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Razor – Escape The Fire (Reissue)

Escape The Fire (Reissue)
by Kenn Staub at 17 September 2021, 6:54 AM

If it had been up to RAZOR, “Escape The Fire” (released July 16, 2021) would have seen the light of day long before this past summer. Recorded on December 1, 1984, the album was originally intended as a follow-up to the band’s self-financed debut EP, “Armed And Dangerous,” which saw limited release earlier that year. Instead, RAZOR’s label, Attic Records, which signed them following their debut, had other ideas. Rather than being allowed to chart their own course, the label pushed RAZOR to re-record songs from “Armed And Dangerous” for inclusion on what became the quartet’s first full-length album, “Executioner’s Song” (1985). It wasn’t until July 2020 that “Escape The Fire” was remastered and restored for official release. Thus, the public is, for the first time, getting a peak at a sliver of time in the still active Guelph, Ontario (Canada) thrash band’s history.

The majority of song’s on “Escape The Fire” are raw, unrefined thrash drawing heavily upon the genre’s hardcore punk roots. “City Of Damnation,” “Gatecrasher,” “Heavy Metal Attack,” “Deathrace,” “Ready For Action,” “Escape The Fire,” and “March Of Death” are all performed with a hardcore sensibility. Unfortunately, just as with many hardcore numbers, melody is often sacrificed at the altar of speed and aggression (e.g., “City Of Damnation,” “Heavy Metal Attack,” “Ready For Action”). On other tracks, namely “Gatecrasher,” “Deathrace,” “Escape The Fire,” and “March Of Death,” the intro is interesting and well played, though these themes are seemingly abandoned. Instead of leaving the intros to languish, I’d have liked to see RAZOR utilize and develop those ideas; believing doing so might have resulted in the tracks being more melodically pleasing instead of mere displays of rapid-fire tempo.

Fortunately, the above mentioned songs are fairly short (none longer than 3:45). The same cannot be said for “Metal Avenger,” which clocks in at well over seven minutes. Initially I enjoyed what I was hearing, the opening riff outstanding and the melody kind of cool. Then came the overextended guitar solo. At times, I was rocking to its thrash vibe, but, more often than not, it came off as nothing more than a notey display of tuneless pyrotechnics that didn’t really go anywhere and left me restless (though I can see how it might be used as a jam during live shows). Lest the reader think I sat through the album with a scowl etched on my face, there are some tracks deserving of being highlighted. These tracks are typically slower than the out-and-out thrash numbers, the somewhat downtempo playing allowing each to breathe and, in so doing, be more fully developed.

Time Bomb,” the album’s second track, was more aurally palatable than the opener (“City Of Damnation”). It’s simply a better structured song, blending more mainstream metal with trash elements. The chugging guitar line, repeated throughout the track, is very appealing. After its percussive intro, “Distant Thunder” falls into a nice groove that’s based around a guitar line. The song picks up speed at approximately the 3:15 mark, stepping firmly into thrash territory. As opposed to just going for broke, however, the thrash part is played in a controlled manner which allows its melody to come through. The bass is at the fore on “Frostbite,” a track with a NWOBHM vibe in its rhythm line.

I think “Escape The Fire” has to be taken for what it is; the true second effort of a band in the process of finding its sound. The fact that it was probably tracked live is evident; RAZOR’s music is unpolished (at times cacophonous) and doesn’t seem mixed particularly well (which does the band no favors). “Escape The Fire” offers a glimpse into the early development of a long-lived band and a genre that have both since come of age.

Musicianship: 7
Songwriting: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 5

2 Star Rating

1. City Of Damnation
2. Time Bomb
3. Distant Thunder
4. Gatecrasher
5. Metal Avenger
6. Heavy Metal Attack
7. Frostbite
8. Deathrace
9. Ready For Action
10. Escape The Fire
11. March Of Death
Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren – Vocals
Dave Carlo – Guitar
Mike Campagnolo – Bass
Mike “M-Bro” Embro – Drums
Record Label: High Roller Records


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