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Ram It Down

CBS (1988)
Rating: 7/10

Having played this within a few hours of the XL demo that dropped through my letterbox, it leaves me scratching my head in utter bemusement. Quite frankly, much as I venerate every morsel of Priestliness, they should by rights be getting a severe pasting by the likes of some of the hungry hounds marauding Britain’s clubs; bands such as Rebel and Marshall Law could quite easily eat Priest for breakfast.

Anyhow, in a world of crass Americana, this album is still some welcome relief. Loud, proud and most definitely British, Priest certainly pile it on thick and fast. It’s such a shame that on the whole the songs just aren’t there. The band have seemingly thrown in bits and bobs from their entire back catalogue, and to be honest it shows up the weaknesses of their present material. Ram It Down contains some inspiring and even sheer genius moments, regrettably nothing seems to gel long enough to encapsulate the whole song.

The main gripe has to be the inane and infantile lyrics. Rob Halford appears to be raiding his Ladybird books for inspiration, or is it maybe that I’m getting too old for such drivel? ‘Monsters Of Rock’? ‘Heavy Metal’? C’mon!!

Priest fortunately haven’t lost any of that essential and gonzoid element that has always raised a few eyebrows, especially the camp overtones that are liberally sprinkled across their recording career. The startling whip- cracks that round off the frenzied ‘Love You To Death’ being the perfect example.

Production-wise, Ram It Down is very confusing. After the magnificent production displayed by Tom Allom on Turbo (1986) this effort leaves me cold. The guitars very often get so clogged up in production gunk that the riffs start to get lost. Same with the vocals. Halford gives us a well overdue exhibition of his extreme talents, he’s surely the most technically perfect heavy metal vocalist in existence, but again it’s all laid to waste by the stifling production which smothers everything in its path. Thankfully the guitar solos are left razor-sharp and cutting, K.K. Downing in particular dealing out some dangerously aggressive breaks.

I know that in the due course of time this album will become a firm favourite (it’s creeping up on me already) and that they’ll still kill everything in their path in a live situation.

Judas Priest transpire to be regressing at a frightening rate; when pitted against such golden nuggets as Sin After Sin (1977) and Stained Class (1978) this latest effort just crawls away and dies. I’ve given it seven because it is growing on me and as due recognition of the vocal / songwriting talent of Priest. To be honest though, as I said earlier, if you’re after British metal keep a weather eye open for the bands mentioned at the start of this review.

Garry Sharpe-Young

Review taken from Metal Forces, Issue 28 (1988)

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