Festivals offer a fantastic opportunity to music fans because, quite aside from the array of major label talent on offer, they provide a chance to see bands you may not otherwise see. It is these acts that can surprise and delight far more than the tried and tested artists thanks to the tangible hunger with which the best of them perform. This year, at Bloodstock, we came across one such band at the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. Hailing from Scotland, Ramage Inc. had a mere thirty minutes in which to impress their audience, but this they did with a confidence and authority that will surely see them move to a larger stage in the future. As with all good shows, by the end all I wanted to do was to check out the band’s recorded work to see if it could possibly match up to the bristling power they exhibited on stage. The band’s most recent effort, ‘Earth shaker’, actually appeared last year. however, as there’s no timeframe on good music, it seemed the perfect time to cover it given the band’s recent spate of live activity. Unsurprisingly, from the off, ‘Earth Shaker’ does not disappoint and, whether you’ve seen this stunning band in action or not, you should be heading towards the band’s Bandcamp page with all the speed you can muster.
Getting off to a flying start with the title track, Ramage Inc. draw comparisons with Devin Townsend, their devilishly heavy guitar tones augmented with quirky solos and droning backing vocals that sound like the band imported hell’s own choir into the recording process. Quite how an independent release sounds so epic is a wonder in itself, whilst the progressions the song works its way through are nothing short of mesmerising. Time and again I have to check, just to make sure that, yes, this is the same Ramage inc. who played The New Blood stage and not some sneaky, major label artist instead. Look for yourself via the Bandcamp link below, we guarantee you’ll have the same trouble. Kicking into gear with a suitably immense riff, ‘Guardian’ is powered by a remarkable central vocal from Bryan Ramage that veers between Chris Cornell depth, Matt Bellamy croon and Devin Townsend roar at the point of a knife, whilst the melodic bite the band employs will have you hooked and crawling back for more. It’s beyond heartening to hear music this brilliantly detailed emerging from the underground and it is surely only a matter of time before other people realise the truth that has already hit us squarely between the eyes – that Ramage Inc. are simply and unequivocally brilliant. The band keep the pace taut with ‘Enter the whirlwind’, a brutal aural take on a spiralling descent into madness which abruptly changes shape and plunges headlong into an unexpected hell of Gojira riffs and dark voices exhorting you to the most terrible of crimes. Opting for light and shade rather than straight-forward bludgeon, Ramage inc. demonstrate an innate ability to meld the heaviest of riffs with the most glorious of melodies over the course of the whole album, and this is nowhere more apparent than on ‘Within circle’, a track that draws as much from Iron Maiden as it does from Devin. Melodic and yet with plenty of might, ‘within circle’ offers something for those who like to sing in the shower and those who like to thrash about in the pit, although the latter are certainly more pleasingly served by the crushing, cyclical riffs of ‘Learn more’, a prog-metal beast that utilises massed vocal harmonies to majestic effect.
The second half of the album opens with the soft, subtle ‘break out’ which, with its echo-laden guitar and clean vocal builds toward a heavy passage that suggests the band may have absorbed more than a touch of Faith No More’s ‘Angel Dust’ during their formative years. Wrong-footing the audience with an almighty doom riff, ‘Transparency’ transpires to be springy prog with music-box interludes and complex timing set to stun. It’s as if Ramage Inc. are so full of ideas they had to get them all down on this one, epic outpouring lest they explode. An album highlight, ‘Handle this’ offers a melody so addictive it moves in next door and proceeds to blast direct into your brain even at early hours in the morning. Aptly titled, ‘dark’ is a weird, post-grunge epic, filled with a sense of progressive wonder before the monumental ‘loss’ brings the album to a satisfying close. A slow-building, beautifully subtle intro gives way to one last series of blistering riffs and, with that, ‘Loss’ sears itself into the memory and more or less demands that you start the record over at its conclusion. A song that combines the potent fury of metal with the evocative soundscapes of a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, ‘Loss’ is a remarkable closing piece to a remarkable album. Most notably, it marks the end of a seventy-minute record that flies by as if it were half that.
I have listened to this album for weeks whilst working on various projects; I have walked away from it and filled my ears with other music; I’ve blasted it from my home stereo and listened on earphones and I’ve yet to find a single reason why Ramage Inc. aren’t one of the biggest bands in the UK right now. Despite my efforts to avoid it, superlative after superlative have poured forth in this review and deservedly so. So, I ask you to believe that this is no mere hyperbole on my part – ‘Earth shaker’ just is that good, and if you care about the fate of independent music you need to buy a copy (hell, buy two in case the first one wears out) of this astonishing record. Reverential of its influences and yet defiantly forward looking, beautifully produced (by Bryan Ramage) and played with consummate musicianship, ‘Earth shaker’ is a record to treasure. Seek it out, listen for yourself – this is a masterclass in progressive metal and damn-near essential listening. 10