Friends, allies and countrymen lending each other not just their ears, but their riffs too, and sharing black wax time and what we have here is a pretty cool, if gratuitous, way for two bands to promote themselves and each other. The premise for Under Command, a split EP (Metal Blade), is that each band contributes a new original, a re-imagining of the other band and a cover.
First up is RAM’s original, a spiky Judas Priest inspired 80’s rocket called ‘Savage Machine’. It goes without saying originality is at a premium, but it’s delivered in the right spirit. However, the best of RAM’s trio of unholiness is their take on Portrait’s ‘Welcome To My Funeral’, outdoing the original with graveyard tones and atmospheres working well. All the good work done in the first two, RAM chuck it away with a piss-weak and stock cover of KISS’ ‘Creatures Of The Night’ that seems to go on for double its four minute length.
Portrait have been (unfairly? the jury is still out…) tagged as wannabe Mercyful Fate merchants, with people comparing Per Lengstedt to the King, in an evaluation that the Portrait man can only come out second best in. ‘Martial Lead’ does little to dispel the Fate association, with Lengstedt’s voice and falsetto too rough and no Diamond. Their version of Exciter’s ‘Aggressor’ is decent, raw and aggressive enough, and they run through RAM’s ‘Blessed To Be Cursed’, a more underground and Satanic British Steel era Priest tune, with enough intent to do it justice.
All six tracks suffer from a retro production, and it’s interesting that by the end the differences between the two bands are negligible and this could be one release by the same act. It’s also of note that the more high profile of the two, Portrait, come out second best, but, then, RAM have more to benefit from this, and it shows in the power they put into their track.
All said and done, this is a decent enough curio, but no more than that.