RAM – ROD (METAL BLADE RECORDS)
Let’s take a trip to the past, my friends. Except not really, because the album we’re about to discuss came out this year. This month, in fact. It just sounds like it came straight from the 80’s. Swedish metallers RAM are back again with their mission to create music which at its very core is heavy metal in its purest form, this time with their fifth album Rod, released November 3 via Metal Blade Records. This album’s just a tiny bit different from their previous works, and we’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s do what we do and break it down.
Opener “Declaration of independence” shows off vocalist Oscar Carlquist‘s range right away. The production really makes the drums by Morgan Pettersson pop, and the guitar riffs are solid. It’s a very classic sounding track, which is great for fans of old school metal. One thing to note is that it is over seven minutes long, which isn’t a bad thing here as the song is fantastic. “On Wings of No Return” is no different, except that it isn’t seven minutes long. It’s still got that classic metal sound we all know and love, and have all come to expect from RAM.
They slow things down with “Gulag,” but not too slow. It’s more of a midtempo tune and the bass here from Tobias Petterson really stands out. The galloping riff really compliments the vocal performance as well. This is another epic song, coming in at seven minutes and twenty seconds. Next up is “A Throne at Midnight” and the thundering drums and crunching riffs from the very beginning are sure to give you an energy boost. Carlquist takes his impressive range and turns it up to eleven, and Harry Granroth and Martin Jonsson throw in some galloping riffs in the middle and a very impressive solo.
Remember when I said that this album is just a bit different? Well, that starts here, as the last five tracks make up a concept album of sorts (a concept B-side, if you will) which is a first for RAM. These are the stories of “Ramrod the Destroyer”. The first of the next six tracks is simply a short two-minute and eleven-second unintelligible narrative including a chant which turns into a heavily distorted spoken word piece. This should not have been its own separate track, but mixed into the next track “Ignitor” instead. There is a second occasion of this, but we’ll get to that soon enough. “Ignitor” is the longest track on the album, coming in at seven minutes and forty-seven seconds, but it is quite possibly the strongest track on the album. The instrumentals are reminiscent of the prime of Judas Priest, while Carlquist‘s voice has almost a Dio-esque quality to it.
A somber beginning precedes a more mellow track in “The Cease to Be”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not painfully slow or balladesque, but it has a slower tempo than any other song on the album. It’s still an excellent tune, and the solo is killer. “Voices of Death” is another unnecessary narrative track which should’ve been mixed in with “Incinerating Storms” and best as I can tell, some evil entity (probably death, hence the name “Voices of Death”) gives Ramrod a weapon to “bring death to life and life to death”. “Incinerating Storms” is the heaviest song on the album by far, with double-bass percussion throughout and high wails from Carlquist. It oozes a raw unhinged energy that is perfectly suited to an album of this nature. It’s not overly long, which is nice, and it features some of the best guitar playing on the album as well. Easily a favorite. “Ashes” is the album’s finale, and it’s quite simply a short but sweet instrumental track which closes out the whole thing nicely.
Rod is an album that may take a few tries to grow on you – it took a little bit for this album to grow on me, but once it did, I found most of it to be thoroughly enjoyable. It’s easy to call a band that’s this rooted in the 80’s “unimaginative” or “uninventive,” but as I’ve said so many times before, not every band and not every album has to be groundbreaking. Instead, RAM have decided to stick with a sound that has worked for over 30 years now, and have also decided to try something that, while not exactly being new to us, was a first for them. For that, RAM, I commend you. Final score: 4 out of 5 axes
1. Declaration of Independence
2. On Wings of No Return
4. A Throne At Midnight
5. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 1 – Anno Infinitus
6. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 2 – Ignitor
7. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 3 – The Cease to Be
8. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 4 – Voices of Death
9. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 5 – Incinerating Storms
10. Ramrod the Destroyer pt. 6 – Ashes
Oscar Carlquist: Vocals
Morgan Pettersson: Drums
Harry Granroth: Guitar
Martin Jonsson: Guitar
Tobias Petterson: Bass
Written by Mitch Ellerbrock for Bloodrock Media on November 12, 2017