If punk mythology truly existed, the tale of Raw Power might unfurl like this: as the reign of Ronald Reagan swept through the Western world "... the gods of punk-metal rose from Italy to fight back with megatons of warp-speed power!"
Held together thick as thieves for years by the Codeluppi brothers -- throat-scorched Mauro and walloping guitarist Giuseppe (the latter died in 2002) -- the band set off from Reggio Emilia in the early 1980s and carved out a hard, compact, compelling basement-punk sound alternating between catapulting heavy-metal drum mania (clang goes the cowbell!) and anything-goes guitar attacks, as documented on You Are the Victim, an album not far removed from fellow scenesters like Negazione and Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers.
By a few years later, after touring like a corkscrew tornado across America and finding favor in zines like MaximumRocknRoll, they found themselves in an Indianapolis studio helping to hone the crossover genre as fellow travelers like Corrosion of Conformity and DRI forged a similar musically miscreant path.
Undergoing a sonic metamorphosis documented on the label Toxic Shock (Peace Corpse, Dayglo Abortions, Decry), what once sounded as lo-fi as a worn cassette ("Police, Police") became reborn on Screams From the Gutter, a sterling document of pummeling power and infinite dexterity. The responsible party was audio mixologist Paul Mahern, singer for Midwest punk pioneers the Zero Boys and now a devout Yoga master and compadre of John Cougar Mellencamp.
Hinting at their impending stature, Raw Power appeared with juggernauts GBH and Dickies on the documentary Punks and Poseurs, which MTV aired in 1985. In the hands of such Mediterranean sonic sculptors, adamant and angry politics comes to the fore as they rage at state oppression, police and bosses with high-voltage, dizzyingly fast, inventive rock and roll. Without sacrificing their plentiful chops, Raw Power's gusto and rage echoes both the old-time counterculture and the even older European school of dissent and street action.
The band has undergone a whirlwind series of lineup changes over the years and released sporadically super-charged records like 1998's Reptile House that echo the devastation and dexterity of their earliest material. Their newest testament to greatness, Tired and Furious, from the Midwest-based old-school skater label Beer City (DRI, MDC, Verbal Abuse) is hands-down their most sinewy since gold standards Screams From the Gutter and After Your Brain made the mold that 100,000 bands have followed.
Raw Power performs tonight at Walters, 1120 Naylor, with special guests H.R.A. and War Torn. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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