Ranger – Maintain Evil SpeedWednesday, 6th May 2015
Whatever the reason, we are seeing a groundswell of musicians digging back into the speed/true metal sound that developed in the 1980’s and putting their own take on things. Finland’s Ranger are another quartet brandishing their bullet belts, leather jackets, and flying V’s all in the name of a relentless sonic assault to their audiences. A series of demo and EP releases in their first five years would win them a rabid following, finally gaining the attention of domestic mainstay Spinefarm Records to sign the group.
Released earlier this year, Ranger’s debut album Where Evil Follows demands skull splitting attention – the guitars slicing and dicing as the rhythm section ramps up the tempos to speed insanity while bassist Dimi sneers, snarls and viciously tears apart his surroundings through the low to maniacal screaming delivery he employs. Exciter, Metal Church, Razor, Slayer and Iron Maiden mean to the world to a lot of people – including this group.
Handling this series of questions would be Dimi Pontiac – and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get some shows next year from the band, as I really think they can win over many fans who want a newer act to remind them of metal’s early 80’s glory days.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your first memories surrounding music, and how you made the journey into heavy metal and eventually picking up an instrument to join a band?
Dimi Pontiac: All of us had huge influences on music at a very early age through our parents. Basically all of our parents were involved in music and some of (them) still are. My parents still listen to the same music they listened to when they were at my age: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, Motörhead, Anvil etc. These were my first touches to heavy music and it really got a grip of me! Then I started to find more bands in old magazines and old videos. I first picked up the guitar at the age of 13 and I played for a while, but Ranger was still my first real band that we formed in 2008. At that point I started singing because I felt more like that and it seemed I’m better at it. Then when our bass player left in 2011 I picked up the bass and then I turned into bass/vocalist.
Dead Rhetoric: Before changing names to Ranger, the band took on the moniker Turbin. Was it a tribute to Anthrax’s first singer and the Fistful of Metal album, and what were those early formative years like?
Pontiac: Yes, correct. That certain Anthrax album had an impact on us and we played “Deathrider” in our first rehearsals. Those times were pretty exciting and we were really working hard. We recorded the “Enter the Zone” demo early 2009 and spread it everywhere, but it kind of faded away and we were starting to get more serious back in 2011 again! It was always active because our drummer was making songs, but it was just on hold for some reason.
Dead Rhetoric: How did Spinefarm come into the picture for Ranger in terms of a record deal? Based on a lot of their roster through the years, you definitely stick out for your old school speed/heavy metal attack…
Pontiac: They contacted us over a year ago about their interest in our band. We didn’t approach them. We had a lot offers from other labels too, but Spinefarm seemed logical because it’s in Helsinki and of course it’s a pretty big label. And of course working through the deal the whole summer certainly was meant to be that way.
Dead Rhetoric: Sci-fi and horror movies appear to be a major influence on the lyrics to songs such as “Defcon 1” and the title track to your new album Where Evil Dwells. What are some of your favorite movies through the years, and do you think the subject matter is a great compliment to your speed metal platform?
Pontiac: Yeah! I definitely love 80’s neo noir films and 80’s sci-fi/action/horror movies. Some classics from the 70’s like The Warriors! Movies like Terminator 1 and Halloween are so METAL that it’s great to write those kind of lyrics and you’ll never get bored with them. We certainly are still going with those kind of influences. Cobra (1986), To Live and Die in LA (1985) and Terminator 1 (1984) are my major influences and my favorite movies!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you share a common bond with a lot of the new generation performing speed/thrash metal, especially from other countries such as Enforcer, Evil Invaders, Skull Fist, Stallion, and Striker to name a few?
Pontiac: We’ve met only a few of those guys, but I certainly hope so! I could add to that list Gatekrashör, Amulet, Deathhammer etc. that we have great bond! Those that you mention are certainly great bands and I hope to share the stage with them (we played with Stallion at Keep It True festival in Germany).
Dead Rhetoric: What would it take to get Ranger over here on some sort of North American tour? And how would your describe Ranger in a live setting? Is there an ideal audience you like to play for when it comes to club shows or festivals?
Pontiac: There’s been a lot of queries considering our US tour. That’s something we are hoping to do early next year maybe! One booking agent has been contacting us for that and a few clubs too! We got asked to play in LA this year but we couldn’t make it. There’s a European tour coming along in September so early next year in the US would be awesome! I personally would love to go to US to spread some Skull Splitting Metal Mayhem all across the US!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the current revival for old school speed/ thrash/power metal across Europe? Do you have any concerns about the health of the scene so that it hopefully will not get too commercialized as it did for certain artists in the 1980’s?
Pontiac: I think it’s great that the scene is alive. (It) means that there is still hope (that) people do buy records and love heavy metal! No, I think because there’s no more MTV etc. and its more acceptable (PMRC) its’ not gonna be that big. Although we are kind of living a new era of 1985, but more like (the) future style with YouTube and everything.
Dead Rhetoric: I would imagine you differ from a lot of your contemporaries in terms of recording techniques too – as I’ve read that you prefer analog tape to digital recordings. What is your stance in the studio, do you prefer a minimalist approach versus punching in and having computer enhanced tones/elements?
Pontiac: Yes, we’ve been only doing the analog way because it’s the best sounding solution! Definitely a minimalistic approach and the equipment has to be analog to get that right feeling. Thankfully here in Finland it’s possible. Nothing wrong with the digital stuff, but analog suits us more. You get to really play the songs and there are really no punches which can be more challenging, but in the end more rewarding. Reel to reel sound is superior! It’s so wide and natural!
Dead Rhetoric: If you had the chance to put together the ultimate one day metal festival of any act currently alive or deceased, who would you love to share the stage with?
Pontiac: That’s a tough one! The festival name would be ‘Only The Strong’-fest and it would be like:
Manowar with Ross The Boss
Exodus with Baloff
Riot with Mark Reale
King Diamond and Mercyful Fate
Accept in their current lineup
and headliner JUDAS PRIEST
Dead Rhetoric: What’s your most prized possession that you own in your metal collection?
Pontiac: I got a lot of them because I’m a metal freak! It must be Bathory’s first record Banzai version with the legendary Speed Metal stamp and Halloween – Don’t Metal With Evil original LP. Both I found in a record store in Helsinki.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance your personal/work schedule with your Ranger activities? Do you find that you channel a lot of your negative feelings through your music to allow for a positive outcome?
Pontiac: We are all studying or having just part time jobs so we could concentrate Ranger more! It certainly is a way to channel all the hatred towards false people (liars, hypocrites etc.) or just school or life itself! You can probably hear even more hatred or aggression in our debut LP than in the others.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns you most about the world we live in today? Where do you think the leaders of each country need to place their focus to make things safer/better for the general population?
Pontiac: My biggest concern is Russia and NATO. It seems like we are living in a cold war situation again. We are not really a political band (or myself) individually, but it certainly has made an impact on our music and lyrics too (“Defcon 1”). I think they should rather seek peaceful and diplomatic solutions rather than sending missiles and weaponry to Ukraine. Seems like the Middle East is in chaos too.
Dead Rhetoric: How are the plans shaping up for Ranger over the rest of 2015 – any special touring, festival appearances, additional merchandise or products we should know about?
Pontiac: We are planning to put out some fan club merchandise and trucker caps. Our first big tour will be in September which will be like 3 weeks. It will be in the UK, Spain, Germany, Holland, etc. We are probably doing a showcase in Tokyo, Japan too and playing festivals in Finland and Germany. We’ve got a lot of things going which is great and we hope to come to the USA in 2016!