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"Ram It Down" followed "Defenders of the Faith" and "Turbo". These albums had been completely different, but they had at least one thing in common. They evoked strong emotions, for better or for worse. By contrast, "Ram It Down" was the "I don't care"-album. The suicidal change of course between its two predecessors was not yet forgotten. Thus, the here presented album had a tough job right from the start.
Tipton and the other dudes had a bad conscience - and this with good reason. The lukewarm piss called "Turbo", euphemistically called "experiment", was still in their minds. Thus, the opening title track sent its thundering greetings right from the outset. It delivered pure metal, while the lyrics were completely irrelevant. One rather had to read between the lines. The composition was constantly screaming: dear metalheads, forgive us the release of "Turbo", we will never do it again. For those simpletons who still had not understood the strategy of reparation, the next song had the most primitive title a metal band can choose: "Heavy Metal". Yes, we understood that a formation, which had run into serious trouble, wanted to be headbanger's best friend again. Yet it is not a matter of minutes to regain lost trust.
Leaving aside the question whether Judas Priest were still authentic or not, the opener tried to build a bridge to the fanatic "Freewheel Burning". Due to its velocity and sharpness, "Ram It Down" was fairly comparable with this classic, but it failed to reach its compositional excellence. Just compare, for example, the bridges of these two tracks. Here we have the toothless "Shout it out, we're all together now" trilling, there we are overrun by the determined "Look before you leap has never been the way we keep" vocals that sounded like a machine gun. Nevertheless, due to the metallic purity and some high-pitched screams of Halford, the song was much better than any softener of the "experimental" predecessor. (Please note my politically correct wording.) The aforementioned "Heavy Metal" also hit the mark. Driven by a bulldozing bass, the song lived up to its name. The lyrics were as stupid as those of "Turbo", but to be honest, the value of lyrics stands and falls with the quality of the composition itself. This might be a little bit irrational, but it was great fun to scream painfully primitive lines like "All heads are banging" or "Fists pumping everywhere". Although the song bordered on parody, it worked. Doubtlessly, the imperious screams "Heavy metal, heavy metal, what do you want?" had an impact.
It was no coincidence that these two songs kicked off the A side and it was also no coincidence that the sinister "Blood Red Skies" kicked off the B side. This large-sized number combined profound heaviness with an apocalyptic atmosphere, did not lack of epic elements and generated a majestic overall impression. "Metal God" Rob was in his element while delivering expressive vocals with some high-pitched or elongated screams. The performance of the other guys was also convincing, but Halford left his mark in the most impressive manner.
Three strong songs marked a big improvement, but unfortunately, this was no EP and the further seven pieces were as ordinary as their titles. "Come and Get It", Halford sang "I'm a Rocker" while standing in the "Love Zone" and some unknown "Monsters of Rock" realized that they were "Hard as Iron". Excellent poetry. Anyway, mid-paced pieces passed by, sometimes a little bit sleazy, sometimes a little bit heavy, sometimes a little bit commercial. "Come and Get It" scored with a pretty sharp bridge, but self-declared "Metal Gods" must be able to deliver more suspenseful pieces. The howling guitars at the beginning of the closer were also promising, but the number did not turn out well. Its slow-moving chorus and the computerized beats left me cold. The same applied to "Hard as Iron" (enjoy its completely misplaced earthquake sample) and to "Love You to Death", because its guitar lines sounded like some of the worst compositions of Gene Simmons. Yet I am not talking about Kiss and I do not want to speak about the Chuck Berry cover as well. Just one remark, it is a ridiculous if a band praises itself for its regained heaviness while delivering this happily rocking piece. However, here is the quintessence of the review: the appropriately produced "Ram It Down", the last album with Dave Holland on drums, did not have a massive impact. I don't care.
You know that one movie you really like, but not a lot of people know about it, but the people that do know about it usually really love it? If you ever wanted to hear the musical equivalence to that, look no further than this classic. Ram It Down isn't the best of 80s Judas Priest, but holy shit, it's pretty fucking awesome.
We have everything from top tier speed metal to the obligatory ballad that basically all 80s metal albums have. The highlights? Shit, everything is a highlight! Each song just pure magic.
"BUT BUT MUH TURBO ITS THE REJECT SONGS OF TURBO!" Point? I personally like Turbo a lot, however even if I didn't, why would I let that deter me from listening to this? Even people that dislike the album can't deny the edge it has. Sure, Turbo did have a bit of a glam vibe, and it wasn't as heavy as per se Sin After Sin, but it was still an amazing release. I digress though, this review is about Ram It Down. This is the complete opposite in terms of heaviness to Turbo. Every song has an extreme punch to it, it's basically a more fun version of Painkiller.
"BUT THE SONGWRITING! ITS SOOOO BAD!!!!" Fun fact, Judas Priest aren't the lyrical masters that everyone thinks they are. Well, for their 80s releases. You won't find any Before The Dawns or Beyond the Realms of Deaths on here. The writing is the same quality as Point of Entry, probably even better. The album was made to be a fun, fast, and enjoyable release. Sorry that not every song has to be just totally introspective. It's a great release with some silly but enjoyable lyrics. I mean, Monsters of Rock is about a literal monster made of rock. Of fucking rock! How cool is that?
The albums has everything from the slow, brooding tracks that creep along like the already mentioned Monsters of Rock, to the fast paced, blood pumping speed metal tracks like the title track. A common theme in all the songs include a multitude of shred-tastic solos by KK and Glenn. There are so many solos that's it's nearing the point of total showboating. However, they are no doubt a master of their craft.
If I was to find a flaw in the album, it would lay with the drums. The band used a drum machine for the album, but it doesn't really make a difference because Dave Holland wasn't that intricate of a drummer. So, yeah no flaws with the album.
Overall, this is certainly a highly underrated album. The next album would only get better.
Coming off the commercial success, but critical failure of the unfairly hated Turbo album, Priest release the real worst Halford fronted album in their discography, Ram It Down. Replacing the already mechanical Dave Holland with a drum machine to erase that last aspect of humanity from their sound, Ram It Down is incredibly uninspired, and suffers from a lack of strong songwriting for the first time in their career. Halford is certainly giving his all, and the solos on this album are pretty good, but that doesn't matter when the songs themselves are terrible.
The album starts with Halford screaming his lungs out to the best song on the album. The hard and heavy title track may have some god awful lyrics, but the music certainly delivers if you discard the unnecessarily cheesy "shout it out" bridge. The second track comes off as plodding and slow without any good riffs to save it. The melodic sensibility of previous efforts is MIA. The vocals in "Love Zone" grate on the nerves during the verses, and the chorus isn't very well thought out at all. "Hard As Iron" is praised as being one of the heavier tracks on the album, and liked by many people, but it also suffers from a half-baked chorus and some terrible lyrics. This is the album basically. The mediocre, "Come and Get It", "I'm A Rocker", "Love You to Death", and the god awful "Monsters of Rock", "Johnny B. Goode". Their cover of that Chuck Berry classic is almost so bad that it's funny, the band hilariously misinterprets this classic and butchers it with a guitar intro that rivals Spinal Tap's "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" for downright misplaced showboating.
Another actual good song is the ballad "Blood Red Skies". The mechanical production actually helps this tune out as it is supposed to be mysterious and about machines. It's a nice Priest ballad with dynamics and an actual good chorus. However this is the only song on the album the production helps. We haven't been able to hear Ian Hill in nearly a decade, and the whole thing just sounds hollow, except the guitars. The guitar sound on this album is absolutely massive and crunchy, and I like it very much. See the beginning of "Come and Get It" to see what I'm talking about. If only that guitar sound was put to use with songs that sound unfit to be b-sides. The drums are incredibly hollow, both drum machines that I hear on the album are painfully obvious and have no depth whatsoever. Halford is his usual awesome self, but his lyrics are at an all time low here. Usually bad lyrics don't bother me, but when there is no memorable music to distract you from them it becomes painfully obvious how elementary they are. Glenn and K.K. really shred on this one, giving in their most technical performances, squandered on third rate material.
Ram It Down is the bottom falling out for Judas Priest, even they realized it was time for a change. They kicked out the mediocre Dave Holland and replaced him with the Racer X badass Scott Travis. They also fired Tom Allom and got Chris Tsangarides who worked with them on Sad Wings of Destiny and was fresh off of working with the underrated band Slave Raider. The fresh blood obviously revitalized them, as Ram It Down is a bland, uninspired album full of leftover material from a tired band.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! says the metal god, and I concur! For this mess of headbanging metal can only be addressed and reacted to by a scream. The strange period of Judas Priest releasing radio-friendly metal and roaring heavy fucking metal on the same albums, Defenders of the Faith and Screaming For Vengeance being the heaviest and Turbo and Point of Entry being.. well.. catchy? More on that on those reviews, Ram It Down is the focus, and they try certainly try to justify the title by shoving both the heavy and friendly into one album intended to be a second on a double album. Twin Turbos may have changed the whole perspective on Turbo (considered the sellout album of Priest) and Ram It Down (the album before the masterpiece) since they would have balanced each other. But Ram It Down feels like they tried to go in the direction of Painkiller, while keeping the synths in the mix, and god it's so catchy and heavy at the same time somehow!
Now this album to me is special because it shows Priest want to be taken seriously again and they show it very well for the most part, Glenn and K.K. unrelenting in their dual guitar onslaught, Halford tearing his seventies incarnation roaring into the late eighties with banshee cries only he can create, Ian thumping away with his simple but perfectly matching bass licks working with the guitars and.. drum machine.. oh god.. Dave wasn't ever my favourite drummer from Priest but this is awful.. He could play a beat, he could keep and change tempo, he did justice to the albums and songs he was on and deserved better than to be credited on an album where a machine butchers his beats like a fat ugly hog. The machine does well enough, but it just sounds so lifeless. I'll try to keep from freaking about the drums through this review and focus on the fact that this album is an evolution and return to form that would show they know all too well how to move forward with their sound with passion instead of marketing.
The opener/title track gives you a good idea of what to expect from there on out, pulsating metal that's either uptempo and heavy or really fucking happy as shown in the middle of the song. While the Turbo amounts of cheesiness are still here for the bridge, this whole song is a sure sign of what's to come on the next album and starts the album off with a bang. Halford's scream starting off the track gives me chills every time, with how well the guitars chime in and drum machine starts blasting it is one of Judas Priest's finest tracks ever created in my opinion (It just needs real drums!) It personifies metal in every sense, chanting on about decibels no doubt the band would reach and one up on the consecutive tour but acknowledging the guitars in metal scream as much as the singers and it only solidifies this anthem and when they cheerfully ask me to shout it out midway through I gladly oblige, especially since Halford refuses to use his lower octaves through the majority of the song. But I really don't care god damn I love me some metal god screams! Halford really belts it out at incredibly high notes through most of the album. He relents to use a sort of "Come on everybody let's rock!" style when not wailing, and he seems to shine the most for me in Blood Red Skies, his screams thrown into the mid-tempo chanting anthems like Love Zone, Come And Get It, Heavy Metal and I'm A Rocker (Which lyrically seems to sound like they all want to do what they want and no one is gonna stop them, ironically what Halford does shortly after Painkiller) really do fit perfectly but man nothing for me can top Rob Halford's greatest moment on vocals. Blood Red Skies is nothing but passion and power. The acoustic rendition of The Hellion urging him to soar which he certainly does once he gets the chance and doesn't stop till the drum machine(the only song where the drum machine works almost as good as real kit could have), haunting guitar leads and thrum of the bass guitar fade with his cries, leaving Halford's shining moment forever ingrained into my mind.
Pounding drums actually are a staple of this album even though fabricated throughout the majority of the album, but it works very well in making Ram It Down, and Hard As Iron feel like they should have been on Painkiller. I may have bashed them but at the same time, it seems to work well with the synthesized guitar parts when they rear their automated heads. The ridiculous sound of the drums and synths may be annoying but with the level of happy go lucky they induce, the inclusion of their hilarious cover of Johnny B Goode doesn't even phase me, as it is two hundred more times catchy that good old Chuck could have ever made and I don't mean to dwell on the Metal God so much this album but damn does he go nuts with screams on this song and it fits perfectly!
While this album is cheesy in some moments and a bit frightening at times, Monsters of Rock being an extended version of the horrifying segment in Night Crawler and the whip crack at the beginning of Love You to Death drives home a darker side to the leather look I choose not to delve into, Glenn and K.K. really show they know how to shred and make true heavy metal riffs that accompany Ian on his journey to disappear and yet always be noticed in each song written by Judas Priest (his bass-work actually being more prominent on here than usual). The songs are solid and even the live bonus tracks really shine as grade A performances of songs not heard in their live repertoire often, with Halford showing his pipes again and the dual leads showing their shredding capabilities. Ram It Down shines as a bridge (with manufactured parts) that stands on its own but really gives us a great taste of the speed metal shred fest up next. They show happiness and heaviness go hand in hand, even though they ditch the happy one album later, and it makes for one of my favourite Judas Priest outings.
Apologies for being such a huge fanboy throughout this. Rob Halford is my idol as a vocalist and all time favorite singer with Judas Priest being my favorite heavy metal band of all time and my first coincidentally. So for just for a hint of negativity, the flow of the album is kinda wonky from time to time, switching from speed metal to rock anthems a couple too many times, thus the 85% rating. It could have been at least 92% if structured better and had real fucking drums!
I'm a pretty big Priest fan, they're the band that got me into metal. They have a very deep catalog, and several great albums. This isn't a great Priest album. This is just bad. Along with Turbo and Demolition, this seriously contends for their worst album. The only really good thing about this album is the guitar playing.
Starting with that, yes the guitar playing is superb. It had probably been ten years since Priest's guitar playing would have been considered even somewhat technical. This is different. Priest had been learning in this decade, and they showed a good deal off in the solos on this album. The riffing is also Priest's usual level, a bit more advanced, but still at the same quality. The only real problem is that the synthesizers are still present on this album. Priest did not use the synthesizers well on Turbo and they really aren't much better here. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate synthesizers. Priest just didn't use them well.
Halford's singing on this album is essentially to par as well. He doesn't sound like usual here. Halford was beginning to incorporate the shrieking he would utilize on Painkiller. He isn't all the way there, but he's close. To me, this isn't as good as that sounds. Halford had one foot in the old and one looking forward, so it doesn't sound ideal.
Ian hasn't been a force in their sound is some time, and this is no different. Holland apparently was ill and unable to do some of the drumming, so they got a machine to do some of the songs. I don't too much mind this, as he really didn't do much more than a machine anyways. This is also Holland's last album, which is pretty good. His replacement was several notches better, and Holland ended up being a less than great individual. I often ponder if this is part of the reason Priest has never made the Hall of Fame. The people in the Hall have inducted a couple of metal bands. I have wondered if Halford's defense of Holland isn't part of it. The Hall of Fame would loathe to induct a convicted child-molester, but it would be hard to leave out one of their longer-tenured members, especially one that a major member seems to consider a friend.
The biggest problem is the songwriting. It's just awful. Turbo was cheesy, this is just dreadful. You have a song about Golems and what is easily the worst cover of Priest's career. Diamonds and Rust and The Green Manalishi were gems, Johnny B. Goode is horrid. I have no idea how this got nominated for any sort of award. On a related issue is the total lack of focus. Some of these songs are left over from Turbo, and it wrecks the consistency. Priest were known for unnecessary love ballads, but they also weren't usually this aggressive. The end result is like Take These Chains on Painkiller, It makes no sense.
I do enjoy Hard as Iron from time to time, and the title track isn't horrible. This caught Priest in a transition, and it shows. I honestly think Turbo was probably better, at least it had an idea in mind. This is Priest in Limbo, but they did get better. Their next album is much better, and calling this Painkiller Jr. just insults Painkiller. Anyone who criticizes the lyrics on Painkiller really needs to read these. My recommendation is that Priest fans might want the two tracks I mentioned. Everyone else can do without those two, let alone the rest of this garbage heap.
After Judas Priest released their ill-conceived album "Turbo" in 1986, many of its fans began to abandon ship and join the legions of thrash metal fans. The album was a dismal failure that showed that Priest had an identity crisis in terms of musical style in the mid '80s. Realizing their near-fatal mistake, they decided to make another album as a way of saying "please forgive us, we won't do it again" to their fans. That new album was 1988's "Ram it Down", and although it still has traces of "Turbo" on it, there's no doubt that the band wanted to appease its fans while making more money. The album isn't as bad as "Turbo", but it isn't as good as "Sad Wings of Destiny" or "Stained Class" either.
Judas Priest has actually improved quite a bit on this album. Although it's slightly melodic before it gets to the solo, the opening/title track is at that ripping, blazing speed that made Priest the band that we all know and love. "Hard as Iron" is also worthy of mention, for its riffs don't sound like anything radio-friendly like the horrendous "Parental Guidance". The use of synthesizers is cut down as well. Aside from "Blood Red Skies", synthesizers on this album are almost virtually nonexistent. Oh, did I mention the phenomenal solo at the beginning of "Heavy Metal"? It's a sign that Priest is slowly returning to their roots and shrugging off the "sellout" label.
Despite these improvements, though, there is still that shadow of "Turbo" that is cast on "Ram it Down". Even the songs that are actually good on this album still have some melodic quality to them, especially "Hard as Iron". Even with the melodic sound, the songs are at least better than what they could have been (*cough* any song on "Turbo" *cough* *cough*) and are actually good to listen to. There is also the fact that there are songs on here that sound almost entirely like they were meant to be hit singles (e.g. "Come and Get It", "I'm a Rocker", etc.). But even then, those songs aren't entirely bad, they're just somewhat bland and forgettable.
But all of these would only be a chuckle compared to the song on this album that everybody should skip, regardless of their musical taste; Priest's cover of Chuck Berry's "Johhny B. Goode". Why? Just why? What's the point of that? Have you learned from ANY of your mistakes? It's like what would happen to Celtic Frost, still reeling from the failure of "Cold Lake", if Tom G. Warrior said, "Hey guys, you know what we should do? We should do something fun, like covering an old Beatles song. That'll be cool enough to put on our next album." That's what it's like. I could go on and on about how Priest made an even bigger mistake than their previous album, but I would have to type it in all caps and take up several pages, so my rant is over.
Though it's not as bad as their previous effort/disaster, "Ram it Down" still might have been a better effort. There are some songs on here that are forgettable while others are actually decent enough for me to actually listen to them, let alone, like them. It's not a horrible album, it's just not anything to crow about. Their next album "Painkiller" would prove that Priest would enjoy a new beginning, but fans had to wait until the '90s for that to happen. It's a shame, cos Priest's last release of the '80s, a decade in which metal flourished, was one of their weakest efforts. Still, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Though it's not one of my favorite full-lengths in the Judas Priest backlog, and I found the songs marginally less hooky than its direct predecessor Turbo, there is something Ram It Down did VERY right. Essentially, it would steer Halford and company back on the path they had abandoned with their divisive '86 record, and seemed the perfect staging for what would follow, the band's almost entirely unexpected, more aggressive masterpiece Painkiller. This album certainly curries a lot of the elements that seem to point at a Priest who had awoken from an oblivious torpor, shucking aside a security blanket and realizing that they weren't getting any younger, but they could still get HARDER, and thus assimilate themselves against the evolving metal landscape without betraying the traditional sound that they were so critical in helping create in the first place.
Perfect it is not, but heavy it most definitely fucking is, at least in comparison to the band's output up to its release. The guitars feel more pronounced and potent, the leads quavering, intense and more acrobatic than many others in their discography, and Rob's voice was becoming more dynamic and defined than even his youthful years. All the experimentation with the guitar synthesizers has been cast to the curb and they've gone for straight, ballsy songwriting with the huge vocal hooks that have immortalized them. Interestingly enough, they kept on long term producer Tom Allom here in conjunction with several of the band members, and though this is one of his last appearances in that role, he's managed to help get them back on track. For if I've got any complaints at all about Ram It Down, the actual studio sound is not among them, this is one of the finest 'sounding' albums the band have ever released to date, voluminous and balanced to a cutting perfection.
Where I don't strongly succumb to its charms is in the songwriting. Most of what you hear on this record was actually intended to be released with the Turbo material as a double disc which would mix and match the heavier and more glam/pop inspired material, but it eventually was decided that they'd separate the two aesthetics into their own entities. Ram It Down clearly still has a few of the hard rock songs present, like Zeppelin-groove heavy screamer "Love Zone" or the melodic cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". "I'm a Rocker" would have fit in quite fluidly with Turbo since it has that same sort of percussive guitar rhythm beneath the chords, and the same might be said for the nearly 8 minute, escalating "Blood Red Skies" which adheres to the heavy use of synth from the '86 album, though effectively. "Love You to Death" wouldn't have been out of place for KISS or Jimmy Page. Strangely, though, while I liked the summery party aesthetics of Turbo, none of these particular tracks have ever really stood out to me...
But then, the rest of Ram It Down is really quite good. "Come and Get It" is one of those classic mid-paced hybrid hard rock/power anthems which would influence about a hundred German bands not the least of whom would be Primal Fear (or U.D.O.'s solo works). "Heavy Metal" opens with some flashy, frivolous leads before evolving into some of the best Halford screaming lines on the album, not to mention a chorus so dark and catchy that it compensates for just how goddamn obvious you knew it was going to be. "Hard and Iron" and "Ram It Down" itself both serve as the foreshadowing of Painkiller, what with the driving double bass in the former, the scathing and effective leads, the more aggressive sting on the vocal effects and the general sense of added majesty, anger complexity that the band would pursue on tunes like "Leather Rebel", "Metal Meltdown" and "All Guns Blazing". Had this album never existed and those tracks were bonus material on the 1990 effort, they'd fit in quite fluidly, even though the payoff of the chorus hooks is nowhere near that level.
"Monsters of Rock" was another interesting piece, with a slow build to it that I would expect from a band like Manowar, and vocal elements that also match such a manly aesthetic. Even though the chorus (like a lot of "Rock"-titled tunes) is almost laughable, this song is perhaps the most individually distinct stylistically when compared to its neighbors, and I imagine Dave Holland must have had a lot of fun laying out those resonant, warlike drums which feel like you're in some alternate universe Sign of the Hammer. In general, though, this album is rather well balanced. You've got your non-ballad power-ballad epic, your mighty and crushing pieces, mid-gait fist smashers and rapid fire accelerations. It's not difficult to understand why so many fans breathed sighs of relief when it first arrived, having had negative reactions to Turbo. I think, pound for pound, that record had more songs I enjoy in the long term, but only because of the memorable chorus sequences.
In retrospect, 1988 was perhaps my favorite overall year in metal music, with an enormous amount of acts boiling over from the underground that took the genres of speed, thrash and power metal to new heights. Like its predecessor, Ram It Down could hardly compete with what else was happening. Albums like Riot's Thundersteel or Sanctuary's Refuge Denied walked all over what I heard on this record, and some of the exciting European speed/power records like Scanner's Hypertrace, Rage's Perfect Man and Running Wild's Port Royal remain among my favorite in all of music and examples of NWOBHM/power influences taken to a greater level of musicianship and bolder conceptual extremes. Operation: Mindcrime had vocal hooks that created orgasms in my eardrums. Even Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son matured better than this record. But those comparisons aside, Ram It Down does not age poorly, and it's still fun to break out once in awhile. I mean, if you can't weight train to "Monsters of Rock", "Come and Get It" or "Hard As Iron", you are no hesher, in which case you should go listen to Adele or cuddle up to some butter-free microwavable popcorn and watch Dancing with the Stars. 'But I LIKE "Rolling in the..." SHUT UP.
Judas Priest apparently wanted to get heir act back together after the infamous 1986 album, "Turbo". 1988's "Ram It Down" was almost as equally controversial, due to it infamously being made up of "Turbo" leftovers, semi-pandering "WE ARE SOOOO METAL" rockers, and more technological interruption, resulting in what is probably the oddest in the band's discography. It's inconsistent, often lame, sometimes heavy, with a feeling of Priest going through the motions and a dated, uber-80's sound to it. Yet, is "Ram It Down" that awful?
Well, most of the band add a bit more power this round. Halford lets loose more of his traditional shrieks and wails this time around, sounding more aggressive (but also more rushed) than on "Turbo". Glenn and KK are yet again the stars here, their trade-off solos scorching, memorable, and again aggressive, though the still apparent use synth guitars gets a bit nerve-shredding. Then there's Ian Hill again. Competent, but unremarkable. He again manages to shine on quieter or heavier tracks like "Blood Red Skies" or "Come And Get It". Then there's Dave Holland...who's nowhere to be found. From what I understand, he was sick during much of the recording, though he did pound out a few numbers. He was replaced by a drum machine, a drum machine which I will not critique because it's a fucking drum machine. It makes the songs sound processed and synthetic...because its a fucking drum machine. Bad choice guys.
Luckily, some of the songs are pretty damn solid. Everybody's gotta love the title track and "Hard As Iron", a pair of fearsome, adrenaline-pumping speed metallers with killer vocals and blazing guitar dueling. Not even the synthetic drumming can bring these rabid dogs down! A personal favorite of mine is the epic "Blood Red Skies". Corny? Yeah, maybe, but man is this song beautiful too, with its experimental intro, lavish vocals and an emotional main solo. Great, great stuff. Much of what I also find decent are also pretty fillerish, too. I have a soft spot for numbers like the mid-paced "I'm A Rocker" in spite of its corny lyrics, as well as the slightly heavier "Come And Get It" with its catchy main riff and stomping vocals. The REALLY cheesy "Heavy Metal" is kind of a fun listen as well, the heavy metal pandering just goes off the charts here. Avoidable numbers are "LA LA Love Zone!" Blech! Another bad one is "Monsters of Rock", one of the most boring, plodding Priest songs ever, and probably one of their worst album finales since the end of "Defenders of the Faith".
Overall, this is one odd album. It's inconsistent, and reeks of unwanted technological inference, causing an unwanted dated feel. The bad songs downright suck, but some of the technical filler moments I think are actually kind of fun, while the trio of "Ram It Down", "Hard As Iron, and "Blood Red Skies" help bring the album up to an at least semi-respectable level. A decent keeper for Priest purists, but not a good start for new fans. Think twice on this monster of rock.
Ah, the almighty Judas Priest. can they do any wrong? Well, besides Turbo. And Demolition. And Point of Entry. That concept album was pretty iffy, too, but the least offensive of Priest's missteps in their career has to be "Ram It Down." It's really all-around not a bad album, but it's among the most filler-heavy in JP's discography. Yeah, there's rip-roaring solos everywhere you go and Rob Halford does plenty of his signature wailing, but the lyrics... good God, the lyrics are pretty abominable, akin to the worst of Manowar's "metal-as-fuck" material like "Metal Warriors." Anybody who knows Judas Priest knows that they rock; they don't need songs describing how "metal" they are. They're the Metal Gods, for Chrissake! Ironically enough, most of the songs on here are among the LEAST metal in JP's discography. "Love Zone," for example, reeks of glam metal overtones, almost more so than anything on "Turbo." That Motley Crue-esque catchy-but-simplistic guitar riff, that drum machine churning out an equally simplistic beat...it just sounds really dated. It's been said that Turbo and Ram It Down were originally going to be a double album. Admittedly, a lot of the material on here wouldn't sound out of place coupled with "Turbo."
Luckily, there are some saving graces here, like the opening titular track. It's still cheesy as hell, but dammit if it isn't enjoyable. "Hard As Iron" is also a pretty fast cooker. Nowhere near the best JP has ever done, but more enjoyable than a lot of the other schlock on this album. The following track, "Blood Red Skies", is an 8-minute epic. It still sounds totally '80s, but a good part of the '80s where music videos that took place in dark alleyways that had fog machines made sense and were socially acceptable. The cover of "Johnny B. Goode", while completely unnecessary, is still mildly entertaining but a bit overlong considering the original song is only like 2 and a half minutes. This cover is FOUR MINUTES AND FORTY SECONDS! I understand they wanna throw in a few extra solos, but an extra two minutes worth? Isn't that a bit overkill?
The title "Monster of Rock" would make you believe that it's just another song about how much Judas Priest rocks, but they threw a curve ball at us! It's a song about a monster made of physical rock, which arguably sounds just as stupid, but it's really not a bad mid-paced tune. Rob Halford gives a menacing performance, but the lyrics are still pretty bad.
Other than the aforementioned songs, most of the songs on this album have the same problem - for how much JP talk about how much they rock on this album, the material presented doesn't rock too hard, especially compared to some of their earlier works. There are no "Bloodstones," no "Sinners," no "Tyrants," no "Freewheel Burnings," not even a goddamn "Living After Midnight." Just several mediocre hard/glam rock tracks coupled with some signature Priest solos. It's far from the worst they've released, but also far from the best. Only hardcore Priest fans need apply.
Obviously, there is no need to introduce the band, but it is worth to bring nearer this diamond among other Judas Priest albums. In my opinion, this release shows the greatness and quintessence of all Priest's stuff. Being such a good album, it is also one of their most underrated work at the same time. Maybe underrated isn’t the right word, but for sure it’s some of their less well-known vinyl. Originally planned to be released with Turbo as a twin album, it was finally published two years later as Ram It Down. It’s quite interesting that all the songs from Ram it Down were recorded during the Turbo sessions. Between those albums is a deep gulf as they are completely different. Fortunately, they were separated and released singly . The next thing is that after releasing Turbo, the band moved to a more commercial sound. They needed an album that would help them go back to the top and repair their image. The gods came to fight for domination and the hearts of their fans. They have dominated mine.
This disc contains a few of my all time favorite Judas Priest songs such as I’m a Rocker, Hard as Iron, Monsters Of Rock, and Come and Get It. Each of them are powerful and fast, especially Hard as Iron (which probably is the best song here, by the way), although here we can find slower ballads such as Blood Red Skies. The reason that I was so bewitched by this is the second song, Heavy Metal. The intro solo belongs to my favorites as well as I believe it is the best solo in the genre. Recorded with the classic line-up, this material is high quality and contains 10 solid songs, all worthy representatives of Priest's creativeness.
Let’s move on further. Ram it Down has become a classic speed metal song, straight forward metal from 0:00 to the end. The next song perfectly captures the content of Heavy Metal when your head will survive after the gorgeous and ridiculously-fast intro; you will know why Judas Priests members are called metal gods. Then the tempo slows down in Love Zone, allowing a rest before the next giant song, Come and Get It, a song where Tipton and Downing spin up to fall with a flourish into Hard as Iron, the fastest and the best song on Ram it Down. After this anthem, the tempo slows to introduces a pair of slower, but very interesting ballads such as I’m a Rocker or Monsters of Rock.
Finishing, I would like to mention that this album is way better for me than Painkiller. My final remark is that this masterpiece will always be in the shade of other Priest albums and the content is inversely proportional to popularity. If you want to hear essential Judas Priest, get it right now!
With one fuck of screech and a killer riff, this album starts off with a bang that threatens to rip you to pieces like pre-Turbo Judas Priest did. Unfortunately, the rest of the album isn't as consistent as it's opener (the excellent title track) which not just opens great, but has some excellent soloing throughout the song, a thumping rhythm section, and sees Rob in excellent form, after being somewhat toned down on Turbo.
The reason for the inconsistency, I'm almost positive about, is the fact that quite a few songs on this were recycled from the Turbo album after the idea for Twin Turbo was turned down by the record company. Which makes it go from the speed metal of "Ram It Down", to speedy 80's metal almost. Despite that though, all the songs are done here in a style similar to Defenders Of The Faith with a bit of a twist, which makes it all fit together, and sound good, but unfortunately has that inconsistent filler feeling due to the pure raw energy the title track gives and the obvious change between that and the rest of the album.
As for the rest of the songs themselves, you have some excellent stand outs, and then some filler, and one very badly placed cover. The cover of "Johnny B. Goode", while done well, DOES NOT fit on this album. I know it was done for a movie, but come on Columbia, release it as a single, not placed in the middle of an album where it shouldnt be. The other stand outs start with the song "Heavy Metal" , which has an intro that is good, but almost (well to me anyway) sounds like a carbon copy of Van Halen's "Eruption" or part of Vinnie Vincent's "Speedball Jamm", not to say that its bad, just that its familar sounding, and doesn't seem to do anything that those two solos havent already done. The song as a whole is pretty good however, minus the chorus, which seems to be lacking something, but it does follow the title track well. "Love Zone", and "Come And Get It" stand out along with these with all the twin lead work, screeches and speedy vitality you'd expect from a Judas Priest album by now. "Blood Red Skies", this albums epic, is the last track that is truly excellent and memorable, which despite being slower just rocks out loud. The rest of the songs have some great parts, but on the whole arent all that great in their entirety.
I strongly suggest buying this album though, its still one of Priest's best, despite its flaws and inconsistency.
Judas Priest was in a sort of reckoning period in the aftermath of the success of “Turbo”, which unfortunately cost them some respect among their core fans. Judas Priest is credited for helping pioneer the Speed Metal style that brought about thrash metal, and rather than continue to pump out great speed classics, they elected to sweeten up their sound with some pop influences. Although “Ram it Down” is more of a transitional effort than a pure speed fest the way “Painkiller” would be, it rocks a hell of a lot harder than anything they had done in a few years and ranks high in their back catalog.
The essential speed classics are present in all of their blazing glory, incarnate in the triumphant and unforgettable title track and the equally blazing cooker “Hard as Iron. From start to finish these tracks ratchet up the technical prowess of the guitars and drums, and showcase Halford back where he belongs, breaking the sound barrier with his high frequency banshee cries. Other tracks such as “Love Zone” and “Blood Red Skies” are a bit more mid tempo, but are still riff monsters loaded with unforgettable themes and sci-fi inspired lyrics in the case of the latter.
Other tracks on here are still more in the 80s rock vain, particularly the somewhat Deep Purple inspired tracks “Come and Get it” and “I’m a Rocker”. We get something a bit slower yet menacing sounding in “Monster of Rock”, almost to the point of having a doom quality to it. “Heavy Metal” showcases further the technical excellence of the guitar players, in addition to the heavier tendencies of this total album. “Love you to Death” is a bit more in the turbo vain, though it highlights the more positive riff driven aspects of it.
The Chuck Berry cover is probably the most interesting part of this album for me, as I’ve always been fascinated at how bands can take older songs like this and all but completely change them. The guitar work is a lot less primitive than the original version, venturing well outside of the repetitive blues riffs that Chuck Berry elected to play a little bit too fast for the mainstream of his day. Essentially metal can trace some of its roots back to this music, but when one compares this version with the original, it is obvious that evolution has created a completely different beast.
In conclusion, this is a solid release for fans of older Judas Priest, although if there are some out there who liked “Turbo” and “Defenders of the Faith”, there are still some remnants of those on here. Come ye traditional and power metal fans, this is a treat for the ears that ought to get a nice loving home among you collections
Priest's 1988 album "Ram it Down" is a far cry from their previous album, being the sub-par, 80s influenced "Turbo". On this effort, Halford and the band prepare to win back the fans of the heavier side of Priest with some nice molten metal.
The album opens with the smoking title track, easily one of (if not the) best Priest song ever. The soloing is completely off the wall, and Halford's vocals are in top shape after sounding a bit shakey on "Turbo". One thing that has definitely returned on this album, especially the title track, is the energy that was last seen on "Screaming for Vengeance". The band seems really "in" to the music, and Halford's vocals are more impassionated than ever before. The second track, the aptly titled "Heavy Metal" (there's Priest for ya...), begins with a solo that tears your body limb from limb before careening into a full on assault, chugging riff with Halford's classic high vocals. The chorus is absolute destruction, albeit very simple. Overall, a very enjoyable song. "Love Zone" is quite the lame title, but the riffs are not lacking. The drum pattern here is really nice as well. Halford is back with the screeching, the lyrics also have a semblence of continuity with their cheeziness as well. The chorus on this one is nice as well, especially with the addition of the "marching" bridge into the next verse (of death). "Come and Get It" starts off a bit too typical, but the intro solo is a nice touch (once again). Halford also seems to have settled his voice down as well, but his aggression is astounding. Another nice chorus (1), + Halford's killer vocal range (2) + a riff monster (3) = four excellent songs in a row.
"Hard as Iron" is a return to speed, and is a complete riff beast. Halford's vocals are extremely cool, gotta love the doubled low parts. The riffs here have to be heard, as Priest comes up with their best track on the album since the opener. It's songs like this one that make me wonder why this album is so widely regarded as insignificant in Priest's career, albeit, it has to live in the shadow of "Painkiller". That being said, the speed found on certain songs on "Ram It Down" would have no problem standing toe to toe with "Painkiller" tracks, which is certainly saying something considering that aforementioned 1990 "Excalibur" of metal records is godly. "Blood Red Skies" slows things down a lot, but retains the quality, showcasing a different side of Halford (that one you saw on "Take these Chains" and "Last Rose of Summer"). The track picks up, and attacks with some potent riffs, but in my opinion, it lacks the power of the previous tracks. "I'm a Rocker" - lame title/excellent rock song. Pretty slow, but the chorus is huge, and the energy presented in the track is absolutely amazing, I believe that "Johnny B. Goode" is a cover (of which blues musician I do not recall...Chuck Berry was it?). It's okay, but doesn't stand up to the power of the other songs. "Love You to Death"...or was it "Criminally Insane"? An excellent build-up to a unique riff used in the verse. A real headbanger, gets one back into the music after the sub-par "Johnny B. Goode". The album ends in typical epic fashion, "Monsters of Rock". Talk about "anthem rock"...the first minute of this song wouldn't look out of place on a soundtrack to an epic battle scene. Halford's whispering is nice, the riffs here are killer. A fine end to an excellent, underrated Priest album. Get it!
The material on this album was written at the same time as "Turbo", and was even supposed to be released with that album as a double album. You can hear alot of differences, although there's still some songs that could've easily been put on "Turbo" instead. But, this album hinted at a faster, more thrash-like style which was a prelude to the next album, "Painkiller". The title track is another faster-paced gem, although the bridge before the lead breaks is a little lame (the "Shout It Out..." part), luckily you forget it ever happened with the frantic alternating leads that follow. After this are 3 standard songs, the latter 2 ("Love Zone" and "Come And Get It") should've been released on "Turbo", as they hint at the glam-metal style again. Then the first side closes with another fast and heavy track called "Hard As Iron" (a straight-forward thrash song)...
Side 2 opens with one the best JP songs ever, namely "Blood Red Skies". After an odd intro comes in with a very dark/depressive acoustic guitar riff with Rob Halford's gentle vocals, which gets progressively higher/louder until the intro ends. Then the song shifts to a stomping metal song, with Halford's wicked delivery during the verses (which are mostly only drums and vocals). The bridge then segues into the single best riff on the entire cd right before the lead break, which gives way to another pre-chorus and chorus. The song closes with some harrowing vocal delivery over some great guitar licks. But other than the following track "I'm A Rocker" (another "anthem" styled song), the rest of the album is average stuff, including a cover of "Johnny B. Goode" (a song originally made for a movie that ended up flopping, maybe they should've let "Reckless" be the "Top Gun" theme after all?!?). The closing song "Monsters Of Rock" is doom metal, super-slow and sludgy with perhaps the lowest-pitched vocals Halford ever did with the band. It's still not a very memorable song, though...
Overall, this album can also be passed on as well (unless you're a die-hard), though I'd say that "Blood Red Skies" alone makes it worth getting...
(Originally appeared on LARM, © 2002)