In this age of every conceivable genre and sub-genre-splicing sub-sub-genre, Lightbringer is just good old metal, kids. Not br00tal, not kvlt, not ‘core, not thrash, not death, not black. Just sweet, sweet metal—classic and traditional, sometimes speedy and sometimes epic and sometimes possessing some dashes of near-thrashing rage, and guarandamnteed to put a smile on the face of any fan of the Golden Age.
Pointed straight at those days, at the early-to-mid 1980s, albeit thankfully with a modern polished ferocity, Lightbringer evokes the usual comparable suspects — the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Omen, Manowar… But there’s a bit more to this than simply horns-up heavy metal. For a darker flair, there’s also a serious dash of Mercyful Fate (witness Oscar Carlquist’s Diamond-sharp falsetto and some Shermann-ic riffage here and there), and for that near-thrash energy, there are moments that touch upon early Metal Church, in all that band’s rifforamic glory. Though their aesthetic is decidedly vintage-leaning, RAM itself is neither particularly new nor particularly old. The band has been around for a decade now, and Lightbringer is the band’s second full-length release and their first for AFM.
Lightbringer opens with the instrumental “Crushing The Dwarf Of Ignorance” before running headlong into that Mercyful influence, found first in the Fate-ish riff of the title track. Microcosmic of the whole record itself, in the title track, Carlquist intersperses an occasional growled thrash-like vocal, choppy and feral alongside his more prevalent powerful mid-range, and all of that is punctuated with soaring falsetto shrieks. The album’s most accomplished composition — its highest of highlights and its centerpiece — is the massive “Suomussalmi (The Few Of Iron),” which details in modern-Maiden-like glory the titular Winter War battle between the Finns and an invading Russian force. (Spoiler of war: the Finns won decisively, despite being outnumbered roughly five to one.) That track’s soaring Manowar chorus sits nicely atop a chugging riff, following a driving bass line and falling squarely amidst some really cool prog-ish tempo changes.
As I mentioned above, despite its title, Lightbringer brings more than just lightness. It brings both a melodic and majestic epic-ness, as well as a palpable darkness and depth, and it’s that second quality — that more ominous and evil quality that crops up in the title track, “Awakening The Chimaera,” and “In Victory” — that helps to separate RAM both from the cheeseball power-metal camp and from the three-quarter-sleeve-t-shirt-sporting poseurs aping the spirit of vintage metal as they simultaneously miss out entirely on its appeal. RAM stands alongside fellow animal-monikered Swedes Wolf as a young (or younger) act that updates vintage metal, performing yesterday’s style with a current edge and with the same zest and zeal as the vintage acts did when they weren’t yet considered vintage. (That said, Lightbringer trumps Wolf‘s latest lackluster effort, hands down.)
A few weeks back, I chanced across a thread in our forums wherein a few of the regular types were discussing the banner year for metal that 2009 has proven itself to be, and in that conversation, it was mentioned that, of all subgenres, great trad-metal records have been lighter than most this year. And lighter they may have been, but Lightbringer brings one more to the table, sitting neatly alongside the likes of Argus’ doomy self-titled effort, Crescent Shield’s The Stars Of Never Seen and Slough Feg’s Ape Uprising at the top of this year’s true-metal heap.