29 Sep 2013
Ranger - Knights of Darkness [EP] (2013, Ektro Records/Full Contact Records)
The artwork says it all: Black background, painted chrome logo, four black figures in front of a nighttime cityscape, and a small sticker with the words "skull splitting metal" around a fanged skull. Knights of Darkness is one of those records you love to bust out and show your friends for a night of binge drinking and shouting to the sound of shredding guitars and high-pitched screams, straight from Finland in a classic 80's speed metal style with no shenanigans. Ranger started out as Turbin and have since released 3 demos until releasing the Knights of Darkness EP through Ektro/Full Contact Records in 2013.
Following in the wake of what some like to call the "new wave of traditional heavy metal" their style is dark and gritty, energetic and fast. The wild feel of Ranger's music brings to mind Speedtrap, another Finnish speed metal band that are perhaps a bit more prominent in the scene. It also speaks of a band that aren't concerned with following a specific trend or norm, as they are much more coarse in their approach to songwriting and recording than many other contemporary speed metal bands. Their songwriting is nowhere near as clean or centered around "epic" sounds as many of the more well-known acts within the scene, instead focusing on a more raw thrash approach instead of one fuelled by heavy metal, sometimes bringing to mind the early output of bands like Slayer, Whiplash, Exciter and Razor. Infused with hellish guitar solos and near-constant d-beats the Finnish band is an entity that does not want to conform or slow down. The coarse vocals of Dimi lean mostly on singers like Cronos and Tom Araya, but with songs like Touch of Death the vocalist shows that he too has the capacity for falsetto-like screams of the highest pitch.
Followers of acts like Enforcer and White Wizzard will likely be dismayed by the crude production on Knights of Darkness, but what it lacks in sound quality Ranger definitely make up for in sheer speed and the caliber of their songwriting. There are times when speed metal becomes boring to listen to because it's always fast all the time with squeaky guitars and falsetto screams, and in some cases it ends up being a mess of riffs too fast for human fingers, resulting in a lot of songs sounding bland. By taking a thrashy approach Ranger have circumvented this issue that plagues many similar bands. This is not about immersion, sophistication or finesse, and it's definitely not some misbegotten notion that metal should be played or written with great refinement or elegance that drives this piece of metal forward. And true to this idea Ranger's Knights of Darkness EP keeps things simple with just over 20 minutes of simply tasteful use of fast down-strokes, d-beats and screams. Get. It. 9/10 guitars.
2. Touch of Death
3. Steel Dawn
4. Supreme Evil
5. Knights of Darkness
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