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They are just delicious! And the way you file them down with that grinder? Just fabulous! Heh, but seriously that's a pretty cool cover. Too bad the music within doesn't fit quite as well. Razor 3rd studio album, "Malicious Intent", is a few steps down from the greatness of their first two efforts. Admittedly there are a few cool moments to be had, and at the end of the day fun times by all, but it seriously lacks in the staying power and overall entertainment value of "Executioner's Song" and "Evil Invaders".
A major problem I see with this album, one I usually don't have with most metal albums, is consistency. But that's actually a big deal with "Malicious Intent". You see the band sounds tome like they're really just going through the motions here, rarely ever changing things up and keeping a too-similar feel to most of the songs. Consistent? Yes. Repetitive? Definitely.
The only bandmember who really keeps his shit together is Dave Carlo, who still manages to fire up some quality solos and a spitfire selection of good riffage. Sheepdog still goes on strong but never really changes it up; he just growls, shrieks, and that's it. Mike's bass isn't a notable as the last album either, basically just following along with the guitar again. Easily the worst offender here is M-Bro's drumming skills, which have devolved to such a point from "Evil Invaders" that I can't even call them "skills" anymore. His work on here is lazy and takes "painfully repetitive" to another level entirely; his drumming consists of the same fucking double bass pattern over and over and over and OVER in EVERY fucking song, with the same damn 3 to 5 note cymbal-tapping tossed around to use as a fill or something! The only thing good I can say for this guy is that some of his drum fills are actually solid and lightning fast, but that's not nearly enough to excuse his lazy and frankly amateur work.
As for "Malicious Intent's" eleven songs, twelve if you have the CD reissue, most just come and go in a flurry of somewhat uninteresting ideas and repetitive songwriting. Weaker moments: Well, I don't terribly recommend the bonus track "Mosh"; it's basically just Sheepdog ranting at the nonexistent audience around him while the rest of the group noodles on their instruments. Last official track "K.M.A." is kinda fun but really repetitive (now I"M starting to sound it!) and just leaves one wanting more. "Challenge The Eagles" certainly isn't bad, but for me personally it fails to get the blood pumping as much as some of the other tracks; same goes with "Night Attack", which is basically a less enthusiastic knock-off of "Iron Hammer" from the last album.
Even still, we are lucky the good outnumber the bad on "Malicious Intent". The title track was one of the first Razor songs I ever heard, and still it remains a favorite for it's semi-clean speed metal intro, aggressive solo and the ungodly-catchy chorus. I also really dig "Rebel Onslaught" for it's short but enthusiastic, shredding solo, as well as the main riff and a squealing little verse riff. "High Speed Metal" really kicks ass too; Sheepdogs screams are particularly awesome on this track and the series of riff attacks are quite infectious. Then we have "A.O.D.", another favorite for it's wicked speed-thrash riffage and the memorable chorus backed by punishing gang vocals. "KILL! Sent to die! KILL! No reason why!"
Overall, "Malicious Intent" is not a bad album, but suffers from quite the flaws. Run-of-the-mill musicianship, some of which is downright sloppy, a bland though thankfully reverb-free production, and a number of uninteresting songs. Luckily guitarist Dave Carlo still gives it his all, and at least more than a few tracks still kick your ass good 'n' hard. I only lightly recommend this one; if you're gonna pick a fight with Razor, pick a fight with "Evil Invaders" or "Violent Restitution" first, then deal with "Malicious Intent" another day.
While it's not the best remembered of Razor's backlog, or approaching the cult status of its predecessor Evil Invaders, Malicious Intent does continue to propel the band forward to greater things at a rapid pace, with a sexy cover image nearly as memorable as anything Anvil used. This is more or less of a hybrid of the prior two albums, explosive and accelerated street thrash with some of the dirty molten speed metal of the debut providing a cheap hooker backwash that bleeds a little red light class. There are actually a handful of songs on this which I would place alongside the best of the rest of their career, but ultimately some inconsistency in the riffing and chorus quality knocks it down a couple pegs.
Some don't seem to dig the production of this record nearly so much as the prior output, and in truth there are some estimable differences. The guitars here are crisper and drier, and there's less of an atmospheric flush in the mix of the vocals, drums and leads. It's hands down cleaner than Evil Invaders, but that's not to say its polished to impotence. In fact, the popping intricacies of Carlo's melodic picking are brought more to the forefront on some of the album's most killer cuts like "Rebel Onslaught", where he's using some thrifty tremolo picked sequences interspersed throughout the verses. M-Bro's drums are loud and clapping, but you can pick out the snare and bass drum all too easily, the flooded lowlands of Mike Campagnolo's bass, and of course Sheepdog's garbled, violent prose. I'm a huge fan of Dave's speed metal techniques, lavish and incessant like Venom on amphetamines, balancing chords and single notes patterns efficiently, and can recall years of sitting in the basement learning to play this fast, well before death and black metal entered my life.
Malicious Intent does, to some extent, suffer some degree of monotony due to the similarity in momentum several of the songs take, and at times the note progressions can feel empty and uninteresting, aside from their sheer exercise value. We've heard the same general patterns on a number of their other records, and like Evil Invaders, it feels like a setup for Violent Restitution, which is measure for measure the best use of this band's unbridled testosterone and rage. However, a few of the tunes here are simply spectacular, like "Grindstone" with its intense and unforgettable hyper riffing and opening tremolo sequence which sounds like something Rigor Mortis might have included on their debut. I mentioned "Rebel Onslaught" earlier, and it's bristling with riffs across varied tempos, from the uppity mid-paced NWOBHM speed metal smackdown to the crazy, asphalt burning lead. "Challenge the Eagle" is another winner, its slicing riffs often reminiscent of a poor man's pre-"Thundersteel" taking its liquid lunch out of brown bag, and there's a fraction of charm even to the stupider songs like "K.M.A. (Kiss My Ass)" or the weird intro skit to "Stand Before Kings".
I've actually got the old vinyl for this one, so I've not heard the bonus track "Mosh", but all around I'd say this would be most worth acquiring if you're a diehard for Executioner's Song, Evil Invaders or Violent Restitution. I wouldn't recommend it as the best starting point in their discography, but for the most part it's as bad ass as you could expect from the Canadians, on par with what peers like Anvil and Piledriver were putting out in this era. The lyrics are actually pretty decent here, loads of dystopian and murderous images packed into a compact, clobbering presentation. Workmanlike, frenetic, and fun, Malicious Intent is not oft spoken of like it's next oldest sibling, but it's almost comparable in quality, so pop a beer cap, strap on your bandana, and settle in for a ride to rebellion.
...erm, pretty much everything else. Now, don't start throwing stuff at me just yet. You have to realise first off that I'm not coming to this album new, I was there - I heard it when it came out, I'd already got the two previous full-lengths and I dug the band, I really did. I played the album a lot and I loved it. It's just that... now I come to listen to it again after a long absence... the flaws are so strikingly obvious that I can no longer turn a blind eye to them. Or a deaf ear.
First off, and it's quite a serious problem: to call this HEAVY metal would be really stretching the definition to breaking point. Arctic Monkeys make more noise than Razor did on this record. The guitar sound is tinny and feeble, and as for Mike C's bass - it sounds like an elastic band being twanged... his intro to "Night Attack" is actually embarrassing, and it's a merciful thing that he's pretty much inaudible throughout the rest of the album. You see, Razor were going all out for speed, and were apparently prepared to sacrifice heaviness in their desire for Total Thrash. With the exception of the first half of "Night Attack", which clips along at a brisk midpace, the entire album is fast. But that's another problem: what passed for lightning speed in 1986 (pre-Sandoval) won't really cut it now. So... it's not heavy, and it no longer actually sounds all that fast. Exactly how can we still consider this to be extreme metal??
Of course, I still like it... Dave Carlo, one of the best rhythm guitarists in thrash (which itself elevated rhythm guitar to new levels of discipline and technique in rock), really showed how all those hours of practice were paying off on this album. Riffs tumble over each other, an endless torrent of them, ripped out with wicked rhythmic subtlety and irresistible energy, from start to finish. This album, like most of the others would be after it, is an orgy of riffs, a smörgåsbord of riffs, a bigass fucking party-pack full of riffs. And many of them are great, they really are. You're missing out on some of Dave's best ever riffs if you miss out this album.
But... what about M-Bro, the most reviled and notorious "drum cheat" in the history of extreme metal, taking unfortunate advantage of (relatively) clean, crisp drum production for a change to flaunt his regrettable technical limitations to the point where it's impossible not to notice them? Razor fanatics who are also drum connoisseurs could theoretically be driven schizophrenic listening to this record.
Or, and for fuck's sake someone has to say this, considering he is one of the very, very best rhythm guitar players ever in metal, Dave is surely one of the most limited lead players. Dio syndrome tricky enough in a singer; in a guitarist and songwriter, eliminates the possibility of any other soloists in the band. Dave only plays one solo, and guess what, he playes it again and again on this record.
Stace... well, I always quite liked his voice actually, made for good atmosphere - without which Dave could have been pretty much fucked until he'd really honed those impressive chops. Not sure if Sir Sheepdog ever got his due in that regard. So no problem there, and the bass never enters into the question really, but still, are there enough good points here to outweight the problems? The songs mostly work well - "Grindstone", "Cage the Ragers", "Malicious Intent", "A.O.D.", "Challenge the Eagle" (always thought Scott Ian might have swiped the hook from this one for a riff which crops up on Among the Living) and "High Speed Metal" are all favourite Razor songs of mine. The lyrics pass without being too silly, considering they're completely trivial and shallow - Dave hadn't yet become the bitter and resentful man he would be by the time of the band's masterpiece in 1990; he still had hope at this point that Razor would sell lots of records and be popular. Later he would moan (not without wit) that the fact that they didn't was just a curse of geography, that if the band had been American they'd have been as big as, say, Slayer; but just the thought of putting this album in the ring with Reign in Blood (recorded in the very same year, remember) makes me want to take poor Malicious Intent away and cuddle it, stroke it better for suggesting the very idea. It would be reduced to a skidmark on the floor within two seconds.
This is Razor's third (well fourth, if you count their "Armed and Dangerous" EP, which you should, because it's one of their best releases) album, and this thing so obviously does NOT receive the respect it deserves. Compared to their previous album "Evil Invaders", this seems to be a bit lacking in a few areas (drums). Yeah, yeah, so this guy couldn't play double time on the hi-hat (read: TAP DAT TAP DAT, repeat X100), but that's what makes this album so lovable; the kult appeal is here, for the very fact that so many people will just not "get" it. I'll talk about a few of the songs since most of them follow the same pattern. So now, on to the review....
Things start out with Sheepdog in a rather anxious mood, "TURN IT UP.....TURN IT UP!!!!", then "Tear Me To Pieces" begins. The first thing you notice are the razor sharp (=P) guitar riffs and hi-hat/snare drum beats that provide the momentum of a freight train. Nice chorus, too - "TEAR ME TO PIECES TEAR ME TO PIECES" DUHHH DUHDUNNN DUHDUHDUH DUHHH DUHDUNNN DUHDUHDUH (bangs head like a rabid dog). Next up we have "Night Attack", which resembles the song "Iron Hammer" off "Evil Invaders" a little too much in the first riff (awesome riff, though). Right about here is where we see that Razor follows a very similar pattern from song to song (there's some kult appeal for ya, VARIETY??? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' VARIETY WHEN WE'RE THIS BADASS, FOOL). The next song, "Grindstone", is basically an all-out speed-burst of guitar, drums, bass, and the occasionally trademark "yowl" of Stace 'Sheepdog' McLaren. More hooks and memorable riffs. Up next is "Cage the Ragers". This is just a fun song about thrashing around at shows and having a good time, something that seems to be missing from much of the "scene" today". A totally enjoyable song from start to finish...and I think I'll stop right there because this is the way the rest of the album is: lots of fun with fast songs and great hooks.
This is by far more "metal" (warning: cliche coming up) than most of the tripe passed off as such nowadays because it's not "trying" too hard to be "evil" or "angry" or any of that stuff. What it's doing is having fun and getting you to bang your head and forget about all the bullshit. As such, this album succeeds.