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Canadian Street Justice - 95%

Neheroth, March 21st, 2019
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Viper

Hot off the release of their ferocious debut EP, Armed and Dangerous, Razor had a high expectations upon their shoulders to produce a follow-up. Originally the songs from the Escape the Fire demo sessions were meant to become Razor's first fully-fledged album, but this was not to be as their record label at the time, Viper, forced Razor to use select cuts from Armed and Dangerous and re-record them for what would become Executioner's Song. A sad story indeed, one that Dave Carlo still to this day is angered by and whilst it is a shame we didn't get professional recordings from those demos it takes nothing from the barbaric speed majesty that Executioner's Song radiates in droves.

Executioner's Song increases the the power displayed on Armed and Dangerous in every possible way. amping up its vigilante speed thrash through bloodlust and mindless violence alone. The production is far more atmospheric and reverb-soaked than its predecessor, making songs that appeared previously sound far more menacing and powerful than the static production sound of their forebearers. "Hot Metal", "Fast and Loud" and "Take this Torch" blaze far hotter here than they did on Armed and Dangerous and the bass on the latter track shines through viciously on the chorus. "The End" returns and at least here it makes sense as an outro, but of all the tracks that should have been left to the dust, it should have been this one; it's a shame "Killer Instinct" or "Ball and Chain" did not receive the executioner's attention.

Carlo lays down some of the greatest riffs of his career here; his style of alternating palm-muted thrash with stainless steel speed is without equal; here his inspiration and experience gained over the last year explodes with fresh scorchers like "City of Damnation" and "March of Death" which are some of the best tracks Razor has ever laid down upon the guillotine block. Sheepdog has improved massively too; his nasty low end even viler than before and his shrieks far less strained. This is especially notable on tracks already recorded on Armed and Dangerous, where his voice now reaches where it could not reach before; be it deep down in the blood flooded gutters or up high in the blazing heat of the steel sun. M-bro has also developed his drum work substantially; laying down tighter snare patterns amongst a fervorous tumult of splashes and crashes with a savage speed bent that bashes dead all in its path.

The album cover is glorious and would begin Razor's trend of album covers so poorly illustrated that they become legend in their own right. Normally the whole guitar axe hooded executioner combo would come off cheesy and inane, but here, alongside Razor's swaggering street attitude, it works, as it would for all of their subsequent albums. Lyrically tracks range from themes of civil unrest and social injustice like in "Escape the Fire", heavy metal anthems such as "Time Bomb" or those that are inspired by films, like "Deathrace". These lyrical trends would persist throughout Razor's career and helped separate them from other bands at the time due to their sheer fanaticism with street justice, vigilante movies, and heavy fucking metal. If you are looking for tales of witches, demons, rituals or any supernatural elements whatsoever, look elsewhere.

Razor had a lot to contend with in Canada at the time; Exciter's third album Long Live the Loud, Voivod's self-titled debut was already out and Sacrifice's debut Torment in Fire was set to release later in the year. Yet somehow amongst all of these impressive Candian releases, Razor still manages to execute every last one of them and slash through with one of the greatest speed/thrash releases of the 80's. Harder than Exciter, more catchy than Voivod and just plain better than Sacrifice; Razor built on their debut EP and knocked their barbed wire ball straight out of the Canadian wastelands with Executioner's Song. Anyone, with even a middling interest in the 80's metal scene, owes it to themselves to get their hands on this classic album; the executioner's block awaits and only the true shall be privy to his masterful slaughter!

This metal is hot indeed - 83%

Valfars Ghost, October 1st, 2017

Not among the most original bands of the thrash era, Razor sought to make up for its lack of vision with sheer enthusiasm and succeeded. The group’s debut, Executioner’s Song, is a rough, no-frills shot of thrashing fury. While it doesn’t have the unique flair or boundary-pushing ideas that make some of this era’s foremost classics so unforgettable, the album is still an enjoyable excursion in thrash metal well worth your time.

Guitarist Dave Carlo provides this album’s backbone, a seemingly endless stream of energetic riffs. What many of his ideas lack in memorability they make up for in sheer intensity. Though all but two of these tracks sprints ahead at the same frenetic click, his riffs stay fun and engaging throughout and are particularly strong in ‘Take This Torch’, ‘Escape The Fire’, and ‘Gatecrasher’. The gruff, gravely vocals of Stace ‘Sheepdog’ McLaren are a worthy companion for Carlo's onslaught, punctuated with some occasional Halfordesque wails. Bass and drums are standard fare, keeping up the momentum through nine blazing tracks and the mid-paced march of ‘Distant Thunder’.

As a debut album, Executioner’s Song is quite murky. Close your eyes in the intro to ‘City of Damnation’ and you can practically see Carlo’s high-speed palm mutes cutting through layers of smog in a garage. Despite the smoke that obscures everything a bit, the guitars, drums, and bass are fairly well mixed, with the latter sometimes being easily noticeable. McLaren’s vocals, meanwhile, rise above the instruments just as much as they need to. While the production might be just a little too muddy, it still complements the aggression and youthful energy of the songs.

Executioner’s Song isn’t the sort of album that will make one rethink thrash metal, nor is it a crucial part of anyone’s collection but it’s a damn fine way to satisfy a hankerin’ for this kind of music. There are no acoustic intros or attempts at “transcending” their genre with eclecticism or progressive trappings. Just some honest, energetic thrashing. And if that’s what you’re in the mood for, Executioner’s Song is the exact sort of thing you’re looking for.

The execution must wait, the songs are too good - 78%

Felix 1666, July 5th, 2015

Razor represents a third of my personal triumvirate of classic Canadian metal. While Piledriver had the charm of a highly talented metal parody and Exciter appeared as a serious and hard working gang, Razor possessed a natural nonchalance. Their riffs conveyed the feeling of ease and heaviness at the same time and the band members wore sleeveless black leather jackets without blushing. Razor took the bull by the horns and started the album with a killer called "Take This Torch". Believe me, this blazing torch caused a real wildfire. Its evocative riffs had several effects. Your feet began to tap, your blood seemed to flow faster and your head started to bang while Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren impressed with his snotty voice. The furious drums and the lively bass guitar completed the picture. No doubt, this song belongs to the immortal anthems of speed metal.

"City of Damnation" also scored with sharp guitars and an irresistible drive. Its staccato background vocals characterised the chorus and the menacing aura of the song brought every poser to its knees. (I admit that this wording revitalises the eighties and I am sorry for being old-school.) Framed by the opener and "City of Damnation", the mid-paced and casual "Fast and Loud" came out of the blue. It represented the rare species of real metal party songs and was a nice contrast to the aforementioned tunes.

This outstanding trio at the beginning turned out to be a blessing and curse at the same time. Razor had to fight hard in order to keep the high quality standard. It was quite an impossible undertaking. "Escape the Fire" confirmed the song-writing skills of the band one more time. Its blazing riffs and the sharp-edged chorus did not lack of recognition value so that the slightly weaker solo part did not appear to be decisive. But with "March of Death" began a series of solid yet unspectacular speed songs. These tunes left an authentic impression and it was good to see that the band did not squint at the marketability of its pieces. Yet it could not be ignored that the strongest riffs had been placed at the beginning of the record and, of course, the riffs were the crucial success factor of the music that Razor performed. Even the powerful "Hot Metal" did not fully achieve the level of the first three songs. Its main riff was a lethal weapon, but the chorus fell short of expectations. It could unfortunately not be overlooked that the tumultuous band was running out of ideas, at the latest during pieces like "Deathrace" and "Time Bomb".

In terms of the production, everything stayed within an acceptable range. In particular after the release of the successor album ("Evil Invaders"), we knew that the drum sound on the here presented full-length gave no reason for complaint. The same applied for any other instrument. Finally, Sheepdog´s voice was neither outstanding nor powerless. In accordance with his comrades, he did a good job. However, after the barely noticed release of the rare "Armed and Dangerous", "Executioner's Song" catapulted the band onto the surface of the world wide speed metal scene and its highlights are still exciting.

The AC/DC of Thrash Makes Their Debut. - 86%

Metal_Jaw, November 13th, 2012

Long hair, leather 'n' spikes and a guitar to dice off the heads of poseurs. There are few bands in the world of heavy metal who know their shit better and have never kept to to the faith so hard than Canada's Razor. These guys are one of my favorite metal bands and I'm glad to begin talking about them. The group's first full-length debut album is this, "Executioner's Song". Unlike the dirty streetwise thrash they would later be known for, the Razor here lets loose with a line teetering between the attacking, gruff rock 'n' roll of Motorhead and the grimy, raw speed metal of their fellow countrymen Exciter. The result is an entertaining little record that begs one to grab a beer or two and headbang the night away with their favorite voluptuous leather-clad honey...or two.

Razor is often referred to by many as the AC/DC of thrash metal due to their no-bullshit song-making; they take a theme or two and run with it with, adding a barrage of riffs in the process. Guitarist and the band's only mainstay Dave Carlo is our star attraction; he seems to be a riff machine, able to spit out any number of shreddings that never bore. On vocals we have Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren, colliding with the listeners' mortal ears with a Lemmy-esque barrage of shouting and grunting, as well as some screechier "oohs" and "aahs"; here they guy has yet to perfect his immortal shrieking. Mike Campagnolo hits back on his bass; this isn't one of his best efforts truthfully; he's somewhat audible and a solid player but not as good on here as he'd later efforts. Mike "M-Bro" rounds out the quartet on the drums. He's a pretty standard player but in all fairness pretty energetic and dependable as well. Enjoy it now, because this is the only time I'd ever describe M-Bro's drumming as anything more than "tolerable".

Eleven straightforward tracks of heavy metal glory permeate the loins of "Executioner's Song". Sure it's nothing special, and some tracks are quite skip-worthy, but in the end this the kind of no-frills goodness that metal is all about. The record starts off strong with "Take This Torch", a pumping speed anthem that begins moody and builds and builds until the catchy and booming chorus arrives to EXPLODE your face off! The fun never stops with "Fast And Loud", a glorious party song that will bang your puny mortal skull WITHOUT spilling that expensive imported lager. The aggressive "City of Damnation" attacks with beastly speed riffs, hooky-as-fuck verses and a notably odd drum tone. "Gatecrasher", another speed demon, comes armed with skull-bruising stop-go riffage in their verses, while the short "Hot Metal" (a personal favorite) comes booming with a really catchy main riff. Another track of particular note is "Distant Thunder", which moves at a more mid-pace and oozes a swaggering atmosphere for much of the song before turning into a more aggressive riff-fest at the end.

Overall, a fine debut for a damn fine band. Some songs aren't memorable or even are skip-worthy, while the production is a bit too muddled and suffers from too much reverb (there's a well-done remaster floating around that's not too hard to get a hold of). Even still, Razor rocks here as they usually always do, and if you want a badass time with riffs and rock a plenty, then give in and allow the executioner to make a house call.

Blazing hot - 95%

autothrall, November 6th, 2009

Many fans consider Razor's other 1985 album, Evil Invaders to be their true cult masterpiece. Others consider their more punchy, frenetic, and violent later work like Violent Restitution to be their best. While I fall in the latter category, there is no question in my mind that Executioner's Song is not only their most overlooked album, but one of the greatest Canadian heavy metal albums ever conceived.

At its roots its a dirty NWOBHM-inspired record like something you'd have heard from their countrymen Exciter, but more aggressive and certainly contains hints toward their later direction. All the songs are excellent and inspirational. Stace Sheepdog's vocals are gritty and awesome, and Dave Carlo is one of the best riff writers ever. "Take This Torch" is a speed metal anthem of energetic, distinct chords and a great chorus (love that bass):

'Bright lights, now you can see where you are
Far, out in the universe
Now, you, try to escape from this spot
Hot, ready or not
Take this torch'

I don't quite get it either and I don't care, my previous band Extinction Agenda used to cover this song at our rehearsals and my only regret is that we never performed it live. Amazing track, and not the only one on the record. "Fast and Loud" is your typical metal party song but this was no Mötley Crüe, it was far more aggressive and you could totally envision yourself doing a circle mosh and impaling some fool in the head with a spiked gauntlet. "City of Damnation" is simply one of the most amazing and filthy raw speed metal tracks ever written on Earth. If you don't like that chorus part then you don't fucking like real metal. "Escape the Fire" also thrills with its catchy melodic muted riff erupting into the speed and chords and glory. And there are so many more, the molten rocking riffs of "Distant Thunder". The blazing "Hot Metal". The sun-hot "Time Bomb".

If you can't already tell this album burns to the touch. I can feel the sweat on my skin just thinking about it. It makes me want to get a leather mask and a whip, some 80s metal chicks with big hair and then make them dance for me in a cage. This is the world I live in, at least when I hear this record.


We have a winner - Take This Torch! - 80%

Xeogred, April 29th, 2008

Well this is fairly simple album, so I'll make this a quicker review. I had Razor's popular Evil Invaders for the longest time but its greatness didn't really hit me until recently. So I did what I needed to do and took a vast dive into their discography, honestly finding myself disappointed with several of their releases thanks to some horrifyingly odd productions. This was pretty annoying since Evil Invaders had this thunderously heavy mix with gatling-gun guitars rapidly firing away and gave off a rather vile demeanor. Eventually though I got their debut here and right off the bat, my face was blown into pieces. It's not nearly as evil as their follow up, but this quite a fierce beast itself.

Take This Torch ... hot damn, you don't get much catchier than this one. This is the kind of metal I could tune into endlessly and listen to all day everyday. Crazy melodic speed / NWOBHM-ish rhythms, layered with awesome bass lines, fast drums, and insanely memorable vocals along with the ultimate chorus itself. My enjoyment stationed itself throughout the rest of the album but once I was done with it, what came to mind? Sadly, not a lot sticks here and even if I don't argue against simplicity that often, Razor were just a little too simplistic with their debut and at times some of these tracks even sound a bit dated for 1985 (as in this is the kind of stuff people were playing in the early 80's).

Overall though this album really isn't that bad and heck, it's probably my second favorite release from them after Evil Invaders. The majority of it is just kind of a "hit or miss" case though, this goes for just about everything. Sometimes it sounds like McLaren is just slurring out random words and his vocals don't do much, riffs and or drums get repetitive, a song just doesn't work or develop, etc. But for the most part I think if you're a fan of classic 80's metal with an appetite for speed containing layers of NWOBHM influences you could still get a kick out of this. And no joke, but this album is definitely worth hearing for Take This Torch alone anyways. I'd say both Escape The Fire and Gatecrusher are high quality offerings as well, these two wouldn't have sounded out of place on Evil Invaders. I'll admit Fast And Loud is pretty catchy and March Of Death certainly isn't bad either. Deathrace also comes to mind having some of the best and original rhythms off the album.

In final I do feel like I should note that the production is definitely not pretty on this album either, though compared to several of the releases after Evil Invaders, the mix on this one just feels far more complete and listenable. It's fairly raw but with the material at hand here the sound goes together perfectly with the music. Ironically enough the production off their previous Armed And Dangerous EP actually beats out the mix here (which contains a handful of the tracks here), though I have to say I prefer this version of Take This Torch over the EP's. I'd say the cloudy atmosphere gives it a lot of character and McLaren's vocals on this one sound way better with his screams echoing in the distance away and whatnot. This album could really go hand in hand with their previous EP's though, so if you get this you may as well check those out too. Don't expect much of a precursor to Evil Invaders with this one but if you want some commendable Venom worship with it's handful of moments, give it a shot. "Hot, ready or not? Take This Torch!!"

True greatness still eludes - 78%

Gutterscream, September 16th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Viper

“…welcome to the slaughter…hope you’re having fun…”

Funny enough, the four songs found on the previous year’s Armed and Dangerous ep actually sound less dated than the ones recorded especially for this eleven songer. Obviously, the ep’s tracks weren’t refurbished for this, and the recorded-through-a-chimney production blessing these newer tracks not only dates them harder, it sucks out a layer of potential lethality you know the Canucks can muster at the drop of a hat.

Not to re-describe the tracks from Armed and Dangerous, I’ll just say the seminal “Take This Torch” is still king of the hill with its feverish main riff and star-studded, picture o’ thrash chorus. While a tiny bit more controlled, “Fast and Loud” seconds the motion of the previous track with another raucous chorus. “Hot Metal” is still simplistically catchy while (groan) “The End” never gets off the ground nor tries to, its aim seemingly to end the lp with the punch of a book about rust.

“City of Damnation” is the first of the ‘new’ tracks and despite its quick demeanor and muddy grit sticks to the slightly above average side of life with backing vocals failing to enliven a fairly uneventful chorus, but there is a nifty scream or two in there. “Escape the Fire” grabs the reins “City of Damnation” was too lazy to lean over to get and guides the lp back to solid ground with a more aggressive breaking chorus and short solo bursts. “March of Death” is along the lines of “City of Damnation”, rearing nothing unique or really memorable except for some abrasive Carlo soloing.

“Distant Thunder” is probably the most commercially traditional track the quartet has ever meddled with; dragging a very uninteresting tempo around until the end when the pace builds to a jog, during which they actually attempt an unprecedented (to this day) slice of Maiden-ish euro-zing that truthfully isn’t half bad. The superbly named “Gatecrasher” revolves around an assailing stop-start riff, is admirably quarrelsome, and great ending that includes some fairly clean screams in unexpected Halford-ian sound and style. “Deathrace” (with some lethal solos) equals “City of Damnation” and “March of Death”, while “Time Bomb” manages to saunter by them on the strength of a rhythm a few breaths livelier than conventional. That baby crying at the start and finish of “The End” is me…now this is how you want to end your debut, with a song more feeble and pointless than a contact lens worn by a baby chick.

Some chose to disregarded Razor’s follow-up to this based on its more or less average nature, and while Executioner’s Song may be the weakest product in the band’s catalog by production and songwriting standards, there are moments of grandeur that shouldn’t be missed.

“…this album is dedicated to all who bought it. Play it loud to remove unwanted company…”