I believe Canada’s Razor is one of the most underrated thrash metal bands from the genre’s prime. Guitarist, main songwriter, and sole constant, Dave Carlo, created solid recordings despite financial, line-up, and record label challenges. Razor was especially remarkable and fast on the three albums Relapse Records recently reissued: Violent Restitution, Shotgun Justice, and Open Hostility.
I consider 1988’s Violent Restitution equal to its apparent influence, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, in frenzied tempos and memorable riffs. The band powered up by adding Rob Mills and Adam Carlo on drums and bass, respectively. Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren propelled his vocals to extremes to match Dave Carlo’s aggressive, relentless guitar work. Razor dedicated this album to Death Wish actor Charles Bronson, reinforcing lyrical themes of vigilantism and revenge. The strength displayed by Razor’s new lineup rendered earlier output, however admirable, obsolete. My favorite Razor offering, with choice tracks being “The Marshall Arts,” “Taste the Floor,” “Enforcer,” and “Violent Restitution,” is an A-list effort that belongs in the top-tier of thrash metal recordings.
Shotgun Justice, released in 1990, introduced vocalist Bob Reid, whose punk-styled, lower range vocals toughened Razor’s sound and image. Dave Carlo and crew maintained their point-blank, manic style, despite the more technical or lighter direction explored by many contemporaries. The lyrics are enjoyably heavy on social commentary and delivered with a punk attitude. This is my third favorite Razor album and I especially like the songs “Miami,” “United By Hatred,” “Shotgun Justice,” and “The Pugilist.”
Unfortunately, an injured Rob Mills was unable to record, prompting Razor to utilize a drum machine on 1991’s Open Hostility. Notwithstanding, the temporary three-piece, including new bassist Jon Armstrong, still crafted another ripping album. As expected, the songs are brutal and quick with Carlo’s cache of sharp riffs and competent drum programming. Reid also provided more evidence to support his merit as a successor to McLaren. I rank this my second favorite Razor album with notable compositions being “In Protest,” “Sucker For Punishment,” “Road Gunner,” and “Mental Torture.”
Relapse deserves acclamation for retrofitting these cult classics with beefed up, respectful remastering by Brad Boatright, along with demo, live, and unreleased tracks. The CD booklets include full lyrics and revamped artwork. Adding to the excitement for these long overdue reissues, Razor is scheduled to play Maryland Deathfest 2015 and other live dates this year. Hopefully, a new generation of fans will radiate Razor’s legend, inspiring more respect for the band’s vital, understated contributions to heavy metal history.