Razor – Cycle of Contempt Review

As a drunken teen in the 80s, it was easy to root for Razor. The fiesty Canadian speed/thrash outfit was full of piss, cheap beer, and rabid underdog enthusiasm. When I first heard their timeless cut “Evil Invaders” courtesy of a local public access station’s metal video hour, it was love at first sound. They were rough, raw, unrefined, and pugnacious – all the things a Long Island teen aspires to be. And so a love affair was born, fueled by funtastic thrash slabs like Malicious Intent and the extra murderous Violent Restitution. When one-of-a-kind throat destroyer supreme Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren bailed and was replaced by Bob Reid, I mostly lost interest in Razor‘s antics, though the Reid era has its defenders (see the career retrospective piece I did with the esteemed Al Kikuras). Their last recorded output was 1997s Decibels, which was underwhelming, and when word broke the band was reforming, I was doubtful that good things would come of it. Now that Cycle of Contempt is here some 25 years after the last release, what can fans expect? Basically, an Anvil album sped up and featuring way more tough barroom bravado. This is not a good thing.

It’s good to hear founder/guitarist/chief writer Dave Carlo furiously plucking again, and there are scattered moments of fun to be found. Opener “Flames of Hatred” is a ‘standout’ with the classic Razor sound in place and functioning. Carlo’s riffs are crisp and Bob Reid sounds surprisingly large and in charge. It’s certainly not the best thrash you’ll hear this year, but it’s serviceable. Other mildly interesting moments include the reliably nostalgic thrash of “Crossed” where Dave includes a weirdly cool speed plucking piece, and the off-kilter and more menacing “Darkness Falls” which borders on death metal and reminds me of Demolition Hammer. “First Rate Hate” is also respectable and appropriately pissed off. To my surprise and bewilderment, there’s a strong crossover/hardcore vibe to some of the tracks like “Setup” where the music could be mistaken for Crumbsuckers or Agnostic Front B-sides. This is a mystery as Razor never approached this style before despite existing during the glory days of crossover.

While the above-mentioned tracks are okay, there are a number of tough-to-love stinkers crowding in and throwing elbows. The brain-dead “Jabroni” sounds like something a bunch of fifth-rate semi-pro wrestlers would brew up in their garage to use as their entrance music and I can’t sit through it without rolling my eyes 500 times. I never looked to Razor for cutting insights on the human experience, but this stuff is barely high school level lyric-wise and it’s impossible to take seriously. To my consternation, the scales tip toward this kind of mouth-breathing output, with unevolved caveman cuts like “Punch Your Face In” and “All Fist Fighting” offering plenty of badass machismo at the expense of entertaining songcraft. Biggest offender is execrable closer “King Shit” which is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a good, long while. At its core it’s a rudimentary thrasher containing absolutely nothing of note. Then the band slathers it with some of the worst vocals and lyrics possible with Bob Reid essentially doing a really, really bad Randy “Macho Man” Savage impression that gets more unhinged and annoying as the song rolls along until it reaches the point of painful parody. It’s worse than just bad. It’s fucking embarrassing.

With so little going in their favor musically, it’s hard to offer much praise for the individual performances. Dave’s distinctive riffing style is present here and there, and some songs ring the classic Razor bell in small ways, but there’s nothing here guitar-wise requiring a listen by anyone, Razor diehard or not. Bob Reid sounds decent when limiting himself to his usual tough guy shouts, sounding a wee bit like Lemmy Jr., but the over-the-top wrestling monologuing is godawful and kills the album deader than disco. The lackluster writing is quite the indictment of where the band is in 2022. While Razor were never the fastest or the most talented thrash bands out there (they were contemporaries of Metallica, Slayer, Testament, etc. after all), you could usually rely on them to deliver catchy thrash tunes. That isn’t the case anymore. The writing feels half-baked and rushed and it seems the best Razor have to offer nowadays is tired, recycled thrash that wouldn’t have gone over especially well even back in 1986. That makes me sad.

I’ll admit I didn’t have high hopes for Cycle of Contempt, but what I got is worse than expected. I have a soft spot for everything Razor released from 84 to 88, but this is the classic example of a band that should have protected their legacy and limited themselves to occasional nostalgia tours featuring the classic material. In short, after 25 years of retirement, Razor is a very dull blade without much functionality. Now I need a beer and bar fight.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse
Websites: razorband.com | razorband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/razorofficialthrash
Releases Worldwide: September 23rd, 2022

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