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Intravenous Injection of Musical Creativity - 100%

bayern, January 29th, 2017

Ram-Zet appeared at the very dawn of the new millennium to lead the 90’s trends into a new age although in their case one could never expect what twists they might provide along the way. Their approach can be described as modern avant-garde progressive metal with a healthy doze of thrash, but one can also detect polyrhythmic patterns ala Meshuggah, Therion-esque symphonic drama, bleak industrial landscapes, and even bits and pieces of the black metal movement from their homeland. Their neighbours Sweden unleashed a similar versatile “beast” at around the same time, The Project Hate MCMXCIX, but that band’s overlong, overloaded with all kinds of gimmicks compositions have worn thin by the time of their fifth full-length. Ram-Zet are half as prolific with five albums released so far altogether, amazingly keeping things fresh and original without any signs of monotony and repetition.

What the listener has to get used to, based on the first two efforts, is the jumpy, jarring riff-patterns which move up and down tirelessly creating a lot of dynamics without speeding up too much except on the sudden black metal sweeps. The delivery is strictly modern, a graceful continuation of the mechanical, sterile rhetorics of the past decade without accentuating so much on the groove. The other characteristic that’s worth mentioning is the vocal duel between a very raspy, witch-like “raven” and an angelic female soprano; not your typical “beauty vs. the beast” presentation the “raven” creating a lot of drama with his/her unholy semi-whispers, the soprano serving as the pacifier, both sides balanced well throughout the band’s repertoire.

Comes the album reviewed here, in the middle of the band’s discography, and (il)logically presents the guys (and girls) in a new light. The jumpy riffage has been given the second fiddle, and in its stead we have stunning technical/progressive death/thrash immersed in dark, sinister atmospherics recalling early Nocturnus, Coroner’s “No More Color”, and a not very known work of inventive, avant-garde metal, the Austrians Korova’s “A Kiss in the Charnel Fields” (1995). All the previously mentioned ingredients are here, but they have been made to play a less prominent role than the brilliant, intricate guitar harmonies which overwhelm you from the very opener, “The Final Thrill”, which is actually the “first thrill”, and quite a thrill at that: it starts with a most abrupt riff “salad” which will pour loads of memories over the utterly unsuspecting listener of the technical exploits of acts like Gorguts, Nocturnus and Theory in Practice; a great beginning which later gets interrupted by the band’s staple mechanical motifs although the more intricate escapades carry on on full-throttle later including a brilliant virtuoso lead section. “Left Behind as Pieces” tries to beat the previous cut with another dazzling portion of super-stylized guitars giving Coroner a very good run for their money; the tempo remains quite dynamic with the intriguing riffs appearing at every opportunity to “bother” the more sterile additives; expect a cool quiet violin-driven break in the second half.

“Enchanted” richly deserves its title with the unleashed technical “skirmish” which is preserved as the guiding motif throughout, becoming even more complex as time goes by with more urgent galloping rhythms accompanying it, plus a great melodic culmination served mid-way; an exemplary progressive saga which “flirts” with heavier, doomy strokes near the end. “Ballet” tries to justify its title with a slab of violin tunes for a start, but surreal headbanging atmospherics ala Korova follow suit nicely matched by the excellent emotional female vocals the latter on a fairly high level the whole time, by the way. “Peace” is exactly what the title implies, 2-min of quiet unobtrusive instrumentalism with elusive virtuoso leads “screaming” in the background.

“And Innocence” develops as a ballad, first serene and “innocent”, later seismic and industrialized; the technical flair of the previous material shows up in the second half reflected in impetuous thrashy gallops which still give way to the prevalent morose doomy rhythms as a finishing touch. “Born” is “born” of nothing but superb speedy technical thrash crescendos with hyper-blasting blacky ornamentations intercepting the rifforama which inevitably mutates into the traditional drier riffs; the black metal leitmotif springs up a few times later on as well as the steel technical sweeps near the end. “Lullaby for the Dying” indeed provides the mentioned in the title lullaby as “an appetizer” with a mesmerizing angelic timbre putting all babies to sleep in a radius of 20 miles although they may all wake up on the ensuing rigorous Coroner-esque gallops which fully display their horse-riding potential as they remain the prevalent pattern here, their thunder partly stolen by the imposing death metal-laced progressivisms in the second half the latter enhanced by a choppy technical section ala Theory in Practice as a wrap on. The band continue with their penchant for quiet, balladic intros and here comes another one inaugurating the 9-min opus “Closing a Memory” which closes the whole album, actually, the idyll rudely broken by a sudden technical sweep which in its turn is interrupted by other pacifying attempts including a violin-driven one; the alternation between the two sides continues as the middle is preserved for even more intricate, also more atmospheric exploits those taken straight from ”No More Color” including the breath-taking lead-driven interlude superseding them… memory closed.

In a way quite similar to the Germans Deathrow on “Deception Ignored” the band took a turn towards more technical, more progressive ways of expression after two albums, producing a masterpiece which by no means they thought they could ever surpass. The change in style in the Ram-Zet case was perhaps not as drastic since most of the tools they introduced on the earlier efforts were present, and there was no way one could view this opus as a product of another act. The Norwegians had established their vast boundaries from the beginning, and they had no intentions of migrating very far beyond them; and one can only have very deep respect for their genius and creativity which on the album reviewed here gave the fans an idea of what competition the technical/progressive thrash/death metal movement might have had all these years… Even as an isolated phenomenon in their discography, this opus remains a milestone in the aforementioned sub-genre putting the guys (and girls) very strongly on the metal map, regardless of the possibility that they may never follow-up with a similar artistic outburst.

“Neutralized”, which appeared four years later, aptly debunked and “neutralized” all hopes for another technical/progressive thrash delight safely bringing back the more familiar and marginally less adventurous delivery from the works before “Intra”; and “Freaks in Wonderland” (2012) showed that the band are still capable of pushing the limits of modern progressive metal, albeit without any further exercises in technical wizardry. “Intra” was just a mid-break apparently, an interlude if you like (hence the album-title), a not-granted-to-every-artist opportunity for the band to cross the borders to another dimension where creating beautiful, incredible works of art seems to be a daily occurrence rather than a “freaky” incident.

Tries too hard - 60%

Etiam, January 3rd, 2006

Ram-Zet has been kicking around the ‘avant garde/industrial’ scene once dominated by the likes of The Kovenant for some years, and they now return with their third release, ‘Intra’. It actually does feature former member of The Kovenant Küth on skins, but if you’re looking for a Kovenant clone, you will be disappointed. Ram-Zet is far less industrial, and far more modern than their fellow Norwegians.

Before receiving this album to review, I’d heard and liked a couple samples from it—the melodious break from the first track, The Final Thrill, in particular. The dynamic and layering of textures was appealing, Sfinx’s voice rather pleasant; I hoped this same restraint and scope would be employed throughout the album’s duration.

It wasn’t. Those segments do appear in this album, but they seem disjointed, scattered. Though ‘Intra’ seems quite appealing to many, I just can’t hang with it. It is not that it’s too wild for my tastes; quite the contrary, actually. I had heard that Ram-Zet was experimental and ‘out there’—would that it were so. As it is, I’m hesitating to call this even somewhat diverse. I’m on my sixth way through this album and I am still having a difficult time finding any sort of identity from one song to the next, with maybe three exceptions. More than once, I have seriously thought that I’ve listened to a song on repeat, having heard the same template and chord structure multiple times. It could just be the ‘nu metal’-ish style of riffing that is scattered around much of this record. It could also be the almost Cradle of Filth-like vocals from Zet, minus the higher register Dani sometimes employs, which, arguably, makes these even worse due to the absence of range.

This is not to say that the album doesn’t have its good points. Sfinx handles the rest of the vocal work, and her voice is quite a good one. She does at times lean towards the Evanescence-like rock sound, but that is difficult to avoid. The violin playing by Asmegin member Sareeta is lovely, and I wish it played more of a factor in this album, perhaps replacing some of the tired vocal lines or ‘heavy’ breaks. She demonstrates a great classical sense, but has also adapted her playing to fit the more riff-driven style of this band.

And, on that note, I can’t understand why these guys don’t employ their guitar skills more. Songs like Left Behind as Pieces and The Final Thrill incorporate some, if not original, at least well played riffs, very Swedish in style. But then, as if they did not know where next to go, a lot of those good riffs disappear, or are completely subdued, while a simple verse chord is played instead. Also subdued is the best vocal line on the album, found in the lengthy final track, Closing a Memory. It is a very muffled, distant clean voice that comes in to play countermelody to Zet’s vocal line, and is really the best part of the album. Layers, mixed effects, intelligent progression.

But then it goes away. Zet is decent as a back-up vocalist, I suppose, but I question his skills as a co-lead vocalist. Sfinx is definitely talented, but can be too melodramatic, particularly when she’s whispering about falling or notes in blood. As for the instrumentation: listen to the last two minutes of Enchanted, where the same riff is repeated countless times, absent of any vocals or lead melody apart from a slightly discordant violin, and tell me this isn’t missing something.

I am reminded of an Adema album I once heard, where a riff would play twice, then stop, and give way to verses with simplistic drumbeats and an angsty vocal line. Ram-Zet strikes me somewhat as the metal equivalent, just with snazzier costumes, the backing of a quality label, and a couple redeeming twists.

Maybe it’s just not my thing. For those of you who are on the cusp of enjoying this, as I am, check out Unexpect. Sort of the same deal, just better, with gusto and mad chops.
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(Originally written for Maximummetal.com)

"...Further into the dark asylum" - 100%

InsaneCancer, November 16th, 2005

Ram-Zet’s new “Intra” album captured me from the beginning till end as soon as I listened to the first song. Once again they take us further “within” their dark mental asylum of avant-garde / black metal based on insanity. One thing that popped into my mind was how innovative they became since the last album “Escape”. Just by listening to this you can tell that Ram-Zet’s sound has definitely progressed and evolved into a darker-psychotic fury mixed with elements of the haunted beauty-side of the disturbingly ill. Almost like Ram-Zet is pulling you deeper into a psychological sickness and giving you underlying meanings on a different level. “Intra” holds a more different type of depth than the last album. First off “Intra” means “Within”. To me I felt in this album we explore more of the darker, hidden-concept aspects of “Within” Ram-Zet. The songs are told in a well done format through twisted metaphors or delusional stories dealing with imagination and insanity. I found a meaning in every song. Every song on this album in my opinion is outstanding, and my personal favorites was “The Final Thrill”, “Lullaby for the Dying” and “Ballet” is worth a good listen to because there’s a part I enjoyed where Sfinx will let out some delusional crying vocals. As far as the technical sound progression goes: Zet’s the lead guitarist and for only one guitar it sounds completely solid with fast heavy riffs that equals out a balanced sound, vocals have reached a more intense level of aggression in this one, along with the guitar the bass is excellently constructed in with the insanely fast drum rhythms (which I love), one thing about Ram-Zet is they have precision rhythm. Sfinx’s vocals have become even more hauntingly alluring and beautiful, operatic still yet with a different evocable sound as almost ghost-like. She hits unbelievably higher notes in some songs too. Magnus’s keys and choir and Sareeta’s violins bring everything together. The keyboards and choir sound Funerary, the choir is as always hypnotic and mastered in an almost ghost-like wind, along with mixed in beautiful dark ambient effects. The violins come in as solos in some parts especially endings of some songs or clashes with the other instruments in connecting terms, and gives it a somber sorrowful sound. I definitely recommend this album to fans of operatic/metal, black/gothic metal, avant-garde, or anyone who is disturbed and insane and would like to listen to something to relate with, and to anyone else who is interested I recommend it to them as well. “Intra” is very promising and will be worth your time and even replay. Outstanding work accomplishment on this album.