Ram-Zet - Neutralized

Norway's Ram-Zet have always been interesting. They perform what could be called a brand of 'industrial avant guard black metal,' but it's done in a unique sense that doesn't really sound like anything else metal fans are hearing these days, especially with their latest offering, "Neutralized". There's the intense black metal riffs, the (sometimes annoying) black metal screeching, beautiful clean female vocals, spacey keyboards and electronic beats, and even a lot of orchestral moments. Obviously this is quite a bit to take in, but fortunately the production is clean enough so fans CAN take it all in.

The music is a lot more avant guard compared to Ram-Zet's last several albums. The opening track, "Infamia," is mostly dominated by a synth and electronic beepings while the vocals trade off between beauty and brutality. There's some thick bass guitar in the background mixed with some sharper electronic riffs to keep things sounding heavy and metal, but it is clear that the band will be going for a much cleaner, more majestic sound on "Neutralized" than trying to create something akin to extreme black metal. There's going to be a lot of time spent listening to the female vocals over a piano or keyboard, but don't worry, they aren't monotone or have an operatic pitch that make ears bleed. The woman here can actually sing and change her pitches when it suits the music. Sadly the same cannot be said for the male vocalist who sticks to a slightly less annoying "Cradle of Filth" howl that still sounds like he's rasping for air. It isn't unbearable, but there's a lot better vocalists out there compared to him.

Many of the songs are epic, like the ten minute opuses "Addict" and "Beautiful Pain." "Addict" is much heavier than most of the tracks in the sense it sounds more black metal, but there's a solo piano part with the female vocals that just sounds amazing before a static laden industrial section drapes over and some progressive sounding guitar reverbs come in. "Beautiful Pain" showcases the majestic orchestrations by using a lot of cello and violin amongst the guitars, which sounds much more jazz influenced and chunky than opting for the blistering blastbeats that most black metal bands use. The industrial elements are there still but don't sound as futuristic and instead sound more thick and mechanical. A lot of the shorter tracks are mostly just heavily industrial black metal, switching between keyboard over guitar to keyboard and vocals. The orchestral elements are still there such as on "I Am Dirt," but they are less prominent. The final track is epic only because there is a lengthy interlude of silence before a very interesting jazz guitar medley comes up with some percussion. Not like Ram-Zet at all because it is so different from the rest of the album, but still very impressive just for the random weirdness of it all.

Basically, anyone who enjoys the good 'ol 'male harsh/female clean' duet will love this album and the band. It's not as extreme as many black metal fans might be used to, but it's still wonderfully complex music with plenty of elements to keep listeners thinking. Fans of Tidfall, The Kovenant, The Gathering, and even the recent Devin Townsend projects will find this enjoyable. It is good to see that Ram-Zet has evolved and progressed from their last album, Intra, which sorely needed some work on the vocal tones and string arrangements because they were too schizophrenic. Now, the band has achieved perfection.

  1. Infamia
  2. I Am Dirt
  3. 222
  4. Addict
  5. God Don't Forgive
  6. Beautiful Pain
  7. To Ashes
  8. Requiem