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Poor Razor. After the semi-disappointing "Shotgun Justice", they were in a rough spot. Dave Carlo attempted to get this album, "Open Hostility", off the ground with very little of a budget and no drummer, not to mention a new bassist joining the ranks. With everything against them, would they pull another "Shotgun Justice", or actually dish out something great? I can happily confirm the latter, as "Open Hostility" in my opinion ranks as one of Razor's best.
For once the production on a Razor album doesn't suck (audience claps wildly); in fact here the production is quite loud and clear, if not a bit mechanical and processed. Bob Reid's vox, while mixed a bit loudly over the guitar work, are a treat; he still utilizes his gargling rasps and yells but to a greater effect on here, and with much more enthusiasm. Dave Carlo's riffing and ferocious solos are back in solid form; in fact I think lets loose some of his best work on this album by far. Meanwhile the bass of new guy Joe Armstrong is nothing very special; it's not very loud in the mix and even when heard tends to just go along with the guitar. The drum work is a drum machine. Apparently, the current drummer of Razor Rob Mills had been injured in a car accident at the time, so naturally he couldn't perform. Dave Carlo at short notice snagged up a drum machine and programmed it to match Mills' skills. Even though the drum machine enhances the artificial feel of the album, it's definitely not one of the worst-sounding drum machines I ever heard and often feels quite natural along with the rest of the music.
Unlike even on greats like "Violent Restitution" or "Evil Invaders" where there's a pocketful of songs I don't care for, "Open Hostility" presents 12 tracks of perfectly killer thrash metal glory. Not only that I love the lyrics to pieces on this album, continuing the semi-socially relevant content of the last album, presented in a sarcastic light. Censorship? Check. Police Brutality? Check. Moochers? Check. Dead-end factory jobs? Check. Drunken slobs? Check. I hate all these things too! Rock on Razor, rock the fuck on!
The album initiates on a wicked start with one of my favorite Razor songs, "In Protest", if only for it's highly memorable intro riff alone. Fear "In Protest's" opening riff, OBEY "In Protest's" opening riff!!! Pure fucking thrash! The rest of the album never stops with the memorable riffs and pissed-off vocals. "Sucker For Punishment" swipes poseur bitches out of the way with its catchy speed-thrash riffage and a wicked breakdown riff. The police brutality-themed "Mental Torture" comes equipped with one of the albums' more memorable choruses and a sweet stuttering verse riff. Shorter, punchier killers like the fun "Cheers" and the pissed-off "Free Lunch" come to mind for their spirited, brutal head-on attitude. "End of the War" makes for a solid closer, it's interesting tale of pro-war vs against-war still resounding, especially mixed with Reid's highly aggressive shouting and Carlo's high-octane, semi-melodic guitar assault.
Overall, despite the processed production and drum machine, this albums kicks quite a lot of ass. I think it's really underrated frankly. Bob Reid's vocals shine, as do Dave Carlos newly vigorous and memorable riff attacks. Whether it be safe at home or during a massive riot, it is very worth tracking down "Open Hostility". Crank it to 11 and let the anarchy begin!
Though it's heavily front-loaded with all the best riffs and most exciting songs, Open Hostility is the best Razor album yet to feature Bob Reid on vocals, gelling for me more than Shotgun Justice did the year prior. In fact, in terms of sheer threat level and fun, I'd put the first four songs here in the ring with just about anything in the Canadians' mustered from 1986 on, including much of Violent Restitution. Unfortunately, there are a few flaws to this album which precluded it from ranking among their best works, not the least of which is the use of the drum machine. I don't often find this to be a problem with extreme metal recordings, where the emphasis is placed more on guitars or atmosphere, but for a thrash metal record in the 80s and 90s, it's tough love.
Perhaps I should qualify that it's not Dave Carlo's 'programming' of the drums here that often removes me from the experience, but their production. There's a particular, mechanical snap to the beats that just feels less authentic and organic than their older albums, and while I can respect the decision by any band to save itself some grief and run with computerized percussion, it still has to sound correct in context. Through Open Hostility, it's a fairly evident distraction, considering that so few bands of this type had ever really attempted it before. Beyond that, the rest of the album's mix also has a few problems, like the vocals being a fraction too low, their range forcing them to cling to the guitars a little more than I like. Considering the sheer grit and hostility inherent to Reid's delivery, I wish they had stood out just a level or so more, that I could soak in the violent subtleties being pitched around with the zany, angry lyrics, which are your typical Razor rallies against social injustice and a corrupt State. The guitars, while powerful, seem a little too arid, and though the bass is fluid, it too often gets lost among the considerable array of riffs Carlo is inundating the listener with.
Otherwise, Open Hostility is raucous and entertaining enough that it doesn't piss all over the Canadians' legacy, and in particular the first 15 minutes are barbaric and steadily engaging, with riffs that make you wanna don a hockey mask and stick and just club the fuck out of everyone in the pit. "In Protest", "Sucker for Punishment" and "Bad Vibrations" are all proof that Razor was running contrary to most of the sad thrashers evolving through the 90s. Rather than succumbing to some tepid groove modernization and catering to the 'alternative' crowd, these guys were becoming even more vicious, expletive jock thrash with lyrical ambitions that any street tough or frat boy could understand. Seriously, this isn't The Black Album or any other kowtowing downgrade to the faceless radio masses in a misguided attempt to remain 'relevant'. This is a fucking riot waiting to happen. Broken glass, screaming women in the streets shielding baby carriages, and Robocop-like law enforcement attempting to suppress the ensuing anarchy. Perhaps to some extent, Razor was such a small blip on the radar that they didn't feel selling out would matter, but I wish more of the mainliners in the speed/thrash field would have had the balls to follow this course.
If you can stomach the drums, and you're a connoisseur for street fighting of this magnitude, this is probably worth the effort to track drown. Carlo is still fast as fuck, even if a lot of the rhythms seem lifted and shifted around from their original patterns on Violent Restitution and Shotgun Justice. The further down the track list you go, the less impressive the riffs become, and the more redundant Reid's gravelly expressions, but in all seriousness, it's the last Razor record in over 20 years now which successfully delivered a bruising you might remember.
I knew this album for a long time, but somehow I didn't pay any attention to it. After I already listened to all Razor albums, this one here was left not interrogated by me. I said to myself that maybe it will be a good album, though I never was sure with a drum machine. Then I discovered that this is one of those albums that, for unknown reasons, is forgotten and criminally underrated. This is one of the best albums that thrash metal ever dished out. It's a combination of brutal force and Dave's riffs that require no explanation. Moreover, Dave was working under high pressure which further shows his talent and experience. As we know, the drummer was not able to play and he felt the lack of money, too.
Until recently, I believed that a drum machine is bad, however after listening to this masterpiece I realized that when used well, it can increase the brutality and emphasize the message of what this album brings, especially if, as in this case, it has anti-political and social criticism overtones. The drum machine used here does not drown out everything; it doesn’t drowns out the guitar tone as it sounds very clear. The production is cool and the sharp sound fits perfectly here as it’s filled with hate, anger, and speed. This stuff easily beats Shotgun Justice, and thus, this is their best album ever. Of course, almost nobody is aware of its existence. However, what surprised me most is that this stuff has no weak songs, which rarely happens.
The best song here, Sucker For Punishment, ideally shows the meaning of the album both musically and lyrically. In my opinion, the main assumption was to create an album that will be fast, straight-forward, and contains riffs that makes it more melodic, but above all, as I mentioned, it was supposed to be rebellious as evidenced by the song In Protest, the opening track.
Without a doubt, this album is phenomenal and just waits to be discovered, so I hope that you are surely encouraged to listen and when you don't want to do it, "you're just a sucker". Cheers!
When Dave Carlo put this album together, not only was he under intense financial pressure, but he was also without a drummer. A fact that very few people know is that during the writting of this album...incredible Razor drummer Rob Mills was injured in a car accident and was unable to properly play drums for awhile. What you are hearing on this album is a.......Drum Machine. Yes this is a fact...I know that the Sucker for Punishment video features Rob on the drums...but like I said he was still in the band...simply unable to perform to his standard level of expertise. So Mr. Carlo took it upon himself to find a drum machine and attempt to program the songs in a way so that when Rob fully recovered he'd be able to play the songs accurately and accordingly.
What we have here is simply the BEST Razor album of all time. The production on this cheaply financed independant offering...is awesome. Dave really struck gold when he replaced former punk style singer Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren with current vocalist Bob Reid from London Ontario's infamous SFH. Bob's Vocals are relentless on this album...and a far better production than Shotgun Justice really allows the listener to appreciate his powerfull throating ability on this album. Filled with anti-societal overtones, sarcasm, and tongue-in-cheek humor...this album is a real hoot for the listener...but its still very intense and the music doesn't stop until the very end....Weak tracks on this album.....NONE!
The only thing that would send this album over the top and give it 100% would've been better guitar solos...but aside from that the riffs are worth about 110%.KILLER CANADIAN THRASH METAL CLASSIC