Rämlord – From Dark Waters Review

No one expects the Rämlord, nor should they. Formed by members of such wildly diverse acts as Impaled Nazarene, Legenda, and National Napalm Syndicate, Rämlord is a strange new act purpose-built to defy genre boundaries as they explore classic metal styles. On their debut, From Dark Waters they attempt a near herculean amount of genre hopping, dragging in influences from goth rock, hair metal, hard rock, 80s radio rock and a few other odds and sods along the bumpy journey they fashion for the unsuspecting listener. And indeed, the road is often an unpaved one, as disparate and fractious styles clash frequently across the album and sometimes within a single song. You may have heard us tout the motto “less is more,” but for Rämlord, more is usually more. Let’s see how that all works out for them, shall we?

I originally signed up for this promo on the strength of opening track “Love of the Damned,” which sounds like it escaped from Judas Priest’s Turbo sessions, complete with those mega-cheesy, ultra-dated synthesized guitar sounds and plenty of wonky 80s arena rock synths. All this is shoehorned into a sort of goth rock tune that sounds like Sisters of Mercy’s “Vision Thing” but way more silly. Toss in some excessive organ-work and you have…something, and that something works better than it should. It’s bad and good in equal parts but you remember it and like it, though some shame attaches. From there things torque abruptly to the brooding, nearly doomy mid-paced title track, which packs in the drama and reminds a lot of Sentenced, which is partly because it features former Sentenced frontman, Taneli Jarva on guest vocals. It’s an interesting tune that explores a range of moods in a somewhat controlled manner and though it works, it never fully blows me away.

The biggest problem the album has comes courtesy of the very trait the band cites as a strength – their refusal to accept genre boundaries. As the moody title track gives way to “Haunting All Over the World,” you get slapped in the ear by a half-baked hair metal tune from the 80s, spiced up with Hammond organs and an effort to add 70s flair. It’s an exceptionally cheesy song and it’s so far removed from the track that precedes it, you get the impression a whole other album kicked in. Making it worse, the next song (“Blindfolded”) jumps again, keeping some of the 70s tropes but crossing into melancholic hard rock this time. The album slips and slides all over the damn place as it rumbles along, and though the band is talented enough to pull off a lot of this stylistic conjoining, some songs feel like they were assembled with duct tape and discount glue sticks. Case in point, “Hell is Here and Now!” is like a misbegotten fusion of quasi-punk ideas and AC/DC riffing and it doesn’t come together at all. It’s frustrating because when the band finds that sweet spot between genres, they craft some solid tunes. “Chained God” is the example of that exact place where their hodge-podge style gels into something potent, and its mix of goth and straight up heavy metal really connects. Successes aside, the album doesn’t ever feel truly cohesive. It jumps around too much for that to be a realistic goal and they end up with something like this classic.

The band has enough talent to almost pull off their very broad take on metal. Jarno Anttila (ex-Impaled Nazarene) and Tommi Kanerva are required to craft leads and harmonies to fit all manner of genres, and for the most part they do a good job. The vocals by Timo Salmenkivi are generally solid but he can be hit or miss as the band wobbles between genres. He’s at his best on the darker, moodier stuff like the title track and “Unchained God” and at his worst when things devolve into hair metal and cock rocking. At 38 minutes, the album goes by reasonably fast, but there are several sub-par cuts that should have been trimmed for a stronger final product.

Rämlord has an ambitious approach to traditional metal and when it works, it can produce interesting results. If they tone down their tendency to overstuff songs with genre touchstones and tighten the cohesion between tracks, they might be onto something. Until then, From Dark Waters is a decent but flawed debut not quite good enough to score a spot in my regular rotation, but it does make me curious where the band goes from here. Keep calm and Räm on.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: raemlord.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ramlordband
Releases Worldwide: March 27th, 2020

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