Ram-Zet – Intra
02/09/2005 § Leave a comment
Label: Century Media
I really must give Century Media more credit than I do, since I had kind of typecast them as the equivalent of a metal fast food chain, flinging the hits to the wailing public like burgers thrown unceremoniously out of a drive-thru window. And a lot of time they’d get your order wrong. You’d look inside the bag and you’d see they’d put in growls with your classical instrumentation or power metal-style vocals with doom guitars. You just can’t get the staff these days, can you. Nevertheless, Century Media must be doing something right, and enough for me to be able to forgive them for being metal Ubermensches even though they often produce albums that are so bland they may as well be packaged alongside the rice-cakes in a Chinese supermarket. For that matter, if you can’t find the new Sentenced album or anything by Rotting Christ in your local HMV, pop along to Wongs and you should see it somewhere among the crackers, bags of as-yet-unidentified puffed wheat snacks and some mangled animal which would be best identified by NASA rather than Attenborough or Johnny Morris.
Though Century Media may not have excelled in the world of Chinese cookery, they certainly have done something wonderful in the world of progressive death metal by bringing us Ram-Zet, the Norwegian equivalent of an H-bomb, threaded together in digital binary and woven for your listening pleasure onto a small plastic frisbee. In case you haven’t come across these people before, Ram-Zet play a very scatty, disorganised form of metal with apparently no real form or focus, pumped with Zet’s ear-bleedingly sharp growls and Sfinx‘s beautiful contrasting melodies. I don’t know what it is about Norway that produces these kinds of bands. I can only put it down to the fact that the further north you go, the more boring and dark the days get so it’s logical that you could end up creating musical brutes like these in order to keep yourself mildly amused.
However, though on first listen the sounds caressing the airwaves and then shaking your ear drums with the vigour of a pole-cat in nuclear heat might seem rather outlandish and distressing, as you go through the album you’ll start to understand the ground that these people are coming from and that what has originally seemed a demented hotchpotch of BnB clatter will become something rather amazing. Nevertheless, don’t be prepared for anything too gentle since from the start of the album the wonderful The Final Thrill will its pounding, drilling power chords will shake you into submission with Zet’s high-pitch screams coming very sharply soon after. For many this will be metal like they’ve never heard and it’s certainly challenging. It’s not only the sharp vocal lines but the harsh changes in speed, time signature and meter that make this something a little different. And the numbers get better and better. Left Behind As pieces is probably the best song on the album with an intro so fast and precise it’s reminiscent of power-metal with its wonderful vocals and an absolutely killer riff in the mid-section.
Overall though, in comparison to Escape, Intra is heavier, faster, and above all, darker. Ram-zet are technical masters and carry off the more difficult passages with skilful aplomb, done in such as way that it’s almost as if they’re setting themselves challenges to see how far their own abilities can be pushed. But by far the best moment of the album comes in the final track, Closing A Memory, which is the most melodic track of the album, really giving Sfinx‘s vocals a chance to shine among the pitfalls of the drum blasts and tempo changes. Some of the riffing in this song is incredible and it takes a few listens before you can actually tune yourself in to the brilliance of what’s presented before you. This also goes for the complex Born with its magnificent chorus and drumming intermingled with piano melodies and violins. This really is some of the harshest and most dynamic BnB that you’re likely to come across.
The only problem with music such as this is that it’s so far-reaching in its dynamism that a lot of the time it’s possible for it to float over your head, not only that, but the songs are so intense that it’s very difficult to listen to the entire album in one go and not feel like your brain’s been injected with plutonium. Intra is hardly an album that you can put on and drift away to, it demands your attention to the very ends of your dendrites and axons to the point where it will force you to feel every last blast and guitar shimmy in its whim. Intra is not for the faint of heart or for the frail of ear, nor is it the kind of music that you might get into over a period of time, you’ll know pretty soon whether its for you or not and whether it’s the kind of stuff you’ll want to spend your time exploring. Intra is one of the heaviest and uncompromising albums to hit the Gothic Metal scene this year. Rarely do such carnivorous, obdurate compositions come to light for the casual listener so it’s worth paying this one serious attention, because there’s no other way you’ll be able to experience it.