Razor - _Decibels_
(Hypnotic Records, 1997)
by: Alain M. Gaudrault (
First off, I have to come clean and confess that I've been a huge fan of this band for the last dozen years or so (the massive interview appearing in this issue cementing that), which makes an objective review rather difficult, but I've made a conscious effort to listen to the disc both as a fan and as a reviewer. What it boils down to is this: I listen to this album :a lot:, because it's got some of the absolute coolest riffs around. Dave Carlo is easily in my top 5 riffmeisters of all time, right up there with Tony Iommi, Chuck Schuldiner, Michael Bruce (original Alice Cooper band; yeah, yeah, yeah) and James Hetfield. But there are a few elements (and songs) on this album that don't sit well with me, tainting the experience, if you will. The pace of the album is somewhat slower overall, though without much dampening of the impact delivered. Carlo indicates that he was really impressed with the job Bob Reid did with the vocals, and after having heard the record, I can see what he means: Reid's vocal work is cool and varied, but those damned high-pitched chanting backup vocals that pop up in certain songs kinda bug me, but not enough to put me off the record (okay, it cost them a half mark). Reid also wrote all of the lyrics, and here's more love/hate. In songs like "The Game" (Reid's love of hockey seeping in) and "Jimi the Fly", a picture is effectively painted not only by well-chosen words, but the delivery so suited to the music, truly coming together as one. The brilliance often exhibited is sorely lacking in other tunes, such as "Life Sentence", awkward in its lyrics, melody, and music, and simply lame topics such as "Great White Lie" (cocaine-is-evil blather) and the mildly pretentious "Violence... Gun Control", a song from the band that brought us _Shotgun Justice_! Razor also manages to deliver tracks of pure, unadultered intensity, songs written with the sole purpose of pumping as much adrenaline into your system as possible; "Open Hostility" (not to be confused with the album of the same name) and the title track do the job -- with overtime. Where the riffs are concerned, Dave does not disappoint, and has surpassed himself by light years. The record challenges the ear at times, making heavy use of complex chords and harmonic picking, a welcome trend forming in the last few releases. Unfortunately, the bass is often inaudible (which is nothing new for Razor albums, though) and the drums are mostly unidimensional, though very tight and perhaps purposely simplistic in nature to accentuate the galloping pace. The last ten years have seen four original studio releases, each phenomenal, each improving on the last. And in many ways, _Decibels_ is a superior album to 1991's _Open Hostility_, but it most definitely lacks in the anger (not to be confused with angst) level, which was to me an integral part of all of my favourite recordings of theirs. That real genuine pissed-off-and-want-revenge attitude that oozed through past songs is fading, which Carlo acknowledges due to the motives behind the album's recording (do yourself a favour and read the interview), so the experience isn't quite the same anymore. Longtime fans will be interested to know that the CD is currently being pressed with a bonus (unmarked) track, a remake of "Instant Death" off 1985's _Evil Invaders_. I highly encourage fans of well-crafted speed metal, interested in an updated sound, to pick up this album. While many new bands are looking to the eighties for inspiration, Razor is taking their eighties crunch and dragging it kicking and screaming into the current metal scene. After programming two tracks out, this album absolutely rules.
(article published 2/5/1997)
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