This is the third full-length released by the band formed around twisted mastermind Henning “Zet” Ramseth. After the critically acclaimed “Pure Therapy,” RAM-ZET is back with another slice of individualistic, unmistakably mad Industrial Black Metal with bits and pieces of everything. A minor line-up between the two albums saw former bassist Solem replaced with Jon Daniel, while keyboardist Magnus Østvang left after “Intra.”
This album sees a bit of growth from “Pure Therapy;” Zet’s beefed up his already above average guitar skills to virtuoso level but has scaled back his vocal role a little bit - his wheezing rasp is still there, but he’s letting female-vocalist Sfinx shine more. And let me tell you, giving her a larger role is a great choice; this lady can sing. Curiously, she doesn’t seem to have a typical woman-in Metal voice; she’s neither angelically high (though she can certainly hit it when necessary) nor in the traditional strong alto on the other end of the scale. Rather, she usually sings in a voice more befitting a pop star, though not nearly as vapidly. While this initially got under my skin, I now find it absolutely intriguing.
Sareeta (ÁSMEGIN) is given a bigger role on violin. Though she is still used sparingly, the bits she does play are more complex, deeper, actually statements in themselves rather than the mostly accents she had played on the previous albums. “Intra” also features more tempo changes before - that is, we have a greater number of slow parts, not to mention a greater variety of slow and fast parts. The average song length is a little shorter than on “Escape,” as most songs are in the 5-6 minute ranger rather than 7-8 we previously saw, though closer “Closing A Memory” is over 9 minutes. Again, the lyrical theme is insanity and its toll.
Album opener “The Final Thrill” is a pretty good example of what we’re going to get. It opens with a massive Industrial, almost Nu, riff and charges purposefully ahead with electronic notes, before changing pace (the guitars simulate fire) as Sfinx comes in with a sorrowful entreaty to be remembered. Zet takes over and we’re in evil, decaying, bass-heavy territory for a bit. At about the mark we hit a virtuoso bridge, then a quiet passage. Sfinx rises up as the metal gouges into the interlude and the two trade back and forth for the rest of the song.
“Left Behind In Pieces” opens with a Progressive-styled guitar run over Industrial bass before giving way to an almost Gothic chorus. The more I listen to this the more I really get into Sfinx’s performance. Zet even treats us to some clean vocals. There’s a violin and vocal section about two-thirds of the way through the song that for some reason reminds me of forgotten THERION track. “’peace’” (a continuation of “ No Peace” and “Sound Of Tranquility/Peace?” on the previous albums) is dominated for a great guitar solo running from acoustic to electric, always somehow in the distance as the barely audible electric background noise closes in on us.
Closer “Closing A Memory” is the longest track on the album and runs the entire gamut we’ve encountered so far and then some more experimental vocals. We’ve got a world coming apart here people. Sareeta’s intimidating the hell out of me, Zet’s getting desperate, Sfinx is undulating and roiling, but even she’s falling and Küth and Jon Daniel are processing the floor out from under us while we’re too busy watching the other players. We’re only a third of the way through the song. We’ve still got an electric breakdown, power riffs, a hopeful solo and a metric assload of crushing industrial riffs to contend with.
Check it out. The production is good and the musicians talented. This RAM-ZET is complex and different even for people who like the previous two. The band all turn in new interpretations on their roles in previous albums and create a great album. You may have to persevere: give it a few listens and a lot of stuff sounds alike. Give it a lot of listens and it begins to blossom. Not to be missed by fans of Industial, Avantgarde, or truly Progressive music. “Pure Therapy” may have been nominated for a Grammy, but this is the better album. (Online February 22, 2006)