As you know, the Turbo album was supposed to be a double album, but the powers-that-be decided the band should only release a single disc album. That meant a lot of songs were scrapped. Well, at least four of those songs wound up on the band’s follow-up, ‘Ram It Down’. The rest of those songs wound up as Bonus tracks on the re-issues and a couple I don’t think have ever seen the light of day. Maybe someday we will hear them.
‘Ram It Down’ was recorded from December 1987 to March of 1988. It would finally be released on May 17, 1988 and would end up being the last album with drummer Dave Holland. There are a few people I know that were quite happy with that move as they always felt Dave’s drumming was a little on the lackluster side. The album would ship gold but only wound up going to #31 on the US Billboard Charts. The album was pretty heavy compared to Turbo, but the songs were no where near as strong and I believe most were disappointed with the end result. In fact, when we did the Nigel Tufnel Top 10 Judas Priest albums on The LeBrain Train several weeks back, none of the three guest even chose this album as one of their Top 10 if that clues you in on anything.
The album kicks off with the classic Halford scream and really slams it home with heavy thrash sounding drums and frantically flying fingers on guitar. The title track, “Ram It Down”, is doing just that. Slamming the fist down to show the world they weren’t a synthesizer band anymore. When compared to the rest of the album, this is one of the better tracks as it still has a little bite and a great dual guitar solo from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and man their fingers had to be smoking after the speed of those solos.
“Heavy Metal” kicks off with a guitar solo and I love when that happens. Reminds me a little of “No, No, No” from Kiss with Bruce’s solo at the front. Then the band crashes in and Rob starts singing in a style he has not really done before. It is really high pitched and a little off-putting. Not his normal brilliant falsetto. The chorus is pretty catchy and simple with mostly repeating “Heavy Metal” and “What do you Want”. And the cool thing we get another solo in the middle. Musically, I like it but vocally I am not a huge fan. A little mixed on this one.
The sound goes back to a little more like the ‘Turbo’ album with “Love Zone”. The opening drums sound like programmed 80’s style drum and not in a good way. Rob feels like he is over singing on this one. This one falls flat as it is to 80’s glam and not metal in any way.
“Come and Get It” is up next and is a little more rocking with another small guitar solo to start the song which is always a good thing. However, the song turns rather disappointing as it never really goes anywhere. It has a decent pre-chorus but the pay-off of the chorus is pretty weak. It is another 80’s rock song and not a Priest metal song.
“Hard as Iron” brings back the heavy with a double bass kick drum sound and explosions. It is speed metal and some blistering guitar work from the boys. Rob feels more at home here as it is in his wheelhouse. This song is much needed after the last couple as it shows the boys haven’t gone soft. It is sign of what is coming with the ‘Painkiller’ album.
The most epic song on the album is “Blood Red Skies” which starts off slower and it sound like we are in space or something. There are some acoustic guitars and Rob comes in soft and gentle to keep with the feel of the music. His falsettos are stellar. The song kicks up the tempo with some guitar synthesizer sounds, heavier drumming. Rob changes his vocal approach as well getting a little more sinister and angrier. The song takes me back to earlier Priest when they were doing a little more Prog stuff. This is one of the better songs on the album.
Next up is “I’m A Rocker” and for a song called a “rocker”, it really doesn’t. Coming off “Blood Red Skies” it is pretty freaking dull and boring. And that is all I have to say about that.
Then we get to the love/hate song of “Johnny B. Goode”. The song is sort of a cover and sort of not. The lyrics all from the Chuck Berry classic song, but Priest re-wrote the music entirely. The song was done for the Anthony Michael Hall move called ‘Johnny B. Goode’ which was horrible by the way. Rob’s vocals style on this is horrible and I don’t like his delivery at all. The song is really painful. Priest is great at making covers be their own, but this one they completely missed the mark. Now some people like this song, I’m not one of them.
Then we get “Love You to Death” and I’m sorry but I don’t. It is pure filler and not their best work. It falls flat and overall disappointing. Next…
Finally we come to the end of this mess with “Monsters of Rock” which starts with some loud booming sounds and sounds all evil and menacing in a Black Sabbath way. It starts off interesting and very promising, but only plods along not really going anywhere. No variety in the song, all monotone in its style which is really disappointing as it felt like it could be bigger than it was.
There are two bonus tracks and the first is a live version of “Night Comes Down” which was recorded at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach California on May 5, 1984. The song is dull and flat and not very exciting plus why put a live song from 1984 and not a live song from this album. Their bonus track choices have really sucked in a lot of cases. The next track is the live version of “Bloodstone” from Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee on December 12, 1982. Again same argument, however, this is a killer song and great live version of it so no real complaints with it. This one felt live and had a lot more energy plus Rob sounded great and that chorus is so damn catchy…great stuff.
- Ram It Down – Keeper
- Heavy Metal – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Love Zone – Delete
- Come And Get It – Delete
- Hard As Iron – Keeper
- Blood Red Skies – Keeper
- I’m A Rocker – Delete
- Johnny B. Goode – DELETE
- Love You To Death – Delete
- Monsters of Rock – Delete
- Night Comes Down (Live)
- Bloodstone (Live)
The Track Score is 3.5 out of 10 or 35% which might be the worst score yet on any album I’ve done for them so far. This was a really disappointing album for me. Only a few standout tracks and the rest of it the band seemed lost and wandering aimlessly with no direction. The album is all over the place, the songwriting was half-assed at times and Rob was not at his best vocally. A really dreadful album. The overall score is 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars. And I have nothing else to add.
UP NEXT: ‘Painkiller’ (1990)
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)