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RAM and Portrait - Under Command Split

by Matt Hensch

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"Under Command" makes Portrait and RAM go head to head. Both bands on the six-cut split contribute a new song and a cover paying tribute to an idol of their choosing, but also a reinterpretation of a track written and performed by the other group. The concept provides a handful of goodies from each while forcing the Judas Priest-infused RAM to tackle Portrait's Mercyful Fate-esque foundation, and vice versa. "Under Command" is a real barnburner that finds its best moments hitting near levels of critical mass, but surely its weaker parts have the potential to level entire towns and incite a riot. The two squads excel in different components, albeit to the same brand of high quality.

I'm naturally more excited by Portrait's contributions than RAM's, although I can't deride the latter for their offerings. RAM's original cut, "Savage Machine," is a metallic Priest-esque rocker with a thundering chorus and driving riffs-nothing beyond the imagination. But RAM's cover of Portrait's "Welcome to my Funeral" is downright awesome. The Mercyful Fate-stamped riffs under the enormous drum presence make it a winner, while the biggest surprise is Oscar Carlquist venturing beyond his Halford-like vocals for huge falsettos la King Diamond; one of the split's finest moments. Their cover of "Creatures of the Night" (KISS, of course) will have some heads banging; it fits well within RAM's style and methodology.

Portrait's side of the split ruffles up the sound quality a bit, giving way for an underdone mix and power. They aren't taking any prisoners on "Martial Lead," a fast-tempo lashing big on the screams and hammering riffs. Hearing Portrait wear RAM's skin on "Blessed to be Cursed" is an interesting take for the group, applying the bulldozing Priest-styled rhythms and riffs to a catchy chorus and pounding fury. Portrait's cover of Exciter's "Aggressor" is the highlight of the whole split, however; it is a rampage of excellence. Huge, frenzied riffs layered over neck-snapping drum rhythms and guitar solos so metal you'll be pissing rust for the next three weeks. Virtuous enough to make those old-school Canucks shed a tear of joy.

I did not expect the cover tunes to override the original numbers, but both bands hit the nail on the head walking a mile in foreign shoes and paying their dues to one of their many inspirations. RAM beats some serious ass, Portrait pisses excellence, and "Under Command" delivers the goods with no crap added. Enough said.

RAM and Portrait - Under Command Split
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