REVIEW: RAM – “Rod”
Sweden, oh, Sweden. That’s where IKEA’s furniture World takeover started and, well, it’s also home to many, many (many!) metal bands, and about 90% of them are fucking ace. Gothenburg’s own RAM, a band known to be one of the most prominent of the NWOTHM (I assume that, if you’re reading this review, you know what this acronym means) movement, is ever-ready to step up to the plate to be the defenders of the faith and the sentinels of the Swedish school of the traditional heavy metal genre.
It’s clear as the sky that Oscar Carlquist (vocals) and Harry Granroth (guitars) have created and mastered RAM’s sound when they were pissed off at the metal scene, because they make sure to shove some Judas Priest, Accept and [insert your favorite 1980’s band] worship up your ass with every album they make. The band’s fifth endeavor beyond the realms of death, ‘Rod’, takes no different approach than its predecessors, by being true to the roots of the 1980’s heavy metal aura, albeit not losing itself into the big and scary “wormhole of generic sounds®”.
Like it’s 1984 all over again, the fade-in intro of “Declaration of Independence” paves the way to a very interesting first-half of the album with a cool chorus and killer solos.Faster-paced tunes like “On Wings of No Return” and “A Throne at Midnight” are well executed and played with a good dose of energy as well, even if not being entirely memorable or impactful, but “Gulag” is where the first portion of the record really shines. In a nostalgia-filled guitar work reminiscent of the ‘Russian Roulette’ (1985)Accept era, the song almost feels melancholic and dystopic. They have done a good job translating a sub-human, miserable system such as the Gulag was.
For the first time in RAM’s career, some of the compositions are part of a conceptual story, The “Ramrod the Destroyer” suite. Divided into 6 parts, it is definitely the most ambitious work by these guys to date, as the lyrical and instrumental contents of the suite are dense and serious, which more often than not does not result in a particularly decent outcome.
However, they managed to carefully craft every second of this bombastic story, starting with a very inspired intro in “Pt. 1: Anno Infinitus”. The song announces the destruction that is to come in a simple, yet elegant way by sending the listener to the depths of the most vile and sinister crypts of RAM’s mind. In a mix of medieval rawness and futuristic chaos, the intro paves the way to “Pt. 2: Ignitor”, which is a song that – yet again – holds on to the classic elements of the genre. The main courses here are the solos and the aggressiveness of the vocal performance by Carlquist. While not lacking in more melodic parts, it is the rapid pace and sense of urgency that dictate the rhythm sections.
“Pt. 3: The Cease to Be” may be the most Priest-like track released by the Swedes yet. In a very similar way to “Beyond the Realms of Death” (legendary Priest song from the ‘Stained Class’ (1978) album, the track pays homage to the metal gods by matching the melancholic and doomy aura of its “father song” and doing some twists of their own, like a cruder and less polished chorus, and more energetic guitar and drum lines. “Pt. 4. Voices of Death” continues the story in another spoken intro that precedes “Pt. 5. Incinerating Storms”, which is one of the best RAM songs of all-time, no doubt. Raw, unrelenting power emanates from all the members, with crazy guitar solos and amazing vocal performance, making it the most significant track in the album. The particularly high screams by Carlquist soar throughout the entire effort, with prolific and mad solos that actually serve a purpose, while the kitchen provides perfect support to the instrumental mayhem.
“Pt. 6: Ashes” crowns the work fittingly with catastrophic aura and post-apocalyptic sounds. It starts with a simple acoustic guitar lead, but eventually turns into a sort of steampunk cataclysmic experience, ending the album on a high note.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of bands trying to emulate the good ol’ sound played in the heydays of metal. There are, of course, a decent number of acts that do this with honor and quality, like Ambush, Skull Fist, Wolf, Enforcer, Portrait, Trial, Air Raid, etc., and this Swedish quintet right here does it with mastery. With yet another great display of their abilities in ‘Rod’, RAM have done more than carve their way into metal’s history: they are helping to bring back the 1980’s with full force. Highly recommended.