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There could be many a chapter in the book of thrash metal devoted to the throngs that spilled out of both the U.S. and Germany in the mid-80s, while other lands that had a hand in the goings on of that time were not quite as rich with heroes. If there was one band that really pushed the envelope enough to be really noticeable from the Canadian end of things, most fingers would definitely point the way to Razor, namely their 1985 sophomore plunge into the extreme world of violent pit thrash a la "Evil Invaders". Contrary to popular opinion, the Nordic looking knockoff of The Terminator featured on the cover didn't lose half of the skin off his face from an ongoing chase scene with Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, but instead from the intense auditory g-force of its content.
Things start off in something of a "Kill Em' All" mode with a fading in instrumental assault on the ears replete with free time mayhem and bone-rattling turns dubbed "Nowhere Fast", and it sets a rather unique precedent that quickly distinguishes this album from its prime influences, namely Metallica and Slayer. If going by speed and intensity alone, this album definitely leans heavily towards the "Show No Mercy" brand of speed/thrashing complete with plenty of perpetual tremolo riffs and high octane drumming. But particularly on surprisingly older fashioned speeders like "Iron Hammer" there is a healthy dose of Motorhead influences thrown in, namely a principle riff set and gruff vocal approach out of Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren particularly remind of "Iron Fist".
Interestingly enough, Sheepdog's vocal approach proves to be one of the chief elements in pushing an otherwise rough and modestly produced thrasher into the stratosphere. He tends to resemble a slightly drunker and sloppier version of James Hetfield circa "Ride The Lightning", though also possessing a truly vile and glass shattering banshee wail that is employed fairly often, upstaging even Araya in terms of intensity and finding itself in a similar space that was occupied by Blitz Ellsworth during his most intense moments on "Feel The Fire". This isn't to say that the guitar work of Dave Carlo is a slouch behind Razor's vocal impresario, though his soloing style tends to fall back on an earlier, post-NWOBHM approach that isn't quite as flashy as Hammett or as chaotic as King, though clear elements of both are being employed.
Like with any classic album, it's fairly easy to just get sucked in by the overall experience of the album and not really bother picking apart any of the individual songs, yet at times there are very divergent influences that interplay with each other quite auspiciously. Much of the album is relegated to warp speed cruisers after the mold of "Tortured Skull" and "Legacy Of Doom" where the riff work tends to be more of a blur and it gets difficult to keep one's head attached at the neck. However, there are occasional respites on a few of these songs before the vertebrae destruction continues, including a nice Iron Maiden inspired mid-tempo riff set on "Evil Invaders" and a slightly slower swinging riff set on "Instant Death". The person who seems relegated to supporting member through much of this thrill ride is bassist Mike Campagnolo, who occasionally get some time in the sun, but opts for a less flashy approach than that of Cliff Burton while taking some of his timbre ideas from him simultaneously.
Despite it's somewhat low-fidelity production character, which isn't really all that more raw than the Overkill debut, this marks a fairly significant shift away from the early speed metal character that typified the earlier 80s, to almost the same degree that Slayer's "Hell Awaits" did, though tonally speaking this doesn't go so far as to flirt with early death metal the way said album did, let alone their fellow Canadians' Infernal Majesty's trailblazing debut would. This definitely marks a clear evolution that paved the way for the wild intensity that came in the next year with Dark Angel, Kreator, Destruction and Slayer's seminal offerings, but more importantly, it's a killer slab of metal that should be in the collection of any and all self-respecting thrash fanatics, young and old alike.
"Executioner's Song" must've popped pretty well with the headbangin' masses, because in the same year, 1985, Razor let loose with yet another array of skull-melting tunes in the indispensable "Evil Invaders". Razor's sophomore effort marks a change in sound; the fun- time speed metal of the debut is largely replaced with a loud, gritty streetwise thrash metal attack. Back it up with a meaner, meatier guitar tone and more evil vocals from Sheepdog and you have THE Canadian cult classic thrash record.
While the production is heavier and clearer than that of the debut (I love this record's guitar tone), it still suffers from a quality that bogged down that album: reverb. There's an obnoxious hiss to some of Sheepdog's vocals, echo to the guitars, and an at times near-unbearable hissing from the cymbals and snare which, thanks to M-Bro's suddenly sloppy style, we hear A LOT.
Most of the group make due with this issue nicely, though. Sheepdog's gruff, but happy-go-lucky vox of the debut has morphed into something more sinister here; his lower-end growls now sound meaner and more punishing, while his infamous bird-of-prey shrieking is on full effect, permeating each song with a balanced breakfast of aggression! Mortal ears are not ready for the Shriek of the Sheepdog! Dave Carlo goes ballistic with a new, more fearsome series of riffs, each more memorable than the last and nicely trumping his already well-done performance on "Executioner's Song". Mike Campagnolo's bass is more noticeable and hard-hitting than on the debut, though he typically just flows along with the guitar. In all fairness though, he also has a couple good show-off moments scattered about, my favorite being the intro of "Iron Hammer". Easily our low point of the evening is M-Bro's drumming. THE FUCK, MAN? His skills weren't great as it was on the debut, now here he's somehow worse, over-depending on double bass and smacking the hell outta the snare and cymbals over and fucking over! "Double bass, snare hit, cymbal-tap"...wash, rinse, fucking repeat. Good fuck, man!
Well, after bitching about the lame duck drumming and aggravating production, do I have anything nice to say about "Evil Invaders"? Yes, actually. Save for like, what two songs, this album royally kicks puny mortal anus. Closing track "Thrashdance" lacks some of the rest of the album's vigor and riffage, while "Cross Me Fool" is little more than decent and otherwise is not too notable. Everything else...watch the hell out!
We start off strong with the brutal, catchy, and frankly underrated instrumental "Nowhere Fast". Fan favorites like the cool battering ram speeder "Iron Hammer" and the brutal tempo-changing "Cut Throat" are worthwhile riff-fests loaded with more attitude than a fire-breathing Tasmanian devil with syphilis...on a bad day! The short, punchy "Instant Death" comes armed with a lethal main riff and lyrics weaving a tale of mankind dying by our technological advances. "That's what ya get!". Then we have the stomping, vicious title track which attacks with catchy mid-paced verses and a chorus, but then gets fast as hell come verse and solo time. I also love "Speed Merchants" for coming with some of Sheepdog's best shrieks on the album, not mention more catchy, brutal speed riffs and entertaining lyrics woven about the insanity of the fans themselves.
Overall, the repetitious drum work and reverb-filled production get to be a bit much at times, but it's not nearly enough to kill the overall quality of the individual songs, nor will it bog down the talented efforts of Dave Carlo and Sheepdog. Enjoy the cult classic "Evil Invaders"; unrelenting, entertaining classic speed-thrash, the Canadian way.
On its surface, 1985 might have seemed like a pretty bustling year for Canadian speedsters Razor, debuting not just one, but two full-length albums over the span of several months. However, there are some notable stylistic differences between the two which distinguish them from one another, and while my own personal preference runs towards their underrated speed metal opus Executioner's Song, it was Evil Invaders which would ultimately define the band's future path into a more ballistic squad of urban thrash commandos, abandoning some of the sheer speed and heavy metal dirt of the Armed and Dangerous EP to carve out a niche in the emergent thrash aggression; a course of development that was not merely an aping of the Bay Area and German sounds, but more of a brutal parallel.
Don't misunderstand me, the sheer velocity and the vocal inflection between the first two records were close enough that the band could easily interchange songs in any set list and satisfy the same crowd of followers, but unlike their countrymen Exciter, whose evolution never really veered away from the primal speed/power metal sphere, Razor made a quick career course correction which they continued to hone until their 'artistic' peak, 1988's unforgettable, chainsaw wielding Violent Restitution, a record so swollen with violent, ripping acceleration and pent up, everyman gallantry that it's one of the best in its entire field. Of course, while Evil Invaders is a much beloved record in the underground, due largely to its formative and 'cult' placement in the thrash pantheon, I constantly find myself comparing it to that later effort, and that has somewhat crippled my appreciation. For all its strengths, this sophomore feels like a foreshadowing of that stronger effort to come, and on a song to song basis, it also fell short of Executioner's Song. Tracks like "City of Damnation", "Fast and Loud", and "Take This Torch", among many others on the debut, have resonated with me for decades, whereas this song gets substantially less airplay beyond a handful of cuts.
Nonetheless, Evil Invaders is feral and fun, as any of the Razor albums with Stace 'Sheepgod' McLaren fronting Dave Carlo's monstrous riffing section. For me, it was this duo that really 'made' the band's style something special. While competent, and even consistent, the later records with the Bob Reid vocals have never had a fraction of the same charm. McLaren's delivery is basically a blunt barking (thus the nickname) in a low to mid-register, which occasionally veers off into screaming, like those nasty bits in the bridge of "Legacy of Doom". He's not incapable of carrying a melody, but the emphasis here is always on percussive intonation that brings the music straight to the butcher block. To the dingy city streets. Cigarette-smogged nightclubs. Vomit-strewn drunk tank jail cells. Paired with Carlo's blustering, chunky tone, which moves so quickly that the distortion almost feels like it can't catch up here, you've got a pretty destructive foundation for some flying axe handles, stage dives and body slams in the audience. Though the band's sheer dexterity was roughly on par with Exodus, Destruction, Slayer and other titans of the time, the inebriated grime of this record reminds me more of the first two Venom records, the Indestroy debut, Hallows Eve or fellow Canadian scum Piledriver.
"Evil Invaders" itself is one of tracks I most enjoy here, opening with a pretty filthy mid-paced stock speed metal riff before picking up frenzy with its splattered, thrashing verses that almost exhibit a modicum of crossover influence. "Iron Hammer" is the band's own "Iron Fist", or "Iron Dogs" (Exciter), or "Iron Gang" (Voivod), with some punk-injected bass lines setting up a frothing, vicious frenzy. Other favorites include the mighty "Cut Throat" and the excellent "Tortured Skull", both of which are loaded with the sorts of ferocious, adept riffing passages that would later dominate Violent Restitution. Carlo's speed picking is simply intense throughout, with pretty powerful muting skills, so I can imagine the guy must have had quite the crushing grip. The leads harbor that same wild-as-fuck aesthetic that bands like Slayer had helped pioneer, never all that memorable, but suited to the raucous songwriting; and drummer 'M-Bro' is likewise a beast, laying out the splashes and crashes with a raw, hardcore pile-up fervor. The one instrument which doesn't always shine is the bass, since it often just sort of subsists on the guitar progressions, but there are points where he's given his time to stand alone.
There are a handful of weaker tracks throughout the album which definitely limited its value, not the least of which is the opening mosh instrumental "Nowhere Fast" (another strategy the band would refine for the far better Violent Restitution and its intro "The Marshall Arts"), or the closer "Thrashdance" which has a less interesting riff count than its neighbors. Ultimately, though, if you're looking for speed and abuse, I won't deny that this hits paydirt. Not my favorite of their works, clearly, but strong enough that I'd place only its predecessor and Violent Restitution above it. Razor makes the slight, but successful transition here to a more lethal level of muscle and hostility, providing a burlier atmosphere than Executioner's Song, but to some degree losing some of those killer choruses that lashed themselves to your ears. A damn good record for the '80s thrasher to cherish with its Terminator-inspired cover, but not nearly as amazing as its high cult status might lead one to believe.
When it comes to thrash, it doesn't get much better than this. It's got some of the heaviest, fastest riffs in all of thrash with screechy, fuck you all-type vocals, awesome bass lines, and fast, pounding drums. One of the best albums in all of thrash metal...hell, even metal in general! This album, along with Violent Restitution, are landmark albums in metal music, some of the greatest music to come out of Canada, and the best albums from gods Razor.
We open up with an instrumental piece "Nowhere Fast" - don't let the title get to you as this is one of their fastest songs as you could probably tell. Then we go into my personal favorite Razor song "Cross me Fool"...UP YOUR ASS! RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW! Simple and fast speed metal riffs with some of the coolest lyrics ever. Then we have "Legacy of Doom", which has a really jumpy thrash riff that kind of makes you wanna...dance? I don't know, but it owns! And then we have the title track! IT'S THE EVIL INVADERS! Some heavy and, as you could have guessed, FAST riffs here. Another one of my favorite Razor songs.
The songwriting itself has improved a lot since "Executioner's Song"; there's more riffs, the songs are a bit longer, the lyrics are better, and yeah, overall the songs are a lot better than before. Still maintaining the traditional/speed metal feel of their debut, they added a lot more thrash on this album, which is not a bad thing at all. I like it a lot more to be honest.
The riffs are amazing as you could have guessed. Dave Carlo is one of the best rhythm guitarists in metal. He's never been the best soloist, however some of his solos are really good, but the solos on here quite sloppy and messy, but hey, the riffs definitely make up for it. There is also a lot of punk elements in some songs, kind of like Motorhead, mainly in "Iron Hammer".
There really is nothing to say about the vocals, as any Razor fan KNOWS that Sheepdog is one of the best there is. He's got the attitude and his shrieks...!...I will never get over how fucking awesome they are. Listen to "The Marshall Arts" from Violent Restitution if you don't quite understand what I mean about the shrieks.
The bass is really jumpy and punky. The bass intro and the little fills here and there where it repeats in "Iron Hammer" are really cool, Motorhead-inspired type of bass fills. The bass is just audible and you can hear it best with headphones on. The tone is nice and crisp, just how I like it.
The drums, like the bass, are really jumpy. Check: "Instant Death" and "Cut Throat". Something about this album makes me want to get up and jump around...or should I say...MOSH! Like most thrash drumming, it's really fast and hardcore punk-influenced.
The production hasn't changed since Executioner's Song and still remains rough, raw, and dirty.
I'm just going to get to it - if you haven't heard this album before, then you aren't a real fan of thrash metal or metal in general. It is MANDATORY to listen to this album at least once and if you don't like it, then fine, but there is very few who don't.
Cross me Fool
Weakest tracks (no track here is weak, but these are my least favorites):
There's something very gratifying about such simplistic, bashing music. Razor are a Canadian thrashing machine from waaaay back in the '80s, and this was their sophomore effort, and it fucking rules. There's nothing modernistic or trendy about Evil Invaders, as it is more or less the antithesis of what is widely considered "good music" - it's raw, dirty, grimy stuff with a razor-sharp, crunchy guitar tone and a yammering, punk-ish style of vocals that fit the music like a glove. The solos are fast, sloppy, and shredding and the song structures are basic and bare-boned, but the clincher here is...it all works! This is one of the most completely and utterly METAL albums I've heard in a long time! It's music that the average Joe would be completely repulsed by, yet I fucking love it.
Why, you ask?
It's simple - Razor just know how to thrash and they get right to the point. No bullshit interludes, no ballads, no intros or outros, no flirting with other genres, nothing. They simply went into the studio and punched out a short, sweet, and to the point album of ballsy, gritty, thrashing insanity without even looking back to make sure they were doing everything perfectly. If you're a fan of metal as I am, then you should be able to easily understand this sort of concept. It's all so concise and straightforward that it's really hard to criticize it, and if you try you'd likely only be criticizing it for the things that are GOOD about it - it's simplicity and it's vicious, throat-ripping mentality.
Standout tracks? The whole album is great as it more or less all sounds the same, being thoroughly consistent all the way through. The title track is probably the best, followed by the longest song here in the pulverizing "Tortured Skull" and the instrumental opener is a fantastic way to start off the album - it will get you headbanging straight away, exactly like any opener for this sort of music should do.
Razor's music will never be well-liked by the non-metal community, but that just makes it all the better; a treasure that is all ours and one that we'll never have to give up to the mainstream masses. This is the essence of metal, and I can't see why someone who likes thrash metal or heavy metal in general in the slightest would object to Razor or Evil Invaders. Essential.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
“we spit on those who choose to pose, we thrash with all the rest…”
Anyone on the US east coast remember the U68 Power Hour? U68 was a UHF channel that would only come in clearly if you were doing a headstand in the bathtub with one sock on, but that was the usual for most UHF channels. Why bother, right? Well, one late hour every Friday night it featured metal videos, and three or four of the ones it played were those for underground bands – my first video tastes of Voivod, Slayer, Exodus, and this band called Razor. “Evil Invaders” blew me away; the timidly unassuming start, Stace “sheepdog” McLaren growling through a long mop of blonde hair, the vehement pace…that December I got the album for Christmas.
Easily one of the more prevalent thrash acts ever, Canada’s Razor never compromised their sound, never changed it for something newer or more hip, and are one of the most respected of their genre. With the now-rare ’84 ep Armed and Dangerous, the thousand or so who heard it (only around that many were pressed) either shunned the disc for more glam practices or were galvanized to seek out their same year offering Executioner’s Song. This is actually their third release, and they were still just getting started. They are one of the few bands I can say I am a fan of all the way through their career, and Stace McLaren is one of the best screamers you’ll ever hear.
Evil Invaders kicks off with “Nowhere Fast”, an instrumental of fast-picking aggression and heat that leads into the more ominous “Cross Me Fool”, a strong moderate pacer showcasing McLaren’s rumbling, intimidating vox with lyrics that depict his life (he was well known for brawling and jail time). The title cut is that slow roller at the start that erupts into an intense, take-no-prisoner gait and continuous growl. It's also a slow roll that finally completes one of metal's finest songs, thrash or not.
Side two is where you’ll find the renown, enraged hawk screams, at least one in each track with those in the furious “Speed Merchants” and irate “Tortured Skull” killing nearby animals. “Instant Death”, “Cut Throat”, “Iron Hammer”, and especially underrated “Legacy of Doom” are all hostile destructors centered around Dave Carlo’s momentous rhythms and, of course, the voice. What could’ve been a thrash anthem is “Thrashdance”, ripping and snorting through great riffs and a threatening chorus.
The unwavering four-piece finally called it quits in October ’92 with the only remaining member being founder Dave Carlo. Drummer Mike Embro and bassist Mike Campagnolo would leave in ’87, while the shrieking sheepdog would sadly look toward other pastures in ’88. The capable and harsh-voiced Bob Reid would take over vocal duties, but it just wasn’t the same. In ’94, Fringe Records released the massive 2cd, 38-track Exhumed, a ‘best of’ compilation showcasing the band’s mania throughout their career.
To find Evil Invaders on cd isn’t all that easy and will cost a few extra bucks when/if you do, but if there were one Razor lp to cut your teeth on, this would be it. A very close second is the ’88 monster thrasher Violent Restitution, which will be reviewed sometime soon.
I pledge: to keep it alive
I promise: metal will thrive
I swear: myself to the cause
I'll teach: all the metal laws...