Friday 7 October 2022

Razor - Cycle of Contempt (2022)

Country: Canada
Style: Speed/Thrash Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 23 Sep 2022
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Here's another blast from the past, this time from Canada, from the Ontario city of Guelph where I have some good old friends. Razor are kind of like good old friends too, given that my first Razor album was Evil Invaders back in 1985. I enjoyed them for a few years, nothing later matching that album but still enjoyable, but I lost track of them after Violent Restitution in 1988, as real life had sudden demands on my time. It was good to see their name crop up again as I thought they'd been gone for years. And they kind of had been, given that this is their first album since 1997, which is a quarter of a century. Welcome back, folks!

Nowadays, the line-up features two founder members. One is Dave Carlo on guitar, whose riffs are less biting than they used to be because he's warmed up his sound, but he's as good as ever and his solos still rip. The other is Mike Campagnalo, whose rumbling bass underpins the Razor sound and gives the rest of the band something solid to build on. He gets a few spotlight moments, whether that's during a pause for effect, where he rumbles along on his own, or in an intro like Punch Your Face In.

The new fish is Rider Johnson, who's on his second stint with the band, even though he didn't join until 2014. He's solid, whether playing slowly during the first half of Darkness Falls or at the more usual frantic pace of a speed metal band. In between is Bob Reid, who joined in 1989, so has been a mainstay in the band ever since I stopped listening. That's coincidence, of course, but it's telling, as he seems to be the biggest reason why this album is happening, being the driving force behind the Razor reunion in 1997, and my least favourite aspect to it.

He does what he does well, but it's not what I expect from a speed metal band. The lead vocalist in my day was Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren, who left because he'd lost his passion for being in a band, leading Reid to take over not only behind the mike but as the impetus behind the band continuing to function. McLaren had a wild voice that I'd say is more suited to the genre, rough and raw and as willing to scream as squeal or whatever other vocalisation is needed at any particular moment. To me, Reid has a more focused approach that's primarily aggressive, perhaps appropriate for a post-Pantera world.

That's backed up by the lyrics, which are primarily in your face aggressive and delivered with an in your face aggressive attitude. Remember the insane scream at the beginning of The Marshall Arts that was a statement of intent on the Violent Restitution album? That sort of thing isn't here because Reid isn't into that. He's into threatening to punch you in the face, whether that's conversationally in the closer, King Shit, or through the strictly regimented cadence of most of these songs. He fits with the lyrics, but the lyrics aren't exactly subtle, as you'll find in Jabroni, Punch Your Face In, All Fist Fighting, Off Your Meds, Crossed... well, pretty much all of them. This is fight music.

If what Reid does is your sort of thing, then you're going to be happy with this album, because he does what he does consistently throughout. If you came to thrash from punk, you may love this. If you came to thrash from NWOBHM, maybe not so much. I found that his approach led to an album that's one note and I wanted a lot more variety. It was at its best for me when it was instrumental, so my favourite song is easily the title track, being a couple of minutes longer than the norm, thus allowing for a couple of minutes of glorious riffing to kick it off and a strong instrumental section for solos in the second half.

After that, I'd probably go for All Fist Fighting, because Reid speeds up his delivery and makes it a lot more urgent and passionate. He still uses his rough but powerful punk voice but it feels real to me, instead of a rehearsed threat intended to prod someone into throwing the first punch. It's the difference between Anthrax with Joey Belladonna (or even Neil Turbin) and Anthrax behind Billy Milano. As much as I enjoyed Speak English or Die, I'm always going to go for the former and this is an album for those who want the latter.

So it's a 6/10 from me, I think. The band are solid and tight and still agreeably fast and I'm gleeful that they're back, but I think they've moved a little away from me.

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