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Italy and Greece have been putting out epic metal releases pretty much since epic metal became a thing. Yes, Manowar and Manilla Road of U.S. origin were the ones to truly start the genre, but the Greeks and Italians were on board with the idea pretty soon after. Dark Quarterer's debut album was released in demo form as early as 1985, and Strana Officina had some material out even earlier than that (not that it was probably any good), with bands like Ageless Wisdom and Wotan joining in during the early '90s. In 2003, Battle Ram may have been a bit late to the party, but that's excusable given the level of quality present on their demo.
The vocalist here is pretty much standard fare for Italian epic metal, but that's hardly a bad thing here. Very nasal and warbly, he could easily be a young Vittorio Ballerio (of Adramelch fame), and he's got the charisma to go with the voice. The production is pretty good for 2003, not too slick or polished but not too stripped down either; it's a nice balance between old school charm (I'll reference Adramelch again) and the recent habit bands have of making everything sound to silky smooth and diluted.
The songwriting, however, is where this band really shines. This demo takes influence from Manilla Road's Crystal Logic era, but puts its own spin on the material. Despite the title of the review, they really are able to make the music their own; this is, on the whole, a bit faster and more energetic than Crystal Logic. Whereas the Manilla
Road album was doomy, midpaced, and just plain weird, this is ballsy and powerful - think Crystal Logic with a heavy dose of USPM thrown in (yes, it is as awesome as it sounds). One might make the argument that it's simply Open the Gates era worship, but I'd have to disagree with that - this has a distinct Crystal Logic sound to it, just with more PM thrown in. Anyway, the four main songs are all excellent, with a versatile, charismatic Daniele DiLoreto warbling and shrieking over epic, galloping riffs and blazing solos. "Dark Command" in particular evokes Manilla Road's "Flaming Metal Systems" in the chorus.
The only real problem with this demo is the cover. If they had covered a Manilla Road song, I feel they could have done it justice, even given the fact that DiLoreto sounds very little like Mark Shelton. However, Cirith Ungol is another beast entirely; there's a reason people tend to avoid covering them; Tim Baker, love him or hate him, is virtually inimitable, and that shows through strongly on Battle Ram's cover of "Join the Legion". The song was written for Baker and Baker only, without room for a more traditional style of singing. That being said, the rendition isn't completely horrible, it's merely decent where the other songs are excellent. Overall, this tasty little demo is something epic heavy metal fans should be happy to gobble up eagerly, as we finally begin to see some more worship of the well deserved 'Road.