RAM – The Throne Within (Metal Blade)

Long before the likes of Visigoth, Traveler and Haunt were espousing the values of traditional heavy metal, RAM were fighting a lonely battle against the might of over-processed nu-grooves, baggy jeans and spiky skater hair. Fast forward two decades and the Gothenburg outfit are one of the most respected acts peddling Priest and NWOBHM-inspired, bulletbelt-sporting METAL. And The Throne Within is as good a way as any to mark their 20th anniversary.

It’s easier to digest than its concept album predecessor, Rod – an album which brought us some barnstorming tunes (think On Wings Of No Return and Ramrod the Destroyer 5: Incinerating Storms) but was stymied by over-ambition. That’s not to say that The Throne Within lacks variety – there’s actually plenty of it – but it feels more cohesive and immediate.

Mean, lean fist-pumpers such as Violence (Is Golden) mix it with shining, titanium-clad Painkillers like The Shadowwork and Blades Of Betrayal, and in Fang and Fur, guitarists Harry Granroth and Martin Jonsson interweave some of the album’s most powerful melodies into dirty, muscular riffing. It’s an anthemic slice of Swedish steel and a prime example of RAM’s well-honed songcraft.

Yet the quintet really save the best till last on their sixth opus. The titanic Ravnfell sees singer Oscar Carlquist duelling with Primordial frontman Alan Averill, whose distinctive bellow adds a jaw-dropping twist to what’s already a breath taking, arena-ready battle hymn. And given the Irishman’s work with trad metal supergroup Twilight Of The Gods, his appearance makes perfect sense.

Given the upsurge of younger bands re-energising metal’s roots, RAM had to deliver the goods here. And they’ve done it in some style.