"Under Command"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Interesting release from Metal Blade here. Two of the best bands in the Swedish traditional metal scene share an album. Each band plays one new tune of their own, covers a song originally played by the other band and then finally covers a classic song by an influential band. Kind of an intriguing concept...maybe there will be more like this in the future.

RAM starts things off with an excellent original, "Savage Machine", which shows that these guys are hard to beat when it comes to 80's-influenced metal. It's fast and chunky but not what you would call thrash. Then they take a crack at Portrait's "Welcome To My Funeral"...the Mercyful Fate feel of the original is here but not quite as obvious as on Portrait's own. I'd say RAM's vocals are stronger all the way around. RAM wrap up their half of "Under Command" with an inspired cover of "Creatures of the Night" by Kiss. That is absolutely one of my favorite Kiss songs and one of their most metallic ever. This is a very faithful version but just different enough to have RAM's own stamp on it.

Portrait's own "Martial Lead" kicks off their half and I have to say this doesn't pack the punch of "Savage Machine". The song seems to drag in comparison. Portrait then covers RAM's "Blessed to Be Cursed", which is a complex, multi-tempo kind of track. Oddly enough, everything Portrait touches seems be like Mercyful Fate, including this song. The Portrait set concludes with a surprising cover of Exciter's "Aggressor". Surprising because this is a song from the more recent era of the band instead of the more classic Dan Beehler period. I give Portrait a lot of credit for choosing this track, which is naturally the most aggressive on the album.

A split LP definitely worth a look if you love traditional 80's style metal.