RAM - Rod

RAM Rod cover
Metal Blade Records
There was only a matter of time before RAM churned out an album aptly titled “Rod” – one can’t help but prop him/herself rigidly upright and in position to head bang while ravenously throwing devil horns with the advent of this ten track tractor released two weeks ago under Metal Blade Records, of which the latter half encompasses a six part combustive, negative feedback servo-mechanism aggressively titled “Ramrod the Destroyer”.
While not quite as brutal or raw as “Lightbringer” or “Sudden Entry”, it’s a marked step up from the slipshod “Death” – winner of the most pedestrian heavy metal album title known to man or machine – as the line-up remains the same as RAM’s solid and tidy latent effort, 2015’s “Svbversum”. Front man Oscar Carlquist exhumes the contume(ly) as usual with his trademark warbling vocal exordiums, whilst Harry Granroth and Martin Jonsson’s symbiotic fret work continues to grill the listener by way of cranky guitar riffs possessed of a fluid urgency as well as perfectly timed poignantly phrased leads. To wit, the solo section to “On Wings of No Return” – a gnasher of teeth and chomping growler if there ever was one (check out the loo-tube video for ample confirmation as the studio version eschews its original, disconcerting yet appropriate sound effects) – is possibly their best ever as it makes me feel like Kid Icarus blithely, but gloriously soaring smack dab into the sun, melting wax and all – I can almost smell the smoke, Granroth and Jonsson’s fervid maneuvers withstanding.
The battery remains comprised of brothers in arms (anagram of rams) Tobias and Morgan Petterson on bass and drums respectively. Although the vocals and guitars stand at the forefront, their heady unyielding rhythms provide the necessary backbone and support for these to shine. However, the rabidly resounding drum beats surely stand out as a further highlight to “On Wings of No Return”, in addition to its winning vocals and stellar soloing.
While it may not be RAM’s fiercest or most compelling output, “Rod” wins the golden palm as far as execution and song constructs go thanks in part to its inflammatory knavish theme and focused approach. On top of everything else the greatly varying song lengths allow for diversity and a refreshing change from the status quo whilst the track placement itself is excellent.
Extensive at over seven minutes, “Declaration of Independence” commences in dredging apocalyptic fashion before duly taking off with a harping, sharp as a tack speed metal riff, thus wickedly setting the tone for “the album’s duration. Again, similarities with “Svbversum” abound in the form of crisp guitar tones, prominent bass lines (on “Gulag” Petterson’s bass incessantly jabs the listener with the same gruff rudeness as Stalin, with his flavored cherry root pipe) and Carlquist’s fine honed vocals and maturity i.e. his balancing of emotions and token evocative placid moment. Effectively, while his usual revved-up and warped self dominates “Gulag”, where he sounds like he’s going to fall apart at any moment with his shakily delivered “To escape from Gu-laaag!” (he truly sounds like a chained and condemned Bolshevik yearning to break free from a 1,500 mile forced marsh through Siberia), as well as “On Wings of No Return” on which he curtly delivers his lines and verses with whip-like alacrity, he absolutely astounds on “Ramrod the Destroyer Pt.3 The Cease to Be” with his mesmerizing tenor crooning and haunting cadence. This last is a welcome first for RAM (consider “Forced Entry”’s sappy closer, “Burning Scars”, a flop) and proves without a shadow of a doubt the band strives constantly for innovation in order to break free of the mold.
As much as I loved the first two albums, “Death” ambled along bleakly demonstrating it was time for the Swedes to step up their game. Well, I’m glad to announce they’ve done so in spades, and not only with “Svbversum”, which featured gems such as “Eyes in the Night” and “Holy Death”. Throughout “Rod”, Granroth and Jonsson duly pump their pistons; the leads are a lot more eloquent and maniacally frenzied than usual while those on “A Throne at Midnight” provide a jolting mechanical albeit twisted bent. In fact, this track’s blackened pace and Hellish intermittent surge are based on a similar demonic formula employed by fellow countrymen Portrait, which has also made a strong comeback earlier this year with its fourth full-length, “Burn tThe World” – my cup runneth over!
Admittedly, the first four “independent” tracks stand out as “Rod”’s more gripping fare. On the other hand, expect an epic albeit convoluted odyssey in “Ramrod the Destroyer”, divided as it is in six parts. “Pt.1 Anno Infinitus” and “Pt.4 Voices of Death” tritely parallel the instrumental “Terminus” from “Svbversum”, which was an otherwise acceptable prelude to a definite RAM classic, “The Omega Device” – in my mind a sinisterly prophetic warning foreshadowing man’s technical folly and hubris. Except for these and the aforementioned third – as stated, a rather mellow yet gratifying installment “Pt.2 Ignitor” and “Pt.5 Incinerating Storms” constitute pure, unadulterated RAM revelry sure to beat their fair share of brows. Actually,“Pt.6 - Ashes” half borders on Malhavoc style industrial mash but to be fair, it caps “Rod” with a nice cybernetic finishing touch in line with the overall artificial intelligence inferno theme.
At the end of the day, when all is scorched and blazed, RAM’s “Rod” – it’s fifth release in a dozen grinding years – proves its mettle as the term ramrod no longer only applies to the metal bar used for ramming down the charge of a muzzle loading rifle (such as a musket)… do as I do and stoke the fire!