This is a nice release, two of my favourite Swedish bands playing two distinct styles or variations of traditional metal, both having one individual track, one cover track and another cover of a track by the other band (if you know what I mean). Their own personal tribute to each other.
RAM begin the effort with ‘Savage Machine’ whereby the vocals seem to be pushed that little bit further than their last studio effort, perhaps this is the start or return to form sound of their earlier releases? This is a cool track. Then you have Portrait’s demo song ‘Welcome to my Funeral’ performed by RAM and save for the vocals, this is even tuned to sound like Portrait, that little sense of eeriness, evilness, it’s unique, it just shows the power of Portraits material, even though powerfully played by RAM. RAM’s cover is ‘Creatures of the Night’ by Kiss. A great choice and one of my favourite tracks prior to that bands change of pace. I can hear the influence on RAM here, but it’s not the complete picture. RAM have a few more aces up their sleeves for the future I am sure.
So Portrait, have already released one of my top albums of the year earlier in the form of ‘Crossroads’, so they lead with their own track ‘Martial Lead’ which is classic Portrait really. Less emphasis on the higher register vocal for which they are I supposed famed for, a little muddier production, it sounds much more grounded and results in a powerful listening experience. Their cover of RAM’s ‘Blessed to be Cursed’ is tuned to sound like a Portrait track, it has a more evil stance than the original and this makes me think that this release stands out more for Portrait than it does for RAM. There you go, my hat is in the ring…discuss! Portrait’s cover track is Exciter’s ‘Aggressor’ (from ‘The Dark Command’). Exciter are more than their first few releases, this as the band have hoped, will give listeners the chance to hear further valid material and it’s an absolute raging cover version.
I think this is a cool split release, I do feel Portrait end up coming out on top for this one, but RAM are no couch potato by any mark. Both of these bands have been flying the flag for traditional metal just before the resurgence and return to popularity, so for that I thank them both and for this release I am truly “under command”, a heavy metal command \m/.
(8/10 Paul Maddison)