"some music was meant to stay underground..."

RAM - "Death" (CD)

RAM - "Death" CD cover image

"Death" track listing:

1. Death…
2. …Comes From The Mouth Beyond
3. I Am The End
4. Release Me
5. Defiant
6. Frozen
7. Under The Scythe
8. Hypnos
9. Flame Of The Tyrants
10. 1 7 7 1

Reviewed by on January 30, 2012

"Unless you never get tired of hearing the same Mercyful Fate album you’ve been listening to every day for the last 25 years, give 'Death' a try."

Traditional metallers RAM is proof positive that hard work and perseverance can pay off. The Swedish group formed in 1999, released a handful of recordings in the 2000's, and has now found a home on legendary metal label Metal Blade. Their move to Metal Blade wasn’t a leap from obscurity to notoriety, though; the group released “Lightbringer” via European powerhouse AFM Records in 2009. “Lightbringer” was a traditional metal highlight for that year. It contained guitar gallops as heavy as Odin’s eight-legged stead. Now thrust upon a bigger stage, the group has been entrusted with the difficult task of outdoing its previous work.

While “Death” stays with the stylistic format of late ‘70s/early ‘80s metal, the album reveals the band branching out and discovering an identity more their own. Normally, a band finding their voice is a career progression. “Death” is a positive move for sure, but for personal tastes, I prefer their predecessor. “Lightbringer” illuminated obvious nods to Mercyful Fate and Iced Earth, which was fine because those bands are two of metal’s all-time greats. RAM does both groups justice, too. The Iced Earth influence may still be a part of their sound, but it’s surely not as conspicuous. Although not as obvious, the band still flexes a Mercyful Fate note here and there. Bereft of modern compressed sounds, “I Am The End” opens in bombastic fashion owing to the steel groove of “Melissa”-era Mercyful Fate.

Playing a 35-year-old style of music doesn’t exactly play to creativity’s calloused hands, so classic metal aficionados will find the band referencing the forefathers of heavy metal in every note. As stated above, though, the band has invoked a greater spread of bands to reference. Iron Maiden has left their prints on just about every metal arena, so it comes as no surprise when heard on this album. On “Defiant,” Harry Granroth and Daniel Johansson trace the graceful guitar scales of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, but Oscar Carlquist’s pipes are considerably different than Bruce Dickinson. Carlquist possesses a strong, semi-operatic voice that is familiar to past legends, but it's difficult to pinpoint exact singers. “Frozen” contains a mix of melody and heaviness that allows Carlquist’s voice to truly shine. Considering the similarities to Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea” during heavy breaks, he probably channeled Dio’s immortal soul.

RAM may wear rusted, worn metal armor, but at least the group is protected by battle-tested steel. There is something to be said about music that continuously revives itself even 30-plus years after its advent. Unless you never get tired of hearing the same Mercyful Fate album you’ve been listening to every day for the last 25 years, give “Death” a try. True metal never dies; it just gets recycled!

Highs: Dark tone, galloping guitar riffs and Carlquist's soaring voice

Lows: "Death" is a step below their previous record "Lightbringer"

Bottom line: Any fan of traditional heavy metal that can open his/her gaze beyond 1989 should pick up "Death."

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)