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Great riffs, shame about... - 68%

centrifuge, September 9th, 2006

...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.