RAM - Forced entry 3.5/5

Reviewed: 5-12-06


1. Shadowman
2. Sudden impact
3. The beast within
4. Venom in my veins
5. Machine invaders
6. Forced entry
7. Sea of skulls
8. Breaking through
9. Infuriator
10. Burning scars

Weighing in as the latest entrant in the old-school classic traditional metal sweepstakes are Sweden's RAM. Following a debut EP released a year or 2 ago, RAM have now unleashed a self-financed full-length debut on their own Black Path imprint. Don't let the "self-financed" tag deceive you, though, as this CD is utterly professional. The packaging includes striking cover art of the band's glowing-eyed, sharp-toothed mascot, bathed in red that fades to black, as well as an expertly designed 6-panel booklet with complete lyrics, band photography, and scythe-and-raven laden imagery, all cloaked in the red and black motif of the cover art. Production-wise, RAM obviously know their way around a recording studio, as they've captured a vibrant sound that evokes a vintage feel but with modern power.

With no apologies and no compromises, RAM are a pure 80s-styled traditional true metal act, drawing inspiration from the masters like Judas Priest and Accept while adopting a songwriting approach somewhat akin to fellow Swedes Wolf (less the Maidenisms and the overt Mercyful Fate worship) or even Sentinel Steel bands like Axehammer and Attacker. The band's strength lies in the potent, sturdy guitar riffage of Daniel Johansson and Harry Granroth, who have succeeded in writing a batch of sturdy, classic, memorable heavy metal riffs. Also, there's a nice variety of tempos in 'Forced entry', ranging from near-thrash speeds to mid-paced thumpers to even a ballad (more about that later). Vocalist Oscar Carlquist is certainly capable, but may be a turn-off to some with his somewhat quirky and chameleonic singing approach. His standard singing voice is slightly gritty, warbly and rough-edged but still tuneful and competent; however, he also tosses in the occasional growl and piercing shriek (sometimes recalling Peavy Wagner's ill-fated early forays into the upper register in the 'Perfect man' days). Perhaps the best comparison (although it's an imperfect one) is that Carlquist sounds a bit like Sven the Axe of Solemnity, albeit with less Warrel Dane influence then Mr. Axe.

Ultimately, this kind of meat-and-potatoes metal must live or die by its songs because, let's not kid around here, it's not breaking any new ground. The song structures and arrangements have been done to death in the last 25 years, so a CD in this style must have killer songs in order to warrant praise. As a general proposition, RAM succeeds here, thanks to the Johansson/Granroth riff machine. Tracks like "Sudden impact", "Infuriator", "Machine invaders", and "Forced entry" are top-notch hammers of traditional metal excellence that are enthusiastically recommended to any fan of the genre. Unfortunately, the quality level is not uniformly at these stellar heights. Several songs are forgettable and lacking in catchiness. A couple descend into irritating ("Breaking through") or boring ("Burning scars") realms. And whoever had the brilliant idea of closing a scorching metal CD with a yawn-inducing ballad that never goes anywhere should have his denim jacket confiscated for a month and soaked in Britney Spears' perfume as punishment.

If, like me, you revel in Keep-It-True styled pure heavy metal, then 'Forced entry' is a recommended purchase as a capable and thoroughly enjoyable outing, albeit not a genre leader. Those who prefer frilly keyboards, symphonic arrangements, and happy melodies should steer clear. For my part, I'll enjoy 'Forced entry' as a flawed gem, and will eagerly anticipate the follow-up, which I'll wager will iron out the kinks once and for all.




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