|Review: RAM - Rod|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2017
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: November 11, 2017
Reviewed by: Bruno Medeiros
Rated 4.25/5 (85%) (12 Votes)
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 1980s 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 1980s 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 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 Accept era, the song almost feels melancholic and dystopic.
For the first time in the band's career, some of the compositions are part of a conceptual story, the "Ramrod the Destroyer" suite. Divided into six 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.
"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", 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 number of bands trying to emulate the good old 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 on Rod, they have done more than carve their way into metal's history: they are helping to bring back the 1980s with full force. Highly recommended.
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