 independent release We Are Raiders and the bonus track “One Man” (which made its initial appearance on the Modification compilation).
Calling Down Fire
Calling Down Fire, Rosanna’s Raiders 1987 Pure Metal debut, comes across as an inconsistent work from a band that still had some maturing to do from a musical standpoint. The first area of improvement worth noting is the albums production values, which would benefit from a bit of refinement. The rhythm section, for instance, sounds muffled while the rhythm guitar often lacks bite. The second is songwriting in that I end up hitting the skip button a few too many times. “Just Like A River” is a slower, pedestrian number approaching ballad territory and “Good News” and “No Reason” two examples of average melodic rock that do not quite inspire. The pop flavored “Breakaway” brings a more up-tempo sound but its lack of a notable chorus hook and restrained guitar sound hold it back. The customary ballad “Inside Is Living Hell” is good at best but fails to stand out while the same can be said for the melodic hard rock of “Not Gonna Let You Go Again”. It is when the band flexes its muscles, however, that it truly shines in that energetic pieces such as “We Are Raiders” and “Serve Someone” will grip you with their up-tempo appeal. “Run The Race”, by far the albums heaviest and strongest track, amalgamates a bristling guitar riff with a chorus on the stylish side of things (this one hints at the potential Rosanna’s Raiders delivers on Clothed In Fire). Finally, the enchanting ballad “So Far Away” allows Rosanna to display the emotional feel to her vocal delivery.
Clothed In Fire
I understand how first impressions are lasting, however, if Calling Down Fire has been your only exposure to Rosanna’s Raiders (and were disappointed in the process) then I would strongly encourage you to give the bands 1988 Pure Metal follow up effort Clothed In Fire the time and attention it deserves. Why? Well, because what we have here might be one of the more overlooked and underrated melodic metal albums of its era. The key words, nevertheless, are “melodic” and “metal” in that not only does Rosanna and company deliver an abundance of hooks but they back it up with a mix of the clean and crisp sounding variety in the process. Irregardless, it is the quality of the songwriting that will keep you coming back to the project time and again. My overall impression after giving Clothed In Fire repeated listen is that each of its tracks brings that special riff, hook, melody, solo or vocal line that breaths of inspiration and passion. In other words, one cannot help but get the feeling that Rosanna’s Raiders worked themselves to death to come up with an album of quality material that consistently flows from one track to the next.
Album opener “He Is The King” is a gem, one of its better tracks with a huge chorus hook and anthem-like environs perfectly suited for Rosanna’s gut wrenching vocal delivery. “Blind Eyes”, “Crying In The Night” and “I’m Ready” bring the same type of big hooks, skillful guitar work and upbeat momentum that makes Stryper so appealing. “You Are Special”, the albums lone ballad, is a quieter (almost worshipful) piece and “Hell On Earth”, conversely one of the heavier compositions here, an exposition of technical riffs that almost give rise to a classic metal feel. “Crazy World”, slowing the pace down to a bluesy mid-tempo romp, finds Rosanna making a statement of faith: “I’m standing on the solid Rock. In Him I have a friend. I’m standing on the solid Rock. He’ll be with me till the end”. “Do It Right” does exactly that with its edgy guitar sound and catchy chorus while “The Loser” proves a hard rocking lament pointing out how the devil is, well, a loser. Closing things out is the metal worship anthem “Love The Lord Your God” (this one reflects a cool 70s touch with its occasional use of organ).
On Clothed In Fire Rosanna’s Raiders demonstrates a great deal of maturity and professionalism in delivering a musically consistent album characterized by both solid production values and musicianship. All in all, if I were to write a full length review of the thing I would give it a grade in the 85% or 90% range.
We Are Raiders
We Are Raiders, being Rosanna’s Raiders first full length recording, does not come without its share of rough edges. The albums thin sounding production values, for example, reflects the obvious limited budge the group had to work with. Musically, We Are Raiders is similar to Calling Down Fire in that it suffers its inconsistencies. One of the problems that must be mentioned is not necessarily the quality of the music but rather musical direction in that Rosanna’s Raiders, at this early stage in its career, had yet to mature into a sleek melodic metal outfit but, rather, trended towards a watered down blend of melodic rock and hard rock. With that in mind, it must be pointed out the greater role keyboards play on We Are Raiders- at least in comparison to Calling Down Fire and Clothed In Fire. Because of this some of the albums material actually reminds me of the classic Christian rock band Servant.
“We Are Raiders”, which makes a cameo appearance on Calling Down Fire, gets the album underway in a strong hard rocking manner. “Reflections” represents an average to good attempt at melodic rock while the restrained sounds of “When You Woke Up This Morning” and Spotlight” deliver some of the albums slower – and more dragging – moments. An upbeat heading is taken on “You Are My Rock”, one of the heavier songs here, and “Why Don’t People Care”, a lively number that breaks for a stretch of bluesy lead guitar. The rock/wave influenced “Masks” feature a decent hook but suffers from a way too forward mix of keyboards, which give it an almost quirky – if not techno – feel. Blah! Mid-tempo hard rockers “Hiding Behind Closed Doors” and “Whose Side Are You On?” stand in contrast to the energetic and melody filled presence of “He Is Coming (Are You Ready)?” By far the finest piece on We Are Raiders is “Mr. Magic”, six minutes of creativity serving to showcase the bands potential with its groove laden vibe and hook driven chorus (cool bass guitar solo as well).
“One Man”, a bonus track initially found on the Modification compilation, is a muscular hard rockers standing out with a chunky low end and biting rhythm guitar sound.
One cannot help but give Rosanna’s Raiders credit for the growth it made over the years, peaking with Clothed In Fire but exhibiting its potential on the preceding releases Calling Down Fire and We Are Raiders. With that in mind, Fire From Heaven proves a worthwhile 2 CD re-issue that effectively captures all of the groups musical moments. For those of you unable to find – or afford! – Rosanna’s Raiders back catalog then Fire From Heaven comes with a strong recommendation.
Track Listing (Disc One): “We Are Raiders” (3:24), “Just Like A River” (4:11), “Serve Someone” (4:07), “Good News” (3:38), “So Far Away” (3:25), “Breakaway” (3:34), “No Reason” (3:28), “Run The Race” (3:47), “Inside Is Living Hell” (3:43), “Not Gonna Let You Go Again” (3:54), “He Is The King” (3:54), “Blind Eyes” (4:25), “You Are Special” (4:09), “Crying In The Night” (4:04), “Hell On Earth” (4:27), “I’m Ready” (3:17), “Crazy World” (3:44), “Do It Right” (3:55), “The Loser” (3:30), “Love The Lord Your God” (4:03)
Track Listing (Disc Two): “We Are Raiders” (3:15), “Reflections” (2:51), “When You Woke Up This Morning” (4:51), “Spotlight” (4:24), “Masks” (3:56), “You Are My Rock” (3:42), “Why Don’t People Care?” (4:28), “Hiding Behind Closed Doors” (4:52), “Whose Side Are You On?” (4:26), “Mr. Magic” (6:03), “He Is Coming (Are You Ready)?” (2:45), “One Man” (4:05)
Rosanna Palmer – Lead Vocals & Guitars
David Palmer – Bass
Johno Zaffarese – Drums
Gary Roz – Guitars
Henry Leszczynski – Drums
Garry Shepherd - Keyboards