It's hard to believe Ram have been around for 20 years already! Yet it's true; in 2019 the Swedish metal warriors are celebrating this significant anniversary and what better way to mark a milestone like that than releasing another asskicking album? Unlike its predecessor "Rod", "The Throne Within" is not a concept piece, but a "standard" set of 9 tunes, it the style we're used to. Self-written, self-recorded and self-produced, it's screaming old school metal with catchy riffs, memorable vocal lines and the usual dose of epicness. When "Rod" was out I spoke to Harry, this time it was Oscar's turn.
Let's kick off with a question about the new album's title. Does it have anything to do with the lyrics of your song "Titan" which go, "I mount the throne prepared within"? And if so, can you explain the connection between the lyrics and the title?
Well, it was 10 years ago that we released the "Lightbringer" album and I contemplated upon that and I found the lyric line and I am certain that life moves in circles. This issue is very personal for me and my spiritual development, but you can say that a seed that was planted then 10 years ago has become a giant vine of poison Ivy.
You guys recorded the album at your own studio and you self-produced it. You did a great job, but if you had budget for hiring someone like Michael Wagener or Rick Rubin or Andy Sneap, would you still have done it all by yourselves?
It would of course be cool to work with a legendary producer even if I think we would rather go with Mutt Lange, Tom Allom or Beau Hill, but it's a special feeling in knowing that you did it by yourselves and when I listen to the album I really can't hear anything that I wanted to be done in a different way. I am not certain that that would be the case if we had worked with someone from outside of our circle.
"Rod" was a kind of experiment, a half-concept, with all those spoken parts etc. With "The Throne Within" you're back to the more traditional approach where every song speaks for itself. Does it mean you were not happy with the outcome of the experiment, or was it just a one-off thing?
We are very happy with "the experiment", I think the story on "Rod" is one of the best concept album stories ever to be honest, but the plan was always to make a "normal" record again after it. Maybe we will make a concept album again in the future but they will be rare.
Funny thing, "Ravnfell" and "Blades of Betrayal" are two of my favourite tunes on the new album and you picked those two to promote the album with. So, what were your criteria when choosing the songs for video-clips?
I think that "Ravnfell" is the best song we ever wrote but judging from the reception it got live, it does not seem like the most of our audience think so, maybe it is not a very Ram-my song? But we just look at which songs we think best represent the album and which songs stand best on their own two legs, those are chosen for singles.
"Blades of Betrayal" clip has a funny storyline behind it. Is it a song about some particular journalist you know?
No, not really, it's just a crack at all the upcoming "hipster" journalists that are around these days.
You got Alan from Primordial to do additional vocals on "Ravnfell". How did it come about?
When we wrote the song I could just hear his voice on it, I think that his voice adds this earthy, blood and guts feel to the song that really lifts it and provides a very nice atmosphere. Alan invited us to play at the Redemption fest in Dublin and we had some beers and some nice chats, so we just gave him a call and set it up. He was in and out of the studio in 20 minutes, a true professional and super talented vocalist.
How did you find about the events you based "Fang and Fur" lyrics on? I mean it happened in Russia, some 130 years ago...
A few years ago a village in Siberia was under siege by a great number of wolves and I followed that story closely. The biologists realised that the Siberian population of wolves has the ability to create a super pack of roughly 3000 wolves. And during that research an article from the New York Times describing the events that the song is based on emerged. I found it all very fascinating and wrote the lyrics as if being the alpha bitch of the super pack.
The lyrics for "You All Leave" seem very personal. Again, are they about some people you've known?
Too many people I know have decided to take their own lives, it is a sadness that I will live with forever. Once Harry had written the opening guitar parts for that song I knew that I would take the opportunity to write lyrics that would be some sort of therapy for me regarding the emptiness I feel regarding this.
I've read a couple of reviews of the new album and it's hard to come across one where Judas Priest is not mentioned. Which I find weird as your stuff is more epic and much darker than Priest's. Any idea why so many people compare you to the British Metal Gods?
Well, it has been a fact throughout our entire career, we play real heavy metal, and if you do, then you are going to be compared to the ultimate heavy metal band: Judas Priest. Judas Priest is our biggest influence, that is something that we will not hide, in fact we are proud of it.
When you were starting at the end of the '90s there were very few young traditional metal bands in Sweden, actually the only two I can think of are Ram and Wolf. These days Sweden seems to be a stronghold of old school metal. Any idea how to explain it?
The whole underground heavy metal or NWOTHM movement that started in Germany quickly spread to Sweden and got its stronghold around the Muskelrock festival. Metal was enormous in Sweden in the eighties and people started to remember the old sound and younger people realised that the old stuff was much better than the contemporary stuff and then the emergence of the Swedish NWOTHM scene was a fact.
You've got six studio albums out so you've got more than enough material for a live record. Is it in the plans at all?
Not at the moment, but our live performances are such a big part of who we are so I guess that it is inevitable that we will at some point release a live album.
When I last saw you in Scotland, there were probably 20 people in the audience. Don't situations like that bring you down?
Well, we went to the U.K. in a NWOTHM setting being marketed through that scene and it became very obvious to us that that scene is not very strong in the U.K. We heard that Riot V had played the same venue some time before to the same crowd. So that's how it is, but we learn and adapt. We will return to the U.K. with a different strategy next time.
Keeping the above in mind, is there a chance for another UK tour any time soon at all?
Nothing is planned as I write this interview.
This year marks 20 years of Ram's existence. What can I wish you for the next 20 years?