Ram-Zet - Neutralized - 4.5/5
You'd think with my love of the Avant-Garde that any metal band that feels compelled to name the man responsible for the didgeridoo lines would grab my attention, yet somehow these guys I managed to miss. In case you missed out on this genre, Avant-Garde largely means little more than 'its a little bit weird' metal. Often they're so unique that half-joking long descriptors become the norm, either devised themselves like Alamaailman Vasarat's 'kebab-kosher-traffic-punk-film music,' or by others like my own description of Diapsiquir and their 'Frenchman-on-LSD-Ranting-About-the-Ills-of-Modern-Man' metal. Bringing me pleasantly to the matter of Ram-Zet and their 'anything goes' brand of metal.
The core is undeniably metal, but I mean that in all its vague glory; metal but you can't quite figure out what kind, other than its hard, heavy and makes you want to bang your head. Doom overtones, blackened interludes and neo-classical solo's amidst what only be described as a plethora of flourishes. Taking centre stage are the female vocalist transitioning between the burlesque, almost 'Stolen Babies' lines and perhaps more conventional Nightwish cloned faux-operatic. If nothing more you can consider this a “Gothic” metal band where the band never has nothing to do. Acoustic quasi-flamenco pieces counteract the fuzzy blackened tremolo riffs and Chthonic-esque high pitched growls, doom like slow bass lines and aforementioned shredded solo's mixed up with the occasional jazz fusion noodling. There's tribal atmospheres, 16th century classical lines amidst a very noise rock backing; Meshuggah like djent tones make things sound nice and complex to break out from and show something on the opposite side of the spectrum; “Addict” opens like a Frank Klepacki piece only to evolve and mutate over the course of the next thirty seconds. Like I said, it really is 'anything goes,' and with such a crisp production that allows every element to ring out loud and proud, it becomes more than a little exciting from an album as you never quite know what they'll break out next.
But these influences are fleeting flourishes; sprinkles atop the main dessert to lend it a little flavour, and whilst it does that well, it does little to hide that the meat doesn't always quite live up to those same hopes. Certainly, these flourishes never feel out of context, and are never around for longer than a few moments to really make too much of an issue even if they were, but in order to make so many styles fit the metal being played needs to be fairly accommodating as a result, and as Shakespeare would say, 'there's the rub.' None of the musicians are bad at wielding their weapon but rather the compositions themselves feel somewhat basic at the albums start, merely using metal as a platform for their little diversions; a glue to keep the coherency together. The overarching compositions for each track grows stronger as the album progresses, seeming to lose their inhibitions that prevented them from hurtling headfirst into the next passage and 'embracing the Avant-Garde' as it were, but it takes it's time to get moving. It doesn't invoke a strong sense of atmosphere or aggression until the final half of the album, and it's all remarkably catchy but it still brings up questions on its replayability. Certainly, at first it's exciting, twisting and turning and kicking up new idea's left right and centre, but when you've learnt the track and its diversions, all that's left is a lot of instruments playing rather basic lines. You might not still be listening to it years down the line, but it might take you month's before you learn the tracks well enough to remember what's just around the corner.
Highlights: Beautiful Pain, To Ashes