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Stainless Steel Sadism - 81%

Neheroth, March 6th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Voice Records (Limited edition)

Razor needs no introduction amongst fans of speed or thrash metal, simply put they are considered one of the best metal bands to hail from Canadian shores, standing tall amongst the likes of Voivod, Exciter, Anvil, Sacrifice and Slaughter. This was not always the case however and Armed and Dangerous showcases the band in their infancy when their sound was more on the traditional speed side than the biting speed/thrash cocktail they would champion from Violent Restitution onwards.

Armed and Dangerous begins with "The End" bizarrely the intro for what would be the outro on Executioner's Song and the band revels in a softer sound, not at all akin to the savage speed of the tracks that follow. "Killer Instinct", "Hot Metal" and "Ball and Chain" are fast, face melting numbers that leave as rapidly as they enter, hit and run jobs that leave you bleeding out on the street with no remorse. "Killer Instinct" especially showcases the riffing genius of Dave Carlo; catchy, punchy power chords that border the realms of speed and thrash, no intricacy, no-nonsense, just the simplicity of the riff supreme. Campagnolo's bass sounds perfect on this release, a nice warm tone to the sound as he hammers along at the same pace as Carlo's guitar.

Fan favourites "Take This Torch" and "Fast and Loud" make an appearance here, much in the same format as they appear on Executioner's Song, though without the superior production and atmosphere that the following LP would bring. The pair are slightly longer and more developed numbers compared to those previously mentioned, leaning more to the traditional speed sound and both sporting some of the greatest choruses Razor has ever created. Sheepdog's vocals aren't quite as strong and refined as they would be on following releases with his shrieks and barks sounding a tad strained in places. The character of his voice still shines through, even if he does do a better job on Executioner's Song, so don't let his inexperience at this stage of his career turn you off.

"Armed and Dangerous" stands alone in its composition and structure. A more measured, restrained affair that builds with a slow drum roll and dissonant guitar tones before breaking into a mid-paced speed drive. I think the problem with this song is a lack of Carlo's catchy riffing, which is what I look for first in a good Razor tune, and the palm muted riffs on display here just don't grab me as they do on other tracks. M-Bro's immediate drumming, on the other hand, is on top form here with the slower, more sparse nature of the song allowing him to explore more interesting snare patterns and drum rolls than on other tracks where the guitar takes front and center.

Armed and Dangerous whilst certainly not a bad place for someone looking to get into Razor, their following albums; Executioner's Song and Evil Invaders are stronger and are more likely to sink their razor sharp hooks into the mind than this release. That being said Armed and Dangerous is still a profoundly powerful EP and anyone looking for more of the early Razor sound will not be disappointed with the tracks that are unique to this release. Unrefined, unrelenting and just plain nasty Armed and Dangerous is not for the faint-hearted and will crush the throats of all that stand in the way of its stainless steel fury.

Severing strings and veins - 75%

autothrall, September 3rd, 2012

Though it's far from a representation of Razor at their best, I have a particular sentimental attachment to the Armed and Dangerous EP which I've never been able to shake off. For one, the cover art to this record is absolutely iconic, my favorite of their entire catalog. I managed to land a t-shirt of this some time ago (most likely a boot), and I've been wearing it sever since. I also bought the guitar, or at least a damn similar one. Plus who couldn't love the image of a razorblade being used as a proxy for a proper guitar pick? Fortunately, the actual sound of the seven songs here is just as dirty as the record looks, all spikes and cruelty and driving, molten metal with no apologies and no subtlety.

Granted, five of the seven tunes were also recorded for the debut, Executioner's Song, and those remain my preferred versions, since they've got far more of an atmosphere running than the rather dry mix given to what is essentially a glorified second demo. The guitars are on this are crisp and punchy, with a good bass tone for support and some poppy, snappy drums, but they don't possess the same level of resonance that fried their later brethren into my brain forever. Also, the vocals in cuts like "Killer Instinct" sound pretty sloppy when they vault into the sustained notes and screams, and overall there's a modicum of clutter to the performance which doesn't feel as fast, refreshing and violent as later incarnations. Of the two tracks which were unique to this at the time, "Armed and Dangerous" itself is the better, with some solid mid-paced mute guitars evoking melody, and lots of dynamic rush like a snare cadence and some flanged axe lines that help set up the thrust of the central verses. The chorus itself is not all that intense, however, and the best songs are "Take This Torch", "Fast and Loud", "Ball and Chain" etc which all appear again with more pep.

Those who first got into the later, more pavement chewing and chainsaw soaked speed/thrash records might also be a fraction turned off by the Canadians' earlier style, which was borne more of pure trad/speed metal circa Venom, Motörhead, and the darker side of Judas Priest. This was Razor at its most base. Simple. Unformed. For 1984, Dave Carlo was no slouch on his guitar, but the riffing has nowhere near the same level of intensity and velocity that many recognize on a Violent Restitution or Shotgun Justice. It's really just the setup for Executioner's Song, an album I happen to love a great deal, and one of the finest of that early Canadian scene that brought us Metal on Metal, Heavy Metal Maniacs, Metal Inquisition, or War and Pain. The vocals here carry straight through to the debut full-length, with the less interesting songs abandoned, and a better overall mix of timeless tension, steel and spikes. Armed and Dangerous was an adequate introduction to the band's no prisoners, leather and lust aesthetic, and I've got some obvious nostalgia for it, but its lasting value was substantially curtailed by the following album.


A good start, better to come... - 80%

malibuman, August 13th, 2008

This is one for you true old-skool thrashers, like me. I only got to hear this release pretty recently as it was only originally released in small numbers and when the band got picked up by Viper they suggested to the band that they re-master the best tracks and add some more and thus the awesome ‘Executioner’s Song’ album was born. Actually I’m not 100% sure if the songs were re-mastered or actually re-recorded because while they do sound pretty much the same, the actual sound on the ‘Executioner Song.’ album is so much better that it’s hard to believe that a re-master could have made so much difference.

Regardless, this release contained 7 tracks, four of which actually made it onto the aforementioned debut album. Funnily enough, 3 of those 4 are probably the best songs on that album. In any case, I have a feeling that anyone interested in this release will already have Razor’s other albums and is really looking to find out whether this one is worth tracking down. And to that I would have to give a cautious yes!

Cautious because what you are really getting here is three tracks that aren’t on the debut and they are all capable if unspectacular, and fairly typical early Razor tunes. So I really wouldn’t be paying silly money for the vinyl. If on the other hand you are a completist who is interested in the historical context of these songs then you will find this interesting. For me though, ‘Hot Metal’ and ‘Take This Torch’ slay all comers, much as they did on the debut proper, with ‘Fast and Loud’ a close third.

All in all then, while this is a perfectly respectable debut mini album, it’s not the best place to start your Razor odyssey. For that you need either ‘Executioner’s Song’ or the much lauded ‘Evil Invaders’ both originally released in 1985. ‘Evil Invaders’ is probably the most consistent, but ‘Executioner’s Song’ contains ‘Take This Torch’, which for me is easily the band’s finest 3 minutes, and one of the best thrash songs ever written to boot.

Not quite on the cusp of greatness yet - 82%

Gutterscream, April 29th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Voice Records (Limited edition)

“…feel the white hot metal, feel it burn your skin, experience the torture, pay for all your sins…”

Easily the rarest of Razor discs, these seven tracks are an early-stage aural portrait of what the four-piece will do for the rest of its existence. Unlike a band such as countrymates Voivod who would transmogrify into something more abstract and otherworldly with each and every subsequent album, Razor’s dial never clicked to a different network, never faltered in their quest for thrash dominance, and…well, no sense rehashing…read my Evil Invaders review for the rest of this diatribe.

These tracks resemble the production value and thinner thrash delivery that's featured on Executioner’s Song rather than Evil Invaders where thickness like swamp water soaks the tracks and the band starts the ascent into their own legendary status. Four of the tracks here are featured on the band’s debut full-lengther, so this ep is more of a hardcore collector’s wet dream, the fan who doesn’t mind dishing out $200+ for two additional songs that will probably turn up on some future compilation/best of release.

It’s easily noticeable that traditional elements in “Killer Instinct” and “Hot Metal” overtake the thrash vehemence that is just clawing to escape, meanwhile the longer title cut possesses one of Sheepdog’s most feeble screams, a mere kitten compared to the masters of the hunt on Evil Invaders that have a tendency to set steel afire.

The first true stroke of thrashmania ignites with blue flame appeal in “Take This Torch” and an opening riff of frantic, flesh-peeling proportion that cannot be overlooked. The chorus fans the flames into a screeching inferno while McLaren unleashes screams more akin to his seminal lungs. It's a quintessential thrash song that (obviously) doubles as the best track on the record and was chosen to punt Executioner’s Song into orbit. Not far off with additional thrash fervor is “Ball and Chain”, meanwhile “Fast and Loud” takes its own advice, pummeling away with a conspicuously insatiable chorus that shoves the track right over the edge. The almost useless “The End” should be tied to it, never to be heard again, but shows up closing their debut nonetheless.

Before the low grumbling on Evil Invaders, Sheepdog’s vocals were more a crackling shriek, amateurish even more so than the additional tracks on Executioner’s Song, and really isn’t all that endearing to him, but a true fan will get over it. Even a non-collector can see the investment value in this. The album’s worth can only go up unless someone finds a glut of them tucked away in the corner of some warehouse. Yeah, I’m not worried either.

"...ready or not, take this torch..."