Ram-Zet - Intra-duce Yourself

By Dr. Abner Mality

Mr. Henning Ramseth is one ambitious guy when it comes to music. He's the mastermind of the multi-national combo known as Ram-Zet (where he's known as Mr. Zet) and one listen to their latest offering "Intra" shows that this is a fellow not overly concerned with boundaries and limitations. To be perfectly honest, I was expecting little when I stuck "Intra" in my CD player and I had no previous experience with Ram-Zet.

The results not only opened my eyes but they just about knocked them right out of my head. "Intra" is an OUTSTANDING and highly complex extreme metal experience that is overall very heavy and fast, but tossing in influences from black metal, Gothic and symphonic music, industrial soundscapes and pure thrash. The mixture is surprisingly palatable and effective. Zet's vocals would give Gollum a run for his money in the inhuman sweepstakes but to balance this blood-freezing caterwauling are the enchanting female vocals of Sfinx and violin playing of Sareeta. The album is a rollercoaster ride that puts other high-tone metal acts like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir to shame.

Mr. Zet was more than willing to share his musical vision with yours truly when we recently had the opportunity to speak and here is the result of that communication...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First, we'll get the typical stuff out of the way. Who are the current members of Ram-Zet and how did you come together?

ZET: Well, we'll start with me first!

Zet: started up the whole thing back in 99, and wanted to create music without any limits, and reflections ‘bout genres or
commercial aspects. Wanted to mix all my favorite styles into one! Writes all the music, plays all guitar, and the male vox.

Kûth: Drummer, who suggested himself as the drummer in Ram-Zet. Joined in 2000- Also a session member in The Kovenant.

Sfinx: Female vox, Particapated at the first album, as a member of a hired choir.I thought she had something special, and asked her if she wanted to come back, and do some more on the album. Asked her to join as a permanent member in 2001. No metal background before Ram-Zet.

Sareeta: Violin and vocals, joined the band as a session member two weeks before our first gig. Did a very good job, and was asked to continue in the band.No metal background either, before Ram-Zet

Johannes: 17 year old key-player, who joined Ram-Zet last year, as a session member.

Former members: Jon: bass. Recently left the band in total understanding, and agreement. Magnus: key player: left the band right after the recording of “intra” Solem: bass: Helped me with the first demo, that got us a record deal, and played in the band, up 2003.

As you see, we have no bass-player at the moment, so we’re searching….

WC: Do you see Ram-Zet as more of a project or is it a proper band that can tour and record on a regular basis?

Z: We’re a proper band, even if I write all the music. We got periods when we don’t do that much, but that’s mostly because we’re a rather lazy gang ‘m afraid.

WC: Many of those involved in the group have other bands. Is Ram-Zet the top priority for everybody involved?

Z: It has to be, or else they get fired…ha ha.. It will always be that way. If not, we might as well call it a project, with several session musicians.

WC: How much of a departure is "Intra" from your previous material? It surely seems to be a very focused and mature work.

Z: Thank you very much. The first album wasn’t really a problem to do, because there were no expectations, and I just had a great time recording it, so I think the result turned out really good. For “escape” the second album, I also thought that everything went smooth, but listening to it today, I can see that we just didn’t put enough effort into it. We should have spent more time, both composing, and rehearsing and recording. So when it came to “intra” I really wanted to feel that we got our potential out on the album.I’ve written a lot of material which has been thrown away, and it took almost a year longer than we’d expected to write and record this album. We’ve done pre-prods on the songs, which is new for us, and I think you can hear that the band are a lot better than it was at the “escape” album. I also think the songs are better, and everything’s got more energy.

Nevertheless, a lot of people think “escape” is maybe our best album, so this is just my personal opinions, and every album has its own strengths I believe!

WC: Is there a concept or constant theme behind "Intra"? I didn't get lyrics but I sense the songs are linked in some way.

Z: Very observant. The lyrics are about two people. A man, who is schizophrenic, living at a mental institution, and a female nurse, working at the same place. They become a rather weird couple, and the lyrics are about their struggle through life, and what’s going on in their minds. It continues the lyrics from “escape”

WC: I've never heard any band combine harsh black metal vocals and melodic female vocals as well as Ram-Zet. What's your philosphy behind the vocals on "Intra"?

Z: Well, once again, I have to say thanks for the compliment! The “beauty and beast” vocal concept are done such many times in metal music, so it’s nice to hear that you think we’re doing it that well. The philosophy….hmm… to make it sound as good as possible I guess…ha ha… and of course we try to makes nice contrasts, as with many other aspects of our music.

We try to express a lot of moods, and physical conditions, as well, besides the plain musicality. I also think of my own vocals, as a rather important rhythm-element, on several parts, and tries to pay a lot of attention at my timing.

WC: Tell us a bit more about your female vocalist, she sounds as top class as any of the more well known names out there.

Z: Well, as I said, she has no metal background, but she’s a tremendous jazz-soul, and pop-rock singer, and she uses all her references, to create her own Ram-Zet sound. I’m very glad to have her in the band, cause she’s extremely skilled, and a dream to work with. She’s done a couple of guest-performances, and the latest was some singing at the next “eternal tears of sorrow” album.

WC: There's a strong symphonic element on "Intra". Who are some of your favorite classical composers and why?

Z: I don’t have a favorite classical composer, due to the simple reason that I don’t listen to classical music. Not because I have something against it, but I haven’t really felt the need to do it.

WC: Though the album is unpredictable, it never really becomes chaotic or out of control. How do you include some many diverse elements and keep things from becoming unlistenable?

Z: It’s really cool to hear that you, and many others, appreciate that in our music.Because, the point of course, isn’t to create chaos, but rather use all these elements that we love, into a complete Ram-Zet sound.

I think the “secret” somehow is that when I write music, I try to use similar elements, in different parts of the song, and in
different ways. So you can get the themes, to use that word, presented both in a raw way, but maybe also in a melodic and calm way. I also have to say, that we are musicians with various backgrounds, and I think we can “change style” in a second and still make it sound natural. So when we put in a violin part, like we do on “left behind as….” It’s not a new part, but a part from the song, played in a completely different way, and that again, leads into the “pop-sounding” part which again leads into the symphonic heavy part and back again. It’s important for me, that things are done for a reason, if you see what I mean.

WC: It seems Ram-Zet will be labelled a black metal band by default. Are you comfortable with that label?

Z: I hope I understand the question right here… you mean that we’re being presented as a BM band?In that case…what can I say. We’re definitely not a black metal band, and if you ask true fans of BM, they will get pretty upset if we’re called black metal.I liked a lot of black metal bands, and it’s one of many genres that we “steal” from, in our music. We got BM influences, that are for sure, but we’re not a BM band.Having said that, I totally understand that we’re a hard band to describe.

WC: What was it like working with Daniel Bergstrand? The sound of "Intra" is impeccable.

Z: It was a thrill, and he’s such a nice guy, and very skilled, but yet very interested in our opinion all the time. I also like his policy when it comes to equipment. He’s working at an old soundcraft mixer, and uses analog effects and stuff, to make things sound real and warm! We actually had to leave his studio before the mix was done, but he did a tremendous job, so I think we’re going to work with him again for the next album.

WC: What exactly are the songs "Peace" and "Closing A Memory" about? Are they related to death?

Z: Peace is an instrumental, but yet describing that maybe the struggle is finally over. On the first two albums, the middle parts are named “peace?” but this time it’s without the “?” in the end, and I like to think that’s a symbol of death. Yet….Sfinx and me write the lyrics together, and sometimes we don’t quite agree on what’s real, and what’s fantasy in this peoples heads. She wrote the most of the words at closing a memory, and she really should answer this herself, but again….it’s a symbol of a long struggle, coming to an end.We don’t like to explain too much, and the lyrics this time, are much more abstract than the “escape” lyrics. For the next album, I think it’s time for us to change subject.

WC: How do you see Ram-Zet progressing in the future?

Z: We’re going to work out from the same philosophy that we’re always have done, but I think I’ve going to write even a bit heavier stuff. We want to develop in the same direction that we have, and I can definitely say, that people will hear that it’s Ram-Zet. The contrast’s will be there. The vocals of Sfinx and me, and Sareetas violin will be there. And also Küths drumming are a very important part of our sound today. Hopefully we’ll reach yet another level on our musical skills, not really talking ‘bout “playing fast” type of skills, but more of a musical understanding, and co-operation in between the members.One thing we should do is playing a bit more live. We don’t seem to get on any tour this time, and that’s sad I think, because we’re a good live band in my opinion, but could be even better, if we had played a bit more.

WC: If you could ask 3 musicians to dinner, who would they be and why?

I would ask Eddie Van Halen, because he’s my first, and only true guitar hero. I think the latest Van Halen stuff sucks, and I probably would have to have the balls to tell him that, but I hope he hadn’t left the party, before I had told how tremendous I think the first 5 albums are. 1984 are ok also, but that was the first step in the wrong direction, in my opinion.But his guitar work at the early VH albums, are the best ever done in hard rock. Or, at least, in my ears it is…

Then I would ask Björk, because she’s a fantastic musician, and I believe a very interesting person, It’s really impressing to keep your own personal style the way she does, and still have a commercial success like that. I don’t think she ever compromises, and I admire that very much.

Then I think I would invite King Diamond, because I’m pretty sure he’s a nice guy, who would make the other two feel comfortable, and I love “them” and “ conspiracy” I think they are so great metal albums, even if the production is a bit weird, especially “them”

I think that could have been an interesting dinner….

WC: Any chance of Ram-Zet playing live in the States or elsewhere?

Z: That’s an economical question I think. We would love to, especially because we get a lot of mails from the states all the time, and it seems that it is one of our best areas. But we still have to sell a bit more albums, before someone dares to send us there I think.

WC: What was the last CD/tape/record you bought just for your own enjoyment?

Z: The latest Slipknot album, for a very cheap price. I’m not the biggest fan of the band, but they surely got some really great stuff, and if I’m in the right mood, I enjoy it pretty much. Küth are a big fan of them as well.

WC: What was the last gig you checked out just for your own enjoyment?

Z: ...I was at the Nightwish gig, when they played in Oslo a couple of months ago. Mostly to meet their tour manager, Ewo, because he worked at Spinefarm when we were signed there. I don’t go to concerts very often, because I tend to get annoyed by the bad sound, drunk people which disturbs me, and a bad view…ha ha… I’m hard to please..

WC:. Any last words to fans here in America?

Z: Yeah, please spread the word about us as much as you can, because we really hope we can get big enough to get over there and play for you guys sometime.And a big thanks to those who bought our album(s) because without them, we couldn’t proceed doing this!! Be nice, and stay metal!!

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Ram-Zet's Official Website