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Almost ten damn years. That's how long it took for Marshall Law to get their 5th studio record, "Razorhead", up and going. The final result is definitely a mixed one. "Razorhead" does what their second album, "Power Game", did: it tries to appeal to fans of all different sorts of metal sub-genres and in the process loses its identity and a sense of consistency. It also does what "Metal Detector" did wrong, in that there's too many damn songs on here. In this case, we have FIFTEEN fucking songs! Is that enough, guys? Fuck! "Razorhead" is like watching an orgy: there's too much going on, but if you look closely, there's a few really interesting things to be witnessed.
Let's start with the lineup. Andy Pyke is back on vocal duties and he still sounds pretty damn good. He doesn't wail like he used to, but his more aggressive vocal assaults are still mean and top-notch. Dave Martin returns, but unfortunately without Andy Southwell at his side. Southwell instead has been replaced by newcomer Dave Rothan. So as one can imagine, the solos and riffs aren't quite as memorable and scorching as the old school duo, but the two pull off some pretty nice work in all fairness anyway. The bass of fellow newbie Tom Dywyer isn't much to sneeze at. It's hard to hear in the album's crunchy, modern metal production and is essentially just not as special as Roger Davis' bass. Current Winter in Eden drummer Steve Hauxwell rounds out the cast; his work is probably the best drumming (excluding the drum machines, as they don't count) the group ever had. He's a bit basic, but really energetic, tight, and at times technical and kinda thrashy. No wonder he was already snatched up by another band.
As previously mentioned, "Razorhead" does what "Power Game" did so long ago. The group tosses out a bunch of different sounding metal songs to appeal to a broader demographic of listeners while at the same time attempting to keep true to traditional heavy, power, and speed metal. Groove metal tendencies abound here, particularly in the quasi-hardcore "Headtrap" and one of the worst songs on the album, "Another Bullet", which attempts at being catchy and results in being pretty embarrassing. Then in a weird turn they reach out to fans of progressive/symphonic metal with "Nothing Lasts Forever", which is not a bad song (kind of Nightwish meets modern Iron Maiden with Pantera sprinkled on top), but is really out of place. Then we get some passable filler with stuff like the groove-ish "Divides Us", which is forgettable aside from the decent main riff. The epic "The Chamber" is also okay, but could've used some trimming. "Premonition" is a solid enough faster tune, but really isn't very memorable after the fact. Then we get totally useless nonsense like the instrumental "The Summoning" and the one minute time-wasting interlude,"Devil's Anvil".
Well, what the hell is worthwhile on "Razorhead"? Well, the title track is pretty killer, a cooking, vicious speed metal attack with a brutal, bullying chorus and a scorcher solo in that classic Marshall Law way. Then we have some really good mid-paced efforts in "Gods of Deception" with its swaying grooves and hooky chorus, and the moody, booming "Night Terror". Album finisher "Necromancer" is quite cool, probably one of the more fun songs on here with its pacing flirting with being both slower and faster. We get near thrash levels of intensity with "Blood And Pain", one of my favorite Marshall Law songs. The riffs are attacking and urgent, and the chilling chorus is so hooky you'll need a thousand dollar back hoe to scoop it out of your grey matter! "Desperate men, call my name, 'cause all they find, is BLOOD AND PAIN!!!"
Overall, Marshall Law's latest is a mixed affair. The immense amount of songs and misfires in deciding on song styles kill the pacing and consistency, resulting in a confused, bloated final product. There's too much filler and not enough direction. But even still, everyone mostly gives it their all, the crunchy production is good, the atmosphere is dark and occult, and the stronger songs on "Razorhead" are, frankly, among some of the band's best. Marshall Law is in yet another difficult place right now. As I type this, they have no drummer and long-time vocalist Andy Pyke seems to be gone, leaving yet another new bassist and the two Daves on guitar duty. I really like these guys and I can only hope for the best from them. "Razorhead" isn't fantastic, but it's often pretty good, and here's to hoping for a sixth album, which I hope will be even better.