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Judas Priest’s ‘Ram It Down’


It’s the one, I think, that gets overlooked.

For most, Judas Priest is all about ‘British Steel’, ‘Stained Class’, ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ and of course, the big one. ‘Painkiller’.

OK, and maybe that other underrated gem ‘Defenders Of The Faith’ too, if you’re in the know.

But spare a thought for the album that came between two stools, and that gets precious little recognition. The album that didn’t quite know what it was, somehow involved Pete Waterman, and even has some tracks done on a drum machine. 1988’s ‘Ram It Down’.

SATURDAY NIGHT

For me it’s an album that just screams Saturday Night. The reason is that it’s got a good time, big metal vibe that’s sometimes hard, sometimes fun, and always engaging.

A lot of this is about the quality of the choruses on it.

We begin at the beginning though. Priest always did know how to make a statement at the start of their albums, and there can be no doubt that the electrifying title track is as good as ‘Painkiller’, or ‘Hellion / Electric Eye’ as an uproarious opening.

It’s absolutely frantic. Its tempo alone is frenetic, pounding and impossible not to love. It carries you along like nothing else.

It also contains one of the most accomplished, elaborate, fluid and masterly guitar solo trade offs in Priest’s entire, amazing canon. It’s worthy of the greats, with its arpeggiated and multi-string tapping that finishes into a wailing harmonic. From a guitarist’s point of view it’s an almost indescribably brilliant piece of work.

SHOUT IT OUT

One of the things Priest were best at was simply singing about heavy metal itself. The life and the love. On ‘Ram It Down’ they’ve got it nailed, not least on the pumping ‘Heavy Metal’, and ‘Come And Get It’.

The band bring us all together in a rock and roll union with their simple, easy chants that demand a singalong.

I’m not going to pretend I understand the beat that underpins ‘Love Zone’, but it’s yet another track that just swirls in dry ice and big stage lights.

So that’s the fun stuff. The easy stuff. Hell, even the ‘Johnny B Goode’ standard on here isn’t half bad, and went on to become its single.

PREPARE FOR PAIN(KILLER)

In many ways what I think is so interesting about ‘Ram It Down’ is that Priest were at a junction.

This album was reputedly supposed to be a double album of hard rock leaning tracks and some more heavy elements. It eventually got split into what became ‘Turbo’, and this.

That was clearly for the best. Because what I think ‘Ram It Down’ represented was a toughening of Priest’s attitude.They were getting ready to unleash the solid steel ‘Painkiller’ on the world, and this was the bridging album that got them there.

The track that says this best is ‘Hard As Iron’, which must strike anyone listening as a sort of prototype for ‘Leather Rebel’ or more likely ‘One Shot At Glory’.

”Blood Red Skies’ as well is a harder number, hinting at a bit of ‘Nightcrawler’, albeit with that dark synth pumping away. It’s classic 80s dystopia with Halford at his character led best. His vocal take in this track alone is a world beater.

THOUSANDS OF CARS, A MILLION GUITARS

So let’s think about why this album needs more love – or a bit more stature in conversations about Priest’s back catalogue.

It’s a celebration of the heavy metal way of life. It has an anthemic, celebratory quality that brings metallers irresistibly together. And when it wants to, it pounds like they never did before.

Listening to this album, it’s hard not to agree with Rob that no matter what

I’m a rocker – and no-one can take that away.

Earl Grey ::: 06/07/14


13 Comments
  1. Good call, always liked RID, think it was always overshadowed by painkiller and never gets the same amount o spins, but it’s a solid album from cover to cover.

  2. Invictus Says:

    Some belting tunes on this one alright and as a massive Turbo fan, I dig the cheese and all the 80s indulgences. Some duds on it though but it definitely is a Saturday night album to the bone.

  3. Goatlord Says:

    Never liked it. Just never grabbed me at all. Painkiller is marginally overated as well. From the 80s the jewel in the crown is Defenders.

  4. Can’t say I agree with this one at all. The title track is up there with their finest work, but the rest of it is completely forgettable. File beside “Bark at the Moon”…

  5. Miotal Trom Says:

    Spot on review. I thought I was the only one who held this album in such high esteem. It’s bleedin’ class. And I also love Turbo – does that make me your Turbo Lover, Dar?

    Incidentally, I have 2 copies of this on vinyl, so I’m selling one, if anyone’s interested after reading this review/checking it out on youtube etc. PM for details. Sorry for hawking CT, just thought it was at least half relevant ;-p

  6. kyle reece Says:

    Class album, alright. Totally agree with the comments on the title track- a fantastic action packed song that rockets and blazes everywhere,and yes, the leadwork in that is electrifying.
    My favourite 80s album of theirs-and one of my favourite Priest records overall is Defenders of the Faith, but I must also include Angel of Retribution as an overlook gem,too.
    Demonizer and Hellrider are stunning songs up there with their best,and no doubt had that album been released as say,a follow up to Painkiller had Halford stuck around at the time,it would be regarded as a classic alongside the others.

    But yeah, Ram It Down is awesome!

  7. Agree with you on about title track, often forgotten but should be up there on the list of Priest classics. I always love Turbo Lover and Blood Red Skies. The rest I can take or leave. Even I’m a Rocker live a few years back was just a curiosity.

    Defenders, now there’s an album 🙂

  8. ToxicTwin Says:

    The title track is great, as is Blood Red Skies but I always thought the rest of it was pretty forgettable. It was slated pretty badly at the time & I don’t think the cover of Johnny B. Goode helped. I’d take Turbo over it tbh. DOTF though is where it’s always been at for me when it comes to their 80’s output.

  9. Barrytron Says:

    My 80s fave was always Point of Entry. Always felt it was panned needlessly.

  10. Yeah dont get me wrong – Defenders is a far superior album. I just think this one hardly gets talked about AT ALL let alone enough credit in its own terms.

  11. This was the first JP album I bought when getting into metal as a teenager (having heard nothing else by the band) and thought it was shite bar a track or two. Threw on the track Heavy Metal after reading this to see if anything has changed and it hasn’t to be honest. Production couldn’t be more 80s with everything horribly synthesized sounding. Tunes themselves aren’t up to much at all either.

  12. Juggulator Says:

    It was a terrible album back then, gave it a listen last night and it’s still a terrible album now. So bad, I still can’t bring myself to buy it to complete the collection.

  13. stonebreaker Says:

    I have a soft spot for this album. Even though some of the song titles and lyrics are really silly the guitars are excellent with some great riffs and the solos in Ram It Down and Hard As Iron being well worth a mention. Hard As Iron would have easily fitted in on Painkiller and Blood Red Skies is epic but Johnny B Goode was a real poor decision and one which I feel along with the likes of Out In The Cold and Parental Guidance off Turbo lost them a bit of momentum among metal fans. Overall I still think that Point of Entry with the exception of the great Solar Angels, Heading Out On The Highway and Desert Plains was far less of an album than Ram It Down.

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