RAM, Death (2012, Metal Blade)
Friends of the (horned) skull, Ram, return with another album cover featuring a human skull with curly ram horns affixed to it. The look is deliberate ’80s kitsch, and it’s an ugly mess. I think they’re trying to impress us here at BDS, utilizing every single popular feature of your typical skull cover: horns, crosses, ruined city, blood, an ominous winged figure. You can imagine this as a video game. The background is static, except for the upward-moving blood streaks, which pulse with each hit of the player’s fire button. That button allows the player to shoot crosses into the eye sockets of the skull, which moves erratically, gaining speed and intensity as the player progresses to each new level. Once you shoot 1000 crosses into the skull’s eyes, you’re at the 10th level. The skull disappears as the winged figure at the back becomes animated, growing slowly in an attempt to overtake the player. The shooter needs to shoot 100 crosses each into the figures wings or lose the game in defeat. Naturally, Ram music plays in the background. It’s a whole lot better than that Journey video game, right?
How much you like this depends on how much you like Iron Maiden and don’t mind other bands sounding a lot like Iron Maiden. Since Maiden themselves hardly sound like this anymore, Ram is a sufficient analog for the galloping, energetic, double-guitar attack that the English legends patented and turned into a very profitable industry. Ram is a good band, with good riffs and an earnest approach that’s hard to dislike, but how much you like them will depend on how adventurous a listener you are. Do you go to a restaurant that offers a menu loaded with choices and order the same dish every time? Do you go to the exact same place every single year for vacation? Do you go to Baskin Robbins and order a double scoop of vanilla? Ram isn’t all Iron Maiden worship though. Sometimes you hear traces of Judas Priest.
— Friar Wagner