Where Evil Dwells

Written by: EW on 28/04/2015 23:23:14

Having a ‘flavour of the month’ sound has never been a hindrance for any band looking for a spot of attention and in the case of Finnish speedsters Ranger they sit squarely on target in the retro speed metal world; y’know that one, where handlebar ‘tashes command and sleeveless leather jackets are proudly worn over flesh, neither without knowing irony. Not even the thrash revival of the last few years managed such feats of fashion.

The division between thrash and speed metal has always been an ambivalent one for yours truly - thrash was purpose built on speed so it’s always struck me as odd that it isn’t ‘speed metal’ in the truest sense of the world. Of course the divergence ultimately means nothing when it is the music that counts, but I make this point in mind of Ranger’s debut album "Where Evil Dwells". An album that hurries along so impatiently and with such warm analogue production levels I instinctively find myself decrying anything ‘thrash’ about it and hoisting the banner of ‘speed’ on their behalf, won over by the diehard conviction dripping from Dimi Pontiac’s strained banshee vocals, the youthful abandon of "Phantom Soldier" and the "Black Circle (S.Y.L.S.)" and the instantly likeable opening track, "Defcon 1".

The pastiche of Ranger’s shameless demonstration of metal passion over these seven tracks is both the album’s main strength and weakness, depending on one’s tolerance for a drum sound that at times is positively Kreator’s "Pleasure to Kill" and a dynamic that views anything created post-1986 as patently unworthy. Personally I am all for having records in my collection where the passion is so overt as to obscure the need for significant musical variation but it would be fully understandable for the sheer reckless speed of tracks like "Storm of Power" and the avoidance of any modern musical trappings to be equally off-putting for others. Ranger, obviously, don’t give a stuff for such opinions as the gradual build-up towards outright explosion in "Defcon 1" is guaranteed to have necks snapping from both band and crowd at every show with the song only making the vaguest of intentions of slowing up later in it’s seven minutes. "Deadly Feast" pulls out a scratchy "Kill ‘em All" rhythm beneath the insightful lyrics of an horrific death by great white shark; "Phantom Soldier" and "Dead Zone" use a touch more panache in their early stages and end up sounding much more proximate to recent Enforcer works in the process. It is to the ten-minute title track where we turn for some relative restraint in a duration that absolutely should not work for the style but, like Death Angel’s debut title track from so many years ago, it just does. The quality of the riffs, borne not from virtuosos of the instrument but an obvious upbringing of metal obsession (this I can confirm from personal experience) keeps the song fresh throughout, notwithstanding the welcome lead work from Ville Valtonen and Mikael Haavisto accounting for the periods devoid of vocals.

"Where Evil Dwells" has been gathering considerable listens from me in recent times as it’s directness and lack of compassion make for a powerful combination on the boring work commute, where inner metal strength is needed to survive the travails around. I dare say Ranger will need to diversify a little on subsequent albums but if ever a young band can get away with such vigour it is on their debut LP. Six years of demos and EPs have built an expectation around "Where Evil Dwells" and these speed merchants have decisively delivered.


Download: Defcon 1, Where Evil Dwells
For The Fans Of: Enforcer, Whiplash, Razor
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.03.2015
Spinefarm Records

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