Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Album Review: Ram - Svbversvm

Sometimes there are bands that you listen to, and then you completely forget about until the next time you hear their name mentioned. Ram is one of those bands for me. I remember listening to one of their earlier albums, and reviewing it on an early incarnation of my own personal blog, but for the life of me I couldn't tell you anything else about it. Ram fits into the mold of traditional metal so well that there wasn't anything that stood out about them, which makes it hard for me to differentiate them from all the other bands who do the same thing. That doesn't mean they can't make good music, or that they didn't, but it does put them at a disadvantage. Hopefully, this album will make more of an impression, one way or the other.

"Return Of The Iron Tyrant" kicks the album off with more than a dash of classic Mercyful Fate in their sound. The guitars have that same thick, mid-range tone that bites far more than the countless bands that scoop their sound into brittle oblivion, while the vocals are as high-pitched as range will allow. There's some nice riffing, but the song itself doesn't have a lot holding it together. The vocals especially shriek their way through, not offering anything to support the guitars.

"The Usurper" is where we kick things up a notch, with a stomping Dio groove, this song finds Ram hitting their stride. It has a more epic sound, and it's the first time that the music manages to hit a hook. It's still subtle, but the chorus of this song, despite creating a sense of deja-vu, is the best moment yet on the record.

As we move deeper into the track listing, it becomes clear that Ram's mission statement, to be a true metal band, is what holds them back. Listening to a track like "Enslaver", it hits all the bullet points on the blueprint, but that's the problem. So much of what Ram is doing is by the book that they don't give themselves a chance to ever make any impact with their music. By doing what we've already heard a thousand times, they put themselves in the position of having to sharpen their ideas to fine points before they can ever pierce our jaded ears. Simply put, if you're doing the same old thing the same old way, it's going to blend in and become background noise.

I don't like saying that, because I go into every album wanting it to be great. When I hear songs like "The Usurper" or "Holy Death", I can hear that Ram has a chance to do something good. But when the rest of the album follows the tropes without giving me a real hook, either in the vocals or with the riffs, I begin to wonder what the point of the whole thing is. The world surely has enough traditional metal albums in it already, so if you aren't writing songs that bring massive hooks to make them unforgettable, I don't know what a band like Ram is expecting to happen. These songs aren't going to light the world on fire, and they aren't going to make them a big name on the scene.

"Svbversvm" isn't bad, but it's completely faceless. The songs here aren't sharp enough to endure, and there isn't anything here to make me know that it's Ram, and not some other band doing the same thing. On that level, the album is a failure. But if you can't get enough traditional metal, it's really not so bad. It's perfectly fine for what it is. I'm just not sure I know why it exists.

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