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Metal Blade (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

Oh come on guys, it just sounds like a doomier Iron Maiden / Judas Priest hybrid at every gallop. ‘Defiant’ marches on that same melody that has made Maiden so huge, and at times so bloody dull. If this album had been released back in the 80s I may have had a different view, having not heard so many similar acts over the last God knows how many years.

Sweden has been responsible for some good bands over the years, and those who wear their influences on their sleeve have done a pretty good job at bringing the old school style of metal back – especially sleaze bands Crash Diet and Crazy Lixx – but after a while this old school styling can really grate.

This is RAM’s third record, and it takes influence from the already mentioned Maiden as well as Priest, but turns it into bog standard music. It’s very much a denim and leather affair with the typical screams of anguish and formulaic melody, only coming to life when the band inject a few horror style synths and up the tempo into Mercyful Fate and Satan mood. This is particularly evident on the opening combo of ‘Death…’ / ‘…Comes From The Mouth Beyond’, which features some impressive guitar work.

I know little of this Gothenburg-based band, and of that I’m glad, so as not to be influenced in my judgement, and I’m sure that those of a beer-swilling, metal-up-your-ass nature will find this rather regressive experience all the more enlightening. However, for me this traditional style of metal has to have a certain quality to make it stand out from the rest, and considering just how many bands at the moment are attempting to bring back old school metal, the scene is becoming saturated.

All I can really say is thank goodness the original bands are still going, because the last few Saxon releases, and the more recent Malice opus (New Breed Of Godz), are far more accomplished and sincere than this. Oscar Carlquist’s vocals are standard fare, Rob Halford-inspired venom, and the guitars of Harry Granroth and Daniel Johansson enable the band to slip into that NWOBHM feel, but there’s nothing hear that jumps out and grabs me.

My favourite track is ‘I Am The End’, with its simmering intro, although ‘Flame Of The Tyrants,’ which also milks the Priest gun, ups the ante and rages harder despite the fact it was accompanied by a cringe-worthy video to promote it. On this occasion Carlquist is more demonic Axl Rose, and the icy guitars begin to froth.

It’s pretty much beefcake metal, well produced and nicely executed, and its only aim is to head straight for the jugular. I guess in that respect the album succeeds, but call me old fashioned… I need something more.

Neil Arnold

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