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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.