You need a certain amount of courage to name your album Death in 2012, don’t you? I mean this is one of, if not the, most used words in the metal world altogether and it usually reminds lots of fans with Chuck Schuldiner’s seminal band with the same name. On the personal level, I still find myself a little baffled by Ram‘s title of choice for their third studio album in thirteen years of making heavy metal. Then again, some may ask me “but what’s in a name?” and I find myself remembering some awesome and meaningful titles like Oblivion Beckons by Byzantine, The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A by Exodus or Mumakil’s Behold the Failure and realizing that there’s a lot in a name.
Death sounds like a pretty straightforward record that lugs the crunchy guitar sound, muddy bass guitar & bass drum sound and that overall grittiness of heavy metal. So having not been familiar with Ram prior to this album, Death didn’t surprise me much because I didn’t really expect it to. There have been some moments that stood out for me, like the very good lead guitar work on “Comes From the Mouth Beyond” and “Release Me. “Defiant” is all about the triplets and it keeps chugging away in threes as if it’s the only way to do business. “Frozen” is a traditionally structured ballad placed neatly in the middle of the album to turn the pace down a little bit, but much for my dismay, it gave way to the rather toothless “Under the Scythe” which didn’t create the desired contrast.
“177” and “Flame of the Tyrant” have some bad ass riffs but thats not really the center point of skill on display here. The only obvious proof for said skill that I could find was the solos. Copious amounts of said proof are on display throughout Death. The solo on the impressive “Comes From the Mouth Beyond” was the first one that caught my attention but a few extra listens brought the ones from “Defiant” and the aforementioned “Flame of the Tyrant” to my attention as well. The vocals are generally above average and convey an air of leather-clad confidence that linearly increases with every beer. They are, however, a bit too far in the foreground and draw more attention than they actually deserve.This increased emphasis on the vocals distracts the listener from the instruments being played behind it, but on many occasions, not much is happening there anyway.
The fellows from Ram are by no means reinventing the old heavy metal wheel, and if they had intended to do so, they’re way off with Death. As for individual skill, the guitar section will have to come in first for me and that is the result of the intelligent solos and riffs that still carry the stench of 80s heavy metal. When all is said and done, Death is an album that provides some good moments but doesn’t really have a distinctive character to set it apart from the norm.