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RAM - "Lightbringer" (CD)

RAM - "Lightbringer" CD cover image

"Lightbringer" track listing:

1. Crushing The Dwarf Of Ignorance (1:37)
2. Lightbringer (4:28)
3. In Victory (4:18)
4. Awakening The Chimaera (4:24)
5. Ghost Pilot (MI II) (5:36)
6. Suomussalmi (The Few Of Iron) (9:03)
7. Blood God (3:29)
8. Titan (6:03)
9. The Elixir (6:46)
10. Prelude To Death (3:04)

Reviewed by on August 31, 2009

"RAM has managed to almost exactly imitate metal heroes from thirty years ago, and somehow they get away with it."

RAM hails from Gothenburg, Sweden; a place that is known for its melodic death metal more than anything else. But RAM has succeeded in playing the melodic side while taking away all traces of death metal. Their second full-length album, “Lightbringer,” is a direct descendant of classic metal and NWOBHM, but the album sounds like it was written and recorded 30 years ago.

The album begins with the fantastically named intro track “Crushing the Dwarf of Ignorance,” and the production immediately stands out. The drums sound distant, as if a pillow is over the top of the skins, while the guitars are particularly fuzzy. The whole thing seems as if it is being played in a hangar. The title track is the first full song on the album, and while the production is much more immediate, the other characteristics remain. The guitars are still fuzzy and the drums are still mixed quite a ways back; their skinny sound is a soft hand-tapping rather than a strong stick-whacking. The guitar riffs themselves are also fairly spacious, with each chord and note easily distinguished from the next.

While that all may sound bad, it isn’t necessarily a negative point. This production serves to fulfill the aura of classic metal returned. Instead of the full, almost indistinguishable guitars and warble-clear vocal tracks that are featured on modern productions, the record sounds like a contemporary of Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa.” RAM clearly loves their classic metal, so much so as to use production values that take the band’s sound back in time.

Aside from the production, the music itself is well done. The riffs are almost exclusively mid-tempo fist-pumpers and head-bangers, with only cursory nods given to slower ballad style songs or faster thrash tempos. “In Victory” features an anthemic guitar lead that is inspiring like a military parade, and “Awakening the Chimaera” has a complex riff that moves well between the mid-tempo lead section and the plodding bridge in the middle. “Titan” showcases vocalist Oscar Carlquist’s low range and is one of the best songs on the album. With muscular riffs that drive like a ’68 Camero under Carlquist’s powerful pipes dominating the front of the song, it suddenly moves to a chugging bridge that breaks the momentum for just a touch of time, then jumps back in with a melodic guitar solo that is hero worthy. Stressing texture and melody as much as speed and precision, the solo is fantastic.

“Suomussalmi (The Few Of Iron)” is easily the highlight of the album. Clocking in at just over nine minutes, it is a composition rather than a song, featuring broad lyrical storytelling and music that engages and carries the listener through a whole gauntlet of emotion. The range of subtle tempo changes, rhythm, and melody is a microcosm of the entire album. The band just doesn’t pound at riffs, but composes varied and interesting songs that show the listener a whole range of style.

While of course no record is perfect – “Blood God” is a thrash-based song with weak-like-a-baby drums and rough falsetto work from Carlquist – RAM has delivered a solid success. Most bands nowadays that owe a debt to classic metal borrow heavily from the forefathers but still ground themselves in modern songwriting and production. RAM, on the other hand, has managed to almost exactly imitate metal heroes from thirty years ago, and somehow they get away with it.

Highs: The epic “Suomussalmi (The Few Of Iron)” is a dream come true for fans of classic metal.

Lows: “Blood God” is a poorly arranged and performed piece.

Bottom line: Despite the clear imitation of classic metal, the album is a good one.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)