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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!
Well after the ridiculously lame "Turbo" Priest comes back with this. The production is weird on here. I assume it's a drum machine, as it doesn't sound very organic. The guitar tone on the other hand sound chunkier than usual and the soloing has become much more intense. This production sound over all does sound a tad bit rushed though.
We start with the title track which is some amazing speed metal, no doubt about that. I must say though there are traces of Turbo left over though. This song would be absolutely perfect if it weren't for th "Shout it out, we're all together now
Shout it out, we join as one, one" poppy part. Good thing it lasts all of 10 seconds. The solo is jaw dropping. A Priest classic for sure and a great way to start the album.
The next three songs are mediocre and midpaced. The lyrics are also really bad. As I said, some of Turbo still reeks on here. They're okay songs with some decent riffage, but it's really glossed over with poppy melodies at times. Think of stuff like "Some Heads are Gonna Roll" but not quite as cool or convincing.
"Hard As Iron" could definitely be on the album after this. Awesome speed metal, and great soloing. Basically a precursor to Painkiller. They should play this one live, one of my all time favorite Priest songs.
"Blood Red Skies" is fucking epic...well, it starts out that way at least. They hadn't done something of this caliber since "Dreamer Deceiver" (the best Priest song ever), but that's just the intro. The rest of the song isn't quite as good. Then the drums come in and it's kind of weird and will throw you off. It starts sounding way too electronic. The chorus is excellent, and the break in the middle is quite spectacular. Sorry, but the drums totally kill the overall epicness of this track.
The rest of the album is quite unspectacular and forced. I'm a Rocker? Pleeeease. "Monsters of Rock" is a pretty cool song but the lyrics are fucking retarded.
Well, at least they got that last bit of Turbo retardedness out of their system here, and we get a classic two years after this. The speed metal songs here are quite good, especially "Hard As Iron" which almost sounds like Grave Digger. Is it worth getting? Yeah, I suppose if you're a huge Priest fan. The songs that are good are really good, but there's a lot of mediocre to sift through.
I purchased this album back in the Eighties after a late teen introduction to Priest. It followed on after two second hand purchases of Sad Wings Of Destiny and the brilliant Screaming For Vengeance. Move forward to today, and the Internet shows me that metal fans are as touchy and disloyal as pop music fans. Worrying indeed.
This album slams into being with a meaty title track, Ram It Down. Halfords high pitched scream and Tipton and Downing's dual guitars let you know immediately that the Judas Priest machine is firing on all cylinders. The title Ram It Down is pure speed and classic metal, a great track indeed.
Next up is the aptly titled 'Heavy Metal'. Tipton preps your ears with a Van Halen like intro solo done with a Priest flavour, thereafter Halford's voice greets your ears. Unlike the Turbo album, the energy in Halford and the chunk of the twin guitars lets you know that Priest are back to business as usual. The chorus lyrics are a little weak, but the beautiful riffs, Halford's scream and the machine gun drumming more than compensate for this.
Priest take us into the 'Love Zone' next with a drum beat opening onto the catchy guitar chunk riff. Cue some more chunky riff and Halford wailing high and loud about 'razor legs and painted smiles'. Good stuff this, I am sold.
Flowing on from the Zone we have 'Come and Get It'. The song opens with more chunky riffs onto some lovely wailing lead work. Halford asks if you 'Like it heavy, do you like it mean?' because, as he says, 'they don't play it clean'. More of the same, this song would definably be a crowd pleaser at live events.
This leads us into 'Hard As Iron', a faster adrenaline fueled track. Halford warns us 'the more you resist, the more pain you feel'. Some great quick speed break guitar pieces among the set riff. Some anthem potential here.
Next the listener is surprised by an epic 'Blood Red Sky's' The song starts with some electronic sounds which back a beautiful acoustic guitar intro. This is overlaid with a calm Halford singing some great lyrics which setup the mood for this large track. Finally the heartbeat drum entrance lifts the song out of the acoustic and into the electric. I read another reviewer who compared it to Bloodstone, good comparison.
The next treat is 'I'm A Rocker'. Priest continues to let us know that they are still and always will be the rock and roll metal gods they always where. Where 'Hard As Iron' had anthem potential, this song is an anthem. The beat is laid back and the opening has Halford starting out with his trademark scream. Nice song with nice chunky, laid back guitar riffs.
Next we have the most mistaken and abused song on the album. 'Johnny B. Goode' starts with a blistering opening which displays just why twin lead guitars are a good idea. The boys take Chuck berry's classic (from the album Chuck ..Berry on top) and Priestify it in grand tradition. I love the Berry original, I love the AC/DC version, I love the Peter Tosh version, and now I love the Priest version too. It's Priest's own interpretation, and that is great. The song starts with the guitars doing their twin thing, winding in and out and up and down. The drums kick in, Halford screams high and 'Johnny B. Goode' kicks off proper. The sound is thick and mean with Halford's voice doing the vocals as only he can. At the end of each verse the guitars punctuate in a way that stamps the track in your mind. Backed by an equally energetic black and white video, all in all this is a great song.
After this its on to 'Love You To Death'. This starts with a thick drum intro, a humorous whip crack and some more twisty thick guitar. The song is more loose and the lyrics a little more cheesy, but by the middle of the song I was sining along with a grin. The lyrics are all tongue in cheek anyway. The song ends with Halford imploring that whoever has the whip must 'do it like that, yeah!' along with moans of aggressive extasy. Excellent stuff boys, excellent stuff.
The album ends with the song I found a little boring, though that is just my personal opinion. After a highly fueled experience, 'Monsters Of Rock' was a little slow and possibly lacking in some extra lead riff work. The song aims at the deep, heavy rock god classic type song, but does not really come off all that great.
Still with 9 solid tracks out of 10, this represents a great Priest album, a worthy outing before Painkiller and a fine album in their overall discography. To the reviewers and fans that slag this album, I guess if you and one of your mates can strap on some Gibson Flying Vee's and create/emulate the work of Tipton and Downing, then sure, have a rant about the album, the rest of you really need to harden up. With that said, I must agree that the drum machine is no match for a human drummer, one can hear the machine like drumming, but hey I can think of many bands at the time who were experimenting with drum machines, hell Sisters Of Mercy sold many albums with one and even named it Dr. Beat.
Nice work Priest, Metal Gods forever!
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)
I really can't figure out what people dislike about this album. After the less successful album Turbo, Judas Priest returned to their heavy metal roots, and created one beast of heavy fucking metal: Ram It Down. It was their heaviest albums up to date (although it can't be compared to Painkiller), and is an all out assault of metal, filled with the relentless intensity and energy that can only be found on a Judas Priest album.
As always, the songwriting is top notch. One of this band's biggest qualities is their ability to write out-of-this-world vocal lines. The vocal lines these guys write are extremely well thought-out and always have a great flow to them, which is a strength that shows clearly on Ram it Down, and one of the elements that make this a masterpiece. Tracks like Love Zone and Heavy Metal are excellent examples of this.
The vocals are as usual divine- which is what we've come to expect from the Metal God, Rob Halford. His insane ability to sing clearly in that lethal high-pitched voice (See: Blood Red Skies) is something that pretty much no one else can pull off. And his midranged voice is as always incredibly powerful and energetic, giving the vocal lines the punch they deserve.
The ultimate guitar duo of all times, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing provide one of their finest performances ever on Ram it Down. The riffs are razor sharp, catchy and relentless, and the solos are fucking mental- Ram it Down, Heavy Metal and Blood Red Skies features some of their best solos ever. And the guitar tone is absolutely lethal.
Ian Hill's performance on the bass is better than ever. On Heavy Metal he shines especially much, where his killer basslines are put to focus during the verses, but he puts out a really strong performance all over.
Dave Holland is something of a weakest link in this lineup though. His drumming is pretty catchy and solid, but he can get pretty boring and predictable at times- and on the title track, he sounds more like a drum machine than anything else. But this is just a minor flaw, and shouldn't bother you at all.
The album bursts right into ownage, beginning with the masterpiece that is the title track. Rob Halford screams, and we're off. Ram it Down is an insane ride of speed metal riffage and powerful fast sung, midranged vocals with the occasional high-pitched scream, and then that menacing chorus. And finally... "Shout it out, we join as one!" Guitar solo! One of their best solos ever, definitely up there with Beyond the Realms of Death and even Painkiller.
The rest is not fucking terrible either. Heavy Metal opens with some wicked shredding from Glenn Tipton, and turns into a brutally catchy heavy metal anthem, with those aforementioned lethal basslines, high pitched vocals, singalong chorus and insane solo.
Love Zone seems to be the most hated song on this album. Personally, I love it to an infinite extent. It's some of the catchiest shit the band ever wrote.
Come and Get It: Heavy, dirty and mean. Classic heavy metal.
And then... Hard as Iron. You enjoyed the title track? You'll dig the fuck out of this. The riffwork is total fucking speed metal that would make Kai Hansen cream his pants, the vocal lines are incredibly powerful, the soloing is awesome and- holy shit, Dave Holland plays double bass. And does it really well, I might add.
Blood Red Skies follows, which is a very experimental song, and also the ultimate highlight of the album. The acoustic opening melodies combined with the keyboard effects and Rob Halford's mesmerizing vocals set up one of the most beautiful moments in the band's career.
When it gets going, the almost techno-sounding drumbeat may be a turnoff for many, but it totally works, until the song explodes into the mighty chorus. "I'll fight you UNDER BLOOD RED SKIIIIIIES!" Rob Halford owns you, which he further proves during the awesome, powerful bridge. "You'll never take me alive!" Which is followed by one of K.K.'s finest solos ever.
I'm A Rocker is criminally underrated. Powerful, memorable vocal lines stand out, along with some excellent soloing. And then we have another underrated classic, namely the cover of Johnny B.Goode. The old classic is turned into a furious, raging heavy metal monster, with some of the most insane guitarwork on the entire album.
Aside from many others, I consider this to be an incredibly consistent offering, and I there's not a single song that stands out as being bad, or even average. The last two though, Love You to Death and Monsters of Rock, are slightly weaker than the rest, but are both amazing in their own right. Love You to Death is a midpaced, groovy and very dark, menacing tune. Monsters of Rock is a midpaced, bludgeoning heavy metal anthem sounding nothing like any other metal anthem I ever heard, but rocks nonetheless.
If I had to pick out my favourites on the album, I'd definitely say Ram it Down, Hard as Iron and Blood Red Skies. They are all immortal Priest classics, and will blow away anyone who knows what real metal is. But the rest completely owns as well. Ram it Down is an absolutely essential Priest classic, and it's really a shame so few people realize this.