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Unholy Death Knocks Feebly At The Door - 69%

CHAIRTHROWER, July 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Metal Blade Records

- (Insert grawlix here!) - I admit I unceremoniously slopped a heaping portion of egg on my face at the end of my review for RAM's Svbversm when I blithely stated: "If you're new to RAM, any one of their releases to date is worth starting with as they're all scorching in their own corrosive way". Having learned the hard way, I retract my words as there's one glaring exception: the pedestrianly titled "Death" from 2012.

Bleak and boorish album art aside, overall Death fails to match the caustic heavy metal truculence of tracks such as "Sudden Impact", "Venom In My Veins", "Machine Invaders" - a personal RAM favourite of mine - and what I suspect is a real crowd pleaser live, "Infuriator", from the Swedes' clodhopper of a debut, Forced Entry dating back to 2005 (when bands like Ambush, Night Viper and Steelwing weren't even a twinkle in their founders' eye), or its succeeding shit kicker, 2009's Lightbringer, which harbours the vituperous likes of "Suomussalmi (The Few of Iron)", "Blood God" and "Titan".

Aside from the fourth track (and yours truly's preferred track on this otherwise lacklustre release), the five minute long "Release Me" - which starts off with a Sabbath-y "Sleeping Village" progression soon giving way to a mood-setting "1-2-3" cymbal intro and some real cool, emboldened albeit raw riffing, a cleverly construed chorus and bridge section, a typical onslaught of spontaneously combustive Harry Granroth/ Daniel Johansson soloing complete with Victor Griffin style squeals as well as a rumbling, game-changing and decidedly Pentagram-esque break 3.5 minutes in - the Gothenburg natives pulled the plug a tad too soon, as indicated by the flat line beep closing what is (sadly) one of Death's few highlights. For the most part, Death falls short of matching the epic grandeur and brute gridiron appeal of RAM's three other albums, which, as I now stand corrected, rock with a capital "R".

Vocals wise, RAM's unapologetically volatile pontificator, Oscar Carlquist, at times appears to lack his signature "straight for the jugular" bent. While he still despondently (a welcome and suitable trait for a band of RAM's calibre) delivers on "...Comes From The Mouth Beyond" and "I Am The End", his performance on "Defiant" and "Frozen" lacks the darkly passionate full-throttle magnetism which nailed my ass to my wall the first time I heard Forced Entry's "Sudden Impact", included on the Heavy Metal Killers compilation my mother brought me back as a "souvenir" from a trip to the U.K. (which happened to also introduce me to venerable newcomers such as Cauldron, Enforcer, and H.O.D. - Hospital Of Death (!) -, to name a few). To be fair, however, Carlquist's voice retains the distinctly sinister warble I'm sure legions of RAM followers have come to recognize and respect.

Other pitfalls to speak of? Although an eerie, windswept "TRON-ish" intro in "Death" (the title track) hints of picking up where Lightbringer let off, as an opener simply doesn't hold a candle to Lightbringer's "Crushing The Dwarf Of Ignorance" (ha!); the fact it's twice as long at three minutes doesn't help. As well, the waggish swagger of the main riff to "I Am The End" sounds irrelevantly out of place, premature this early on and comical even, as it precedes Death's other possible highlight, "...Comes From The Mouth Beyond", which spews forth to the beat of drummer Morgan Petterson's steady pace and snare-heavy drumming alongside aggressive triplet riffing on behalf of Granroth and Johansson.

"Defiant" isn't a bad track though it sounds a lot more like something you'd expect from Iron Maiden and not quite Judas Priest, whose greasier and less phantasmagorical appeal and sound is much closer to what RAM usually adheres to, the Swedes' overt vitriolic edge not withstanding. Which brings me to Death's weakest track by far, "Frozen", which comes next and instills the same WTF response as Forced Entry's meek closer (and sole weak track), "Burning Scars". Carlquist's uncharacteristic crooning is just too much to bear, and will have you forcefully pressing down on the "forward" button post-haste. I'll even go as far as comparing it to Phil Anselmo's (Pantera) at his most syrupy (i.e. the beginning of "Hollow").

You'd expect more from RAM's bellicose bellower!

Thankfully, things improve somewhat on Death's final third, notably with the unrestrained solo from "Under The Scythe" as well as Carlquist's solid return to form, for which I'm very grateful. A slight dip, however, with "Hypnos", which falls prey to the same tragic happenstance of "Frozen", as well as overstaying its welcome by a long shot. Thankfully, Death ends on a high note with "Flame Of The Tyrants" and an apt, closing instrumental (which, I'll concede, with opener "Death" nicely bookends this package), "1771", as the former provides a refreshing reprieve with some crunchy, face melting riffs on behalf of RAM's duo of axe men and frenzied drumming on behalf of Petterson, who exhibits a wide array of punishing beats and fills. The soloing is above par too. Come to think of it, consider "Flame Of The Tyrants" Death's third winner, alongside "...Comes From The Mouth Beyond" and "Release Me". In fact, it sounds much closer to what you can expect to hear on Svbversm, where, to quote GuntherTheUndying (and I just love this line!) "each track makes its presence known like a smelly dump in a public restroom". Is that great or what?!

Production wise, I miss the electric spark provided by the crisp guitar tone on RAM's first two albums, especially on Lightbringer, which I feel is superior to Forced Entry as it's entirely devoid of any filler, unlike the latter's aforementioned "Burning Scars". Nor does it match Svbversm's pummelling undertones despite Tobbe Petterson's bass playing imposing itself slightly more on this particular, albeit weaker offering. Worth mentioning is that Petterson is RAM's third bassist in as many releases. By the sound of things though expect him to stick around for a much anticipated fifth album, which won't be soon enough for this RAM rod.

By all means, RAM's Death isn't flat-out terrible but if you're new to the quintet's brand of old school, hellbent heavy metal fury, start with Forced Entry, Lightbringer or even Svbversvm first - you'll be glad you did. That said, short of correcting and re-submitting my Svbvrsvm review (thus "infuriating" the Metal Archives' moderators) I figured I'd simply grab the ram by the horns and steer Death out the door once and for all.

Highlights

"...Comes From The Mouth Beyond"
"Release Me"
"Flame Of The Tyrants"

From The Tongue Of Inconsistency - 66%

GuntherTheUndying, July 2nd, 2012

Apparently "Death" acts as the noticeable decline in content for Sweden's RAM. Although I have yet to experience "Forced Entry" or "Lightbringer," two of the band's previous efforts, it seems most fans of the group are approaching "Death" a bit more timidly than before. RAM often finds its head reared towards Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and fellow Swedes In Solitude or perhaps Mercyful Fate based on the sonic similarities held by the band and their obvious influences. The story of "Death" is straightforward and dicing heavy metal in its purest form, dashing out with all the signature riffs and structures of traditionalized devil music in a cunning slew of listenable material. I'm not completely sold over RAM's performance though, and a good chunk of the tracks slump below what this group is capable of, but I'm still banging my head to "Death" when the messengers of the master demand it.

RAM's overall pattern here is no mystery to fans of traditional metal, taking portions from Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, maybe some Iron Maiden and the rest of the legendary platter, and adding their own tints of old-school carnage to the mix. And like their obvious influences, RAM goes through an expected progression of styles and structures within "Death," often times heaving speedy offerings and longer mid-paced anthems to balance the flow of the album. The biggest problem I have is the basic atmosphere surrounding some of the material; it's more or less a combination of the squad exploring outsides themes unsuccessfully and the inclusion of lacking instrumentation. For example, "Frozen" derails the experience quite vehemently, being that most of the up-tempo songs beforehand were, uh, up-tempo, and "Frozen" itself slows down the pace dramatically. That in itself is no problem, but it's just a banal song, unmemorable and completely mundane. Most of the time they stay cool and calm, yet these little troubles do exist.

Vocalist Oscar Carlquist does a bang-up job in his role as vocalist; under every circumstance he acts surprisingly dominant, and his unique register enables him to nail notes of any niche with dashing precision. The faster numbers emit dangerous amounts of life and energy that most of the mid-paced tracks lack, and it's no doubt songs like "Defiant" and "Under the Scythe" rule the day when it comes to "Death." The six-minute "Hypnos" is a lackadaisical rocker that doesn't accomplish anything significant, and "1771" acts as an unimportant instrumental conclusion just buffing along in its own little world. I'm also really fond of "...Comes From the Mouth Beyond" and "Flame of the Tyrants," two more slices of heavy metal cooked with that special RAM seasoning of badass choruses and more grabbing riffs than the average faction.

As you see, I feel like RAM delivers on an inconsistent basis. They sometimes add amazing, zesty tunes loaded with stellar musicianship, but they also fall flat every few songs or so, and the overall flow is not too appealing. I feel like this band has the essentials to really make a cataclysmic record in them; flares of this glory show up here, but RAM needs a full-on inferno to make the most out of their resources. I'm not thinking "Death" can top the efforts of In Solitude, Portrait, or other traditional metal bands that have emerged from Sweden blessed by the glare of legends, but it's a coherent slab of meaty heavy metal at its rotten core regardless, totally listenable and digestible at the end of the day, just not fantastic.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Quite a step back! - 75%

Thorgrim666, April 17th, 2012

As it happened with more extreme genres before, Sweden has become the leading power in the world of heavy metal in the beginning of this millennium's second decade. 2009's "Lightbringer" probably turned RAM into my favourite band among all those new hordes bearing the heavy metal torch in the cold lands of Scandinavia, so I have to confess that I was eagerly waiting for the release of "Death" months before the final launch of the album.

Prior to the release we even had the opportunity to check some teasers with songs as "Under the Scythe", "Defiant" and "Flame of the Tyrants", all of them fucking intense pieces of heavy metal that lead me to the thought that we were facing one of the best true heavy metal albums in years. So, where my expectations fulfilled with "Death"? Definitely no! I'm probably guilty of having expected too much from these Swedes and, although the album is good, very good indeed, it can not even be compared with "Lightbringer".

While their previous opus probably lacked a bit of concretion, going for different orientations in some of the songs, all of them were accomplished with lots of passion and made them sound very personal and menacing. This time RAM have matured, but maybe they had lost some of the personal aggression shown in their previous output.

Listening "Death", however, since the very first moment, late 70's and early 80's Judas Priest come to my mind. The sound is perfect, yet very organic and analogue, very reminiscent of albums as "Killing Machine" and "Stained Class". Judas Priest's reference also seems really obvious if we give a careful listen to the songs. I consider that tunes as, for example, "Comes from the Mouth Beyond" or specially "Under the Scythe" and "Flame of the Tyrants" immediately remind albums as "Screaming for Vengeance" and "Defenders of the Faith". And even, going further, "I Am the End" sounds very, very similar to "Dissident Aggressor". Other pieces of "Death" also show this guys proudly raising the flag of their influences, as I find "Frozen" quite close to Black Sabbath's "Sign of the Southern Cross", or the fast "Defiant" reminding the most intense Iron Maiden of "Aces High".

All in all, RAM's deserved debut with a big label can be consider a very good heavy metal album, while probably not fulfilling my high expectations for a third opus, but still very worthy of checking. And, if you don't believe me, just check their incredible "Flame of the Tyrants" video clip out there, it's difficul to be more METAL than that!

Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine.

Solid - 65%

Pratl1971, February 23rd, 2012

After hearing RAM’s devastating heavy Lightbringer nearly three years ago I was floored at just how prevalent the traditional metal sound was becoming once again. It was one of the more impeccable pieces of that ancient puzzle afforded to we minions of old. Now RAM returns with Death, an album all-too long in the making, but was it worth the wait?

While nothing will top Lightbringer as the band’s piece de résistance Death shifts gears ever slightly and offers a more tempestuous and moody side to the music. I’m not sure if it’s this small, seemingly inconsequential element that seemed a bit ‘off’ to me at first, but for whatever reason I had a little harder time grasping this record with one listen like I did Lightbringer or Forced Entry (the band’s first full-length). Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good record, but something came off a bit subdued throughout. That aside, let me assess the positives of the record and there are many.

As usual with RAM the band is a tight, flowing machine of Mercyful Fate design, especially evident in “Defiant”, which also spills out Iron Maiden riffs like copious amounts of ale. When entertaining a band like RAM it’s usually the thickness of the guitars and structure of the riffs that makes for an overwhelming song or album experience. The vocals by Oscar Carlquist are controlled power within the confines of a range worthy of mention alongside James Rivera or even a slightly less growling Matt Barlow; the high ranges certainly call upon the latter vocalist nicely. His voice showcases nicely in “Frozen”, which is a testament to the sound made famous by a band like Judas Priest. While the static electrical magic of Lightbringer is usually lightning in a bottle for any band, the effort here is still quite illuminating and worthy of praise. The band finds the niche and carves it like polished engraved steel, rounding the edges just enough to find a loose free form but tight enough to set themselves ahead of the typicality flooding the medium these days.

The songs overall are great and also worthy of repeated re-visitation, but if you’re seeking the same sort of free-flowing vision on the previous ventures it seems to fall just a bit short in that area. These guys know their music and have the chops to pull it off nicely, but aside from some varying spots of would-be genius (“Hypnos” and “Release Me” come to mind) there are spots that lack variance or tangibility to separate the visions or ideas evenly. I won’t go as far as to say that all songs are formulaic or completely similar because that’s simply not the case, but there is a string of familiarity throughout that straddles a very thin line between the cases. Happily RAM doesn’t completely give in to this and finds a differential that works and is competent enough.

What makes RAM a true contender for gushing accolades and fanboy reverence is the fact that these guys can create and play with the best of them, past and present. There is little in the way of erroneous or stultified lethargy; the band manages to keep the music lively and truly interesting with such a full sound and attention to integral relevance. While Death took a couple of listens to grab me, it is a fine record that took a few unexpected turns in the overall package, but it’s nothing I could ever deem bad or annoying. It’s all a canopy effect of good music under the umbrella of solid musicians with real artistic vision.

(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)

Flying the flag. - 80%

Andromeda_Unchained, February 13th, 2012

I was a fan of RAM's previous album Lightbringer. It was an album that helped further my interest in the traditional metal scene, which is certainly something I'm grateful for. Death is RAM's third full-length release, and without a doubt the bands strongest to date. It isn't hard to tell that RAM's main sources of influence this time around are Rainbow, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath.

When compared with a lot of their Swedish peers I feel RAM really nailed the old school metal feel this time around, and not only did they nail it, but the made it damn convincing. Tracks such as "Release Me" and "I am the End" reek of pure 70's/80's heavy metal. The power of the riff is fucking mighty here and I really hear Rainbow-style nuances in the guitar work. There is also a lot of Priest-style riffing to be heard, "Flame of the Tyrants" stands out in particular as a glorious homage to early 80's Priest, with those almost gliding riffs Glenn and K.K. are renowned for.

I've found the whole of Death to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, although I do give the edge to the first half of the album. The opening barrage of tracks display the band's deft skill in their chosen style, and shows RAM at the top of their game. While a lot of bands are doing this kind of thing, I feel RAM bring something different to the table; whilst they proudly fly the flag of traditional metal they don't simply rehash other bands' material. RAM builds on the foundations laid down by the gods and I can only hope they keep bettering themselves as a band. A great start to the year!

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com