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It is the common understanding that pristine thrash metal was in a very critical condition during the (second half of) the nineties. I agree that these times were terrible years for my beloved genre. Yet it wasn't completely dead. Every now and then, a more or less old-fashioned album was released by a bunch of stubborn dudes and these works were like a journey into the glorious past. "Decibels" belonged to these outputs. Razor set an example for the endurance of thrash metal and they did it in an uncompromising way.
The first half of the album is a pure speed / thrash metal ecstasy. Razor choose the direct way. One straight bullet chases the next. One may say that variety and further development are missing. However, let us stop talking about these irrelevant features. The Canadians know the crucial success factor that determines victory or defeat. Therefore, they confront the listener with slicing riffs, slicing riffs and - you are right - slicing riffs. Incited by the whipping snare, the guitars specify the direction. They dominate the sound mercilessly, while lead vocalist Bob Reid has a hard time. As always, he stands in the shadow of his predecessor. Sheepdog was able to express that certain iota of insanity and, even more important, he had the more casual name. Nevertheless, Reid does not fall by the wayside. He has to struggle in order to leave his mark, but he does a pretty good job at the end of the day. Altogether, all systems go and Razor's engines go off without a hitch. This must be mentioned explicitly, because unfortunately, this is not a matter of course after a period of six years without new recordings. A lot of once solid bands have released comeback albums that have mutated into a catastrophe. Yet I don't want to speak about these nightmarish products. Let's keep the focus on the eighth full-length of Razor.
Three divine songs gild the first half of "Decibels". Right from the outset, the title track takes us back to the blooming period of thrash and "Jimi the Fly" follows the straight line rigorously. "The Game" lets the guitars flow freely and the result is one of the most violent sports reports I have ever heard. These songs fear no competition and they show the pride of the band in difficult times. The problem is that the group has shot all its powder after these tracks. I admit that the following songs deliver solid designs. Only "Goof Soup" tastes like a filler, while the acceptable title track of "Open Hostility" appears with the tiny delay of six years. However, the tracks of the second half do not achieve the effect of the aforementioned neckbreakers. But just when I thought that the album is coming to an end without any further killer tracks, "Violence... Gun Control" made me realise that I have to think again. It's a menacing, slow-moving reptile whose poison is dangerous, but an antidote has not yet been invented. The final track, the new recording of "Instant Death" underlines the "back to the roots" attitude of the band, unfortunately without constituting a significant additional value.
The dry production matches the raw and unaffected approach of the Canadians. Thrash without frills is the name of the game and I like it since I have listened to Slayer's debut for the first time. I therefore recommend to listen to this exciting full-length, although it is not completely flawless. It is a pity that it has been the last output of this legend so far. Anyway, "Decibels" marks a strong, energetic and authentic legacy of a continuously underrated band.
As lame as it looks (even compared to some of Razor's other cringe worthy cover images), Decibels continued the band's methodical devotion to destruction, a pure urban thrasher much in line with the albums before it. I must commend once more to the Canadians' unswerving flag waving for their genre. They really 'took that torch' and ran with it to the very end of the trash, making a mockery of all those better known acts who sold themselves down river through the 90s. Razor embraced thrash, personified thrash, and never compromised itself, even enduring the six year studio hiatus post-Open Hostility to emerge completely unscathed! A miracle after nu-metal and groove bullshit had begun to dominate the field.
That said, Decibels is sadly the worst of the band's albums for a number of reasons. One of them is that the riff patterns coursing through it were already seemingly redundant in 1991. There are a few bands out there who can press on with largely the same shtick for decades and still thrill the ear (Motörhead, for one), but alas, this album feels like an also-ran from the starting gates. There are a few modern tweaks, primarily in the meatier guitar tone (than the prior two records), and the use of effects for Bob Reid's vocals, which come across more distorted than they were in the early 90s. For example, in "Jimi the Fly", he sounds like he's doing an Alain Jourgensen (Ministry) impression, and it's distracting. They also try their hand at a melodic chorus or two, like the close of the title track, with its eerie, lower-ranged choir, or the backing harmony in the bonus "Instant Death". Not a bad touch, but unfortunately it just doesn't excuse the riff set beneath from being so bland. There are a few catchy leads strung through the album in tracks like "Jimi the Fly", but the rhythm tracks actually seem spotty and muddy at times, and a few sequences in songs that could have used better vocal placement are left dry.
In addition, several of these songs lope along like retarded circus elephants unaware of what they should stop upon, or where they should be stepping. "Great White Lie", for existence, with its banal muted plod; or "Nine Dead", which sounds like its just been stripped out of another Razor song and slightly re-arranged. If I totaled up every passable riff on this whole album, I might have one song. It's so underwhelming, that I have to ask myself, despite my earlier praise at the band's loyalty to its sound, whether some progression might have been necessary to keep the Canadians afloat for a more prolific body of work in the latter half of that decade, and the 21st century. As much as I love Executioner's Song, Evil Invaders and of course Violent Restitution, I don't think it would have hurt them to start thinking more technical, or using different guitar arrangements than just the first impulse which came naturally to Carlo's mind. Beyond this, I also felt like the drums on this album were too snappy and mechanical, I realize there's supposedly a live person doing this but they're nearly as calculated and uninteresting as on Open Hostility.
In the end, while it was great that Razor were re-affirming their existence after such a long break, Decibels just doesn't feel as if it needs to exist. It's like a bunch of b-sides for Open Hostility that weren't up to snuff then, but dowsed in a weak production with a few new ideas implemented. It's also not a strong note to 'end on'. I realize the band has continued to gig and appear sparsely through the years since, but they haven't exactly been productive enough to release anything since...strange, considering that with the newfound popularity of thrash nostalgia, many a label would have snapped them up in the 'oughts. Now, before you go crying about what an insensitive fuck I am, I do realize Dave Carlo has since been diagnosed with oral cancer in 2012, and I wish him all the best. I'll say flat out: he is one of the most consistent and influential guitarists in all the thrash genre, and I hope for a swift recovery, and maybe some unfinished business in the studio.
As the name suggests, this album should be played a loud as possible. Along with Annihilator, Razor is one of the Canadian thrash giants. This album is thrash. No doubt about it. Unlike Annihilator, Razor has not strayed far from their roots, and Decibels is the testament to their legacy.
Every song on this album is fast. The guitars sound like chainsaws ripping through anything they touch. Everything about the album is sharp, and thrashy. The solos are still fast, and still awesome. Everything about this album is at light speed. There is no compromise whatsoever. The speed of this album can be compared to that of a machine gun. Reloading is the equivalent of switching tracks.
Drums are nothing special, and kind of sound the same. There isn't much variantion. Pedal, Cymbal, Hit a few times, rinse & repeat.
The vocals are strange, and new Razor fans will have to get used to them, but they are also too weak compared to the drums and the guitar work. Lyrical themes include violence, drugs, and more violence. It's Razor, what do you expect?
The problems with this album other than the dull drums and the vocals? Well, the riffs are fast, but they start to meld together when you switch tracks. As you go through the album, everything begins to sound the same... not good! There really isn't any variety when it comes to riffs, and you would not be able to tell the song passed without the silence between switching tracks. Razor fall prey to boring gallop riffs that all sound the same.
The production also left something to be desired. The guitars and the drums dominate everything, but the guitars and the drums are also boring, and get repetitive quickly. Face it, Razor has never been good with diversity.
In conclusion, every song sounds pretty good, but that's because they all sound alike. It's good thrash, but it's nothing special. Buy it if you like Razor, or want some "by the book" thrash, but otherwise, I'd suggest just stealing a track off your friend.
With this being possibly the last Razor album that the fans may ever get to acquire, it's time someone paid homage to this album for what it is...a near perfect release. Dave Carlo is kinda like Canada's answer to Vicious Rumors' Geoff Thorpe, but not in terms of image or controversy. Let me explain my analogy. Simply put, neither Thorpe nor Carlo have ever written a bad album. Maybe a few tracks were weaker than others, but for the most part I'd say that 99% of either songwriters' material is worthy to be heard.
As for Decibels, this album is no different that any other Razor album. It's just full fucking speed ahead. Razor are one of the only bands that are capable of being melodic while still maintaining breakneck speeds and riffs that sound like claymore showers.
The album opens with the title track, which is a definite ass-kicker and is a very good representation of what one can expect to hear on the rest of the album. Dave's riffs on this album are without doubt the most complex riffs he's ever created (check out the bridge part on Great White Lie or the pre-verse stuff on Jimmy The Fly). The sonic crunch of the guitars is an absolute godsend to all thrash metal enthusiasts alike. The only slight downfall on the album is the fact that Dave doesn't really do any outstanding lead work, but for once the album riffs surely make up for the lack of solos.
Bob Reid's vocals are much like Dave's riffs in the sense that he sounds as heavy and menacing as fuck, yet at the same time he manages to create atmospheric melody that is rather interesting and has the listener hooked on many of the vocal lines. Jon and Rich were both recruited into the ranks from Bob's previous side project, SFH, and although they manage to add a solid backbone in the rhythm department, Rob Mills and Adam Carlo were a little better of a match for the aggression of this bands sonic assault. The drum patterns become a little bit repetitive after awhile as well and other than in Violence...Gun Control, the bass sometimes gets lost in the mix.
Still, this album manages to maintain a rather consistent flow of greatness and once again Dave Carlo manages to create an album worthy of thrash metal brilliance. Anyone who is intrigued by intelligent lyrics should also seek out not only this album, but all of Razor's back catalog.