Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Even if I wanted to turn my eyes away from that, I really can’t. Music is cool and all that, but when a band choses to dwell into political subjects and not only in a strict historic context, I am in a way forced to put aside the musical aspect and deal with the lyrics. You wouldn’t call ‘Gulag’ amazing, but still a very good song with an 80s lyric video that makes it cult and with its support message for the kids beyond the Iron Curtain that used to play metal back in the days, but, you guys in RAM, those lyrics are not cutting it, you kind of see things one sided… I am wondering if the salute and the dedication is for those who were jumping off barb-wired fences from Hungary to the West and their ancestors now are shooting down refugees… But let’s see what the gulag were. Exile in the very east of Russia was not something new when Lenin started the “gulag”. This practice started from the Tsarist Russia in the 17th century with the name “katorga”. Also jailing dissidents there wasn’t an initiation of the USSR, but from the Tsar, who, from 1847 on sent there whoever was revolting against his power. And against the general opinion that only dissidents were sent in gulag, the truth is different. Exile there was the punishment for common criminals, for those who participated in the counter-revolution (members of the “White Army”) and for people that before the October Revolution were extremely rich and were ruling over other people’s lives. Was this system justified? It is almost impossible after all those years to discover the truth behind the propaganda. What is certain is that this was a hard period for humanity and the gulag were not a unique situation. As an example the British, as they were helping the White Army in 1918 had concentration camps in the island Muydug. They did the same in the 50’s in Kenya and in the beginning of the previous century in South Africa. U.S. government did the same for its own citizens with Japanese ancestry in 1942. Of course I am not trying to equate the different concentration camps. I stress the selective memory and the not so coincidentally anti-Soviet propaganda themes that the band is choosing. ‘Suomussalmi (The Few of Iron)’ is a huge song, a musical epos I would say from the excellent in its entirety 2009’s ‘Lightbringer’. But the lyrics? Winter War 1939. It is a chance for the world to know that the Moscow trials and other Stalin practices made the Red Army vulnerable… or maybe not… RAM are selling cheap anti-sovietism and anti-communism while talking out of context about the heroism of the Finnish. Why don’t they write about Nazi’s heroism in frozen Russia some years later? Weren’t the Third Reich’s soldiers fighting heroically even if they lost at the end and regardless of their ideology and their intentions and those of their leaders? It’s a pity that such a talent is getting wasted, the band could get a place in Eurovision where with such lyrics you secure a proud victory along EU’s political line that equates National Socialism and Communism through identifying the later with Stalinism. I also thought how funny it may sound that the Swedes are talking about the Finnish since till Finland’s independence this country was just the battlefield for Swedes and Russians, but maybe it sounds the same funny when a Greek communist is defending Stalin while the Father was selling his ancestors to Churchill, I have no intention of doing that of course…. I am not judging the band’s ideology, but its one-sided presentation, an ode to half knowledge and to compliance with EU’s ideological platform that led us here, here and here .
To turn to the music, there are not many differences from the previous albums. They copy blatantly, excuse me, they draw inspiration from Judas Priest and while they have good ideas they often repeat themselves and miss the point. I could say that we are talking about a very mediocre record, but this might sound spiteful. Also the killer song that would raise the bar above average is missing, although I personally liked the mid tempo and simple galloping riff in ‘Gulag’. Tempo is more or less in speed metal levels and as much as they tried throughout their career – from 1999 it has to be noted and praised – they never achieved the mysterious atmosphere Mercyful Fate did, even if they are trying hard again once more. Except Halford as the obvious influence and some N.W.O.B.H.M. elements, the structure of compositions is much more complicated (compared with their 3 latest albums ‘Death’, ‘Under Command’ and ‘Svbversvm’) taking credit from the more demanding listeners. An example of this is that the record is divided in two, with the first four songs comprising the first part, while the second is actually only one song entitled ‘Ramrod the Destroyer’ with six parts of twenty five minutes in total. Its best moment is the second part ‘The Ignitor’ while its last and the one that closed the record is an epic instrumental called ‘Ashes’ that I think wanted a bit more space to breathe and then it would fit better with the other 5 parts and that would make it sound even more grandiose. Come all ye faithful. A last question: Who was right? The westerns that were thinking of rockers as communists and anarchists, or the easterners who thought of rockers as agents of the West?