By Colonel Angus

I had the pleasure of reviewing RAM’s "Lightbringer" back in 2011 and have been spinning it ever since. In 2015, they released "Svbversvm" which was also a great disk and their track record for releasing great albums continues with "Rod".  It consists of five tracks but the last one “Ramrod the Destroyer” contains six parts which, for you vinyl lovers, means that it takes up the whole second side.  If any of you know me, you know that I am a huge Rush fan and this record has a real "Caress of Steel" vibe to it.  Sure, it’s not as proggy as that album but both have four tunes that make up side one and a concept piece that makes up side two. Also, and this definitely has to do with the concept piece, it stretches the band musically and lyrically the same way "Caress of Steel" did for Rush.  Aside from that (and my own weird Rush vibe), the similarities end there.  This has all the hallmarks of traditional metal played with enthusiasm and conviction.   The opening cut “Declaration of Independence” is truly a declaration of what to expect from this band and this record.  It is a riff heavy tune with Oscar Carlquist’s vocals soaring over the top.  When they tour for this record, they should definitely open the show with this cut.  “On Wings of No Return” and “A Throne At Midnight” are faster songs that don’t veer into thrash mode due to the groove that the rhythm section incorporates.  Think of fast Saxon or Diamond Head with more of that traditional heavy metal sound.  They break up those two tracks with the galloping “Gulag” which had that Iron Maiden vibe while not copying it outright.

Now for the “epic” piece, “Ramrod the Destroyer”, the band piece together some cool songs ideas into one concept with a couple of segue tracks.  “Pt.1: Anno Infinitus” and “Pt.4: Voices of Death” are really just the glue for the other songs.  “Pt.2 Ignitor” really starts off the tune with some great riffs that change throughout the song.  There are some prog elements on offer here with many different parts that don’t take away from the overall feel of the track.  The band slows things down with “Pt.3: The Ceases to Be” where they bring out a “Beyond the Realms of Death” (Judas Priest) type of ballad. Again, they are definitely wearing their influences on their sleeves but they are more paying homage to Priest than just copying them.  If I had to choose something here that was remotely thrash, it would be “Pt.5: Incinerating Storms”.  Carlquist does his best growls and high pitched vocals throughout reminding me of King Diamond while the band races to the end with the most frantic thrash while still keeping that traditional metal sound.  Things all come to an end with the somber instrumental “Pt.6: Ashes” which is does build a little towards the end.  All in all, a very satisfying concept piece and one that will garner multiple plays by yours truly. 

Since the release of "Lightbringer", the band has had a line-up change with Martin Jonsson joining founder Harry Granroth on guitars and Tobias Petterson (bass) joining Morgan Pettersson (drums) to form the rhythm section.  Musically, the band is as tight as before and any changes, for this listener, has been seamless.  These guys tend to tour around overseas but I wish Metal Blade would find it in their hearts to get them a stateside tour.  Something tells me that these songs would sound even better live.  We are seeing a resurgence in traditional metal bands but for my money, RAM is one of the top bands putting out that genre of metal.