Ram-zet - Intra - Candlelight Records
Running Time: 53:37
Norway's Ram-zet have always been hard to classify. Too "goth" for black metal, too harsh and speed-friendly for goth, all the while weaving a tapestry of sound arranged more like a classical piece of music than a standard "fast song - faster song - faster song - slow song - fast song" metal album. Each song is it's own world, but forms a part of the universe created by the members of Ram-zet. Once frontman Zet got a band together (assembling members of the highly-regarded The Kovenant, and lesser known but still credible acts such as Asmegin and For My Pain), there was no stopping the creativity of which this ensemble was capable. That creativity comes to US shores first in the form of Intra. Enter at your risk, leave at your leisure...if you can.
Rarely is black metal of any sort known for its bass sound, a goodsize portion of the bands in the genre content to use a bass sound somewhere between that of nonexistant and a screeching cat. Not so with Ram-zet, 'The Final Thrill' exploding from your speakers with a near-electronic throb and thunder. Vocally, it's nice to see Ram-zet taking the high road. Female vocalist Sfinx carries a more genuinely operatic tone than would many so-called contemporaries, but uses remarkable restraint, and band leader Zet's delivery is a delicate balance between grating BM and Diabolique-esque goth, which makes for quite the engaging listen. Lest my previous comments lead you to write off Ram-zet as just another band unsure of their musical direction, yet flirting with all of metal's subgenres in a pathetic attempt for crossover appeal, I assure you this is far from the case. When the sledgehammer riffwork in 'Left Behind As Pieces' (specifically 2:06-2:28) is blindsided by the solo violin of Sareeta (moonlighting from Asmegin), then morphs into the slight Middle-Eastern flair of yet another bridge before revisiting the riff that started it all, and piling all those elements into one hurtling, flaming ball of twisted metal, the effect is nothing short of breathtaking - if you've been listening. And how couldn't you be, really? This isn't an album to put on when planning to clean the house or catch up on some light reading. This is a symphonic, crushing work of art on the level of early Emperor or current Blut Aus Nord. The mellow intro of 'Ballet' weaves a tapestry of gently-plucked strings, gossamer female vocals, and subdued violin work before racing forward into a hybrid of neo-thrash and fastpaced BM glory. That low end rumbles to the forefront again in 'Ballet', whispers of "It blinds me, rips me open." quickly chanting their way to screams above what becomes soon enough a lurching Meshuggah-like stomp (3:51-4:28). The vocal work of Sfinx again deserves special mention, recalling artists as disparate as The Wedding Party and Ten Ton Boa. The first half-minute of 'Born' is a virtual bass and drum clinic, courtesy of Jon Daniel and Kuth (The Kovenant) respectively, leading us into space-metal brilliance with a chorus that could easily work as a motto for both Intra and Zet himself. "I am the unpredictable.", indeed.
With Intra, Ram-zet has created an album that will truly stand the test of time, as does all great art. Released late enough in the year to remain fresh in people's minds, this album may just find itself at the pinnacle of many Top Ten lists.