Razor – Escape the Fire (High Roller Records)Friday, 2nd July 2021
Back in the 1980’s, bands often yielded creative control and power to the almighty record label, otherwise losing out on a proper push and promotional campaign to hopefully help acts move from the underground to the big time. That’s the case for Canadian speed/thrash band Razor, who signed with Attic Records after their Armed and Dangerous EP in 1984 – only to get nixed on the demo material for what would be their debut album, having to rewrite and craft other material that would turn into Executioner’s Song. Here we have Escape the Fire in its original form, remastered for 2021. While seven of the songs did make that debut album, it’s interesting to hear these eleven songs as a time capsule for where the band was naturally evolving at that time back in late 1984.
The early songs of Razor still possess that primal energy, thunder, and fury that a lot of the artists had in first approaching this genre – pulling from a mix of power, speed, punk, hardcore, and NWOBHM influences. You can certainly hear that in the guitar/bass syncopation from guitarist Dave Carlo and bassist Mike Campagnolo during the closing instrumental section of “Distant Thunder” – an otherwise traditional, driving Riot-like outing that becomes a bit more Maiden-esque in its spiderweb licks and tricks. Stace ‘Sheepdog’ McLaren had that spitfire delivery coupled with a manic scream propensity that matched a lot of the fiery riffs and sinister transitions to keep “Gatecrasher” and “Ready for Action” penetrating skulls for maximum headbanging activity. Amidst the shorter bursts of material, “Metal Avenger” is a seven-minute plus anthem featuring a mix of Judas Priest/Saxon-like spirit, Dave laying down longer, bluesy-enhanced shred parts before gravitating back to those crunchy/pounding accents tailor made for fist flying, body hurdling antics. At the time you can tell that the quartet seesaw between reckless abandon and traditional metal ethics, which would have been interesting to see the band explore a bit more between records before the speedier side took command of their future discography.
Escape the Fire is a treasure for early thrash maniacs – and hopefully will turn many more current bands on to this act’s savage ways.