RAM: “Consumption Is the New Religion”Monday, 30th November 2015
For most of the 1990’s (at least in North America), traditional and power metal were dirty words to most heavy consumers. Lead breaks, leather and chains, and high pitch clean singing gave way to more extreme or alternative forms of music – of which the death, black, and alternative/nu-metal movements took shape. By the tail end of the 1990’s, natural shifts took place once again – and I’m sure European bands like Hammerfall and Primal Fear entering the sales charts reignited the desire to dig back into a style that never really went away for the ardent metal heads far and wide.
Another act associated with the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal tag (a useless tag to this journalist really), Sweden’s RAM keep the old school platform alive and breathing through their discography, while conjuring up a lot of the tones, melodies, and natural songwriting strength that put Rainbow, Accept, and Mercyful Fate in the highest regard. Receiving a lot of critical acclaim for their body of work (2009’s Lightbringer and 2012’s Death personal favorites), this year’s Svbversvm seems to incorporate all facets of their sonic capabilities in an even deeper, 80’s atmosphere. Biting, evil riffing and haunting melodies as well as steady, thunderous tempos show the band in strong form.
Reaching out to answer these questions is guitarist Harry Granroth. You’ll learn more about the numerous label shifts, how the split EP release with Portrait came to be, as well as his views on plain entertainment rotting away brain function for humanity – taking this interview as serious as the music they present.
Dead Rhetoric: RAM entered the world in 1999, did you know straight away that you wanted to perform in a classic, old school traditional manner without compromise? And how challenging was it to find the right members in Sweden given the strong extreme thrash/death scene that had exploded through the decade?
Harry Granroth: Yes, I was very sure about that, otherwise I would probably have started numerous (other) bands or joined others in attempts to ‘succeed’ but I didn’t, simply because I didn’t like the sound of it and that was not how I wanted to do it. It was sometimes laughable when I met guys that I knew played metal yesterday suddenly had cut their hair and showed up at the clubs in checkered lumberjack shirts. RAM is my second band and it was pretty hard to find people for it, yes. It took some time to first start writing material, then hook up with a second guitarist and when we had a vocalist we could finally finish the songs. We were a full band in 2002.
Dead Rhetoric: Your first EP Sudden Impact came out in September 2003 – what memories do you have surrounding that recording and the songwriting, what positives or challenges can you describe and how was the public response?
Granroth: Great memories! We used to meet several days a week to write and arrange music and we were full of energy. The basic tracks were laid down in one day (!) I remember. We rigged the drums on a Friday, sound checked and recorded bass & drums Saturday, went back on Sunday to see if anything needed to be redone but everything was kept. Guitars were later recorded at my place and the vocals on occasions when we had access to a studio our bassist was involved in.
The first release was of course very special even if this was a budget recording. It felt even better when an underground label wanted to release it on vinyl. The public response in Sweden was…nothing….but it was picked up by the metal underground in countries like Germany, Italy and Greece. I remember we sent some copies to Japan and the US as well.
Dead Rhetoric: After your debut album Forced Entry you moved on to AFM Records for the follow up Lightbringer. What particular circumstances took place for the four year gap between records- or is it a case of RAM preferring to emphasize quality recordings rather than release a new record every 2 years?
Granroth: I would say it was a combination of circumstances but it shouldn’t have taken four years to make an album really. We had songs but in 2006/2007 we did perform quite a lot so I guess we didn’t have time to sit down and finish all the material. Another thing that delayed the release was that we parted ways with our bassist at the time. Also, we wanted to have proper distribution and have it released on a real label and all the offers we had so far were all rubbish. We sold nearly five thousand copies of the EP through our own channels but we wanted to focus on the music and not the business. At the same time we knew bad business would kill the band so we were on alert when offers were given. AFM Records was the first one that offered a deal that we could sign.
Dead Rhetoric: The recording sessions for Death took place during 2010, but wouldn’t hit the streets until 2012 due to switching out labels again with Metal Blade. How frustrating is this to try to build momentum for RAM – and is Metal Blade the proper home for the band?
Granroth: Very frustrating, indeed! I don’t know exactly what happened but we felt that we had written and recorded a great album and something went wrong with the release and the promotion of it. We had put our private funds into this recording and if I’m not mistaken the US release was some three months after the European release which of course made us feel a little disappointed. Anyhow, there was a clause in the contract that made it possible for us to get out. Again without a label, we just continued to write music and again, with our own funds we recorded Death.
Luckily it didn’t take four years between Lightbringer and Death but it was frustrating to have the album ready but not be able to release it. The reason for this was that we didn’t know how to release it. We did consider an all underground release but again we wanted to focus on the music in the future, not become record label people ourselves licensing our own product to other labels. So once again we were searching for the right label. Discussions took place with some bigger labels but we were turned down by them and we never got in touch with the right people at Metal Blade until we got some help from a guy from a label that turned us down “….No, you should talk with THIS guy….” When we at last had made contact and signed the deal we naturally wanted to have the record released as soon as possible but then Metal Blade postponed the release as the timing was not right, which we of course can understand but it was really frustrating. Since then I can say that we are happy with Metal Blade and we have good communication.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the Under Command split EP you did with Portrait from last year – how enjoyable was it to take on another band’s song as well as pull out the Kiss cover, as “Creature of the Night” is one of their heavier 80’s songs? Out of the covers you’ve recorded through the years between Venom, Mercyful Fate, and Kiss, which has been your favorite?
Granroth: It was all great fun but perhaps a little hectic as we had moved to our new rehearsal space/studio. The idea for the split was discussed last summer or earlier with us. Christian Lindell (Portrait) came up with the idea I think. We choose to do an old song from their early demo as we felt their later material is so good so we wouldn’t improve it in any way. The sound however was something we could improve and we took the tempo down a bit to make their song heavier so it would fit RAM. They in turn sped up one of our songs and made it quite a bit faster. “Creatures of the Night” were chosen as KISS is a band that all of us listened to at some point and the choice fell on one of their heavier songs. It was a bit of a challenge. Those drums on the original sound thunderous!
Of the covers we’ve recorded so far my personal favorite is “Evil” (Mercyful Fate) as we could incorporate that one in our live repertoire. I also like “Disturbing the Priest” (Black Sabbath cover), that was our second recording session, great memories from that as well. This one was meant to accompany a Black Sabbath biography but that was never published so we put this track on the vinyl version of our first EP as a bonus track instead.
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