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Anyone that cut their metal teeth with The Big Four, and then dug a little deeper into the indie scene, should receive a major endorphin rush when they discover that speed and thrash masters Razor are about to release their first studio offering in 25 years. The album, Cycle of Contempt, is a direct, cutthroat record that pulls no punches and takes no prisoners.

“I have a special place in my heart for everything we’ve done in our career,” says songwriter and guitarist Dave Carlo. “But I really think this is our best album. We were all so excited to get back to making new music and we went into it with the highest standards. The playing’s better the recording’s better. And if anyone played anything and we weren’t all happy with it. We did it again.”

Along with Anvil and Voivod, Razor established themselves as pioneers of the Canadian speed metal/thrash scene in the ‘80s, crashing the gates with craft, precision, and unrelenting speed. After releasing their 1984 breakthrough debut EP Armed and Dangerous, Razor recorded seven full-length studio albums (an average of one a year) and toured relentlessly before grinding to a halt in 1990. They briefly resurfaced in 1997 with Decibels, an album of songs Carlo wrote right before breaking up the band, and was later convinced to release with newly written vocals.

“I thought I was done with Razor forever,” Carlo says. “At the time, nobody was interested in metal anymore. And then kids were stealing our music from Napster, and we thought, ‘Who needs this frustration?’”

Oh, what a difference a quarter-century can make. With the exponential growth of YouTube, old fans uploaded vintage Razor concert footage and album tracks, and the accompanying comments were glowing. There was a new demand for festival gigs and other appearances and interest in the band reached a level Razor hadn’t enjoyed since releasing the universally acclaimed 1988 album Violent Restitution. That set the wheels in motion for Cycle of Contempt, an unrelenting slab of old-school thrash that showcases Razor’s encyclopedic knowledge of the past along with Carlo’s growth as a songwriter, player, and lyricist.

“I remember the guys in the band questioning whether I would be able to do it,” he says, then laughs. ‘They were like, ‘You know, you haven't done this in 20 years.’ And I tell you, all this pent-up creativity and energy just exploded out of me. It took six weeks to write starting in March of 2018, and when I was done I was still flowing with ideas. I felt like if I had another six weeks I could write another one.”

From the catchy, concise riffs and insistent beats of album opener “Flames of Hatred” to the double-barreled assault, muted power chord chugging and combative gang vocal of album closer “King Shit,” Cycle of Contempt is a trenchant reminder of a time when clubs around the world were packed with long-haired bands that played as fast as they could and mosh pits that spun and tumbled like clothes in a short-circuiting dryer. While many of the songs are propelled by rapid thrash beats, there’s also barrelling double-bass drumming, teeth-gnashing stand-along guitar fills, and flailing, flesh-shearing leads. The title track builds with two minutes of mid-paced, interlocking crunchy guitars before the machine-gun rhythm kicks in. “First Rate Hate” is syncopated and surging and “Darkness Falls” starts with long, sustained chords and a doomy intro passage before bursting out of the barrel.

“This album is me and the other guys at the top of our game,” Carlo says. “I wouldn’t have said that about my other albums. We were always rushed with quality issues or time constraints so we had to make all kinds of compromises. Some parts were not played the way I wanted them played and guitar solos that were nowhere as good as I was capable of. This time, we didn’t have to worry about being in some expensive studio where we were paying by the hour. We had more time to make sure everything was right and I think it shows.”

Joining Carlo on Cycle of Contempt were his primary school friend and band co-founder bassist Mike Campagnolo, vocalist Bob Reid (who has been with the band since 1990), and drummer Rider Johnson, who joined in 2014 to propel the group through some killer festival shows, but almost didn’t make the new recording sessions due to previous commitments. The band hired another drummer to fill in, but he didn’t sync musically with the band, so six months after they started working on the new material Johnson was back in. Then the pandemic hit, forcing Razor to record in two stages – at the end of 2019 and the end of 2021.

“We did what we could in 2019, then we had to deal with the pandemic, so 2020 was mostly out. We did some of it remotely, but most of it was in person. We all masked up and everything, which was a tough way to work. But we were excited about the record. It felt good to be playing these new songs so we were really driven.”

Carlo originally planned to resurrect Razor in 2012, but that year he was diagnosed with oral cancer, which forced doctors to remove 20 percent of his tongue. He remained out of commission for the next few years while he received treatment. When he was sure he was in remission (he has been cancer-free for 10 years), he and Campagnolo put Razor back together and toured for the first time since the early ‘90s.

“We started doing a lot of gigs. I felt like, “Man, I’ve got to do this now. I don’t know how long I’m going to be around and I’m not done yet.”

The new album was further delayed when Carlo was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy in early 2017. “One side of my face was paralyzed for four months. It almost looked like I had a stroke. And even today I’m still feeling effects from it,” he says. “When I smile, one side of my mouth looks different than the other. And then I got shingles and I was sick for another four months so 2017 was pretty much a write-off. If anything, it made me more determined to do this new record.”

Once Carlo finished writing Cycle of Contempt, Razor headed back on the road to hone their chops before they returned to the practice room to work on the new songs. In some ways, battling the forces of adversity reminded Carlo of the extreme drive and determination Razor had to exhibit back in the early ‘80s when he and his bandmates were struggling to get noticed.

“At the time, there were some artists and fans that were into the heaviest kind of metal, but the Canadian music establishment – the agents, managers, clubs, labels, and radio stations – didn’t understand what we were doing or get it at all. Their heads were up their asses, so we decided to do what we wanted to do without their blessings.”

From the beginning, nothing was handed to Razor. In early 1984, the band bashed out “Demo 84,” which sounded like a hybrid of Motorhead and Raven and helped earn the band a local following. Realizing they had to up the ante if they were going to build their fanbase, the band members pooled their money and booked studio time to record Armed and Dangerous, a fully-loaded arsenal of blast beats, thrash riffs, and attitude-laden vocals. Still receiving little love from the music industry, they put out the EP themselves at the end of 1984.

“It cost us around $4,000 to make it and print up 1,200 copies on vinyl,” Carlo says. “We went around Toronto and other cities and made deals with the owners. We said, “Just give us some shelf space where people can see the record and we’ll give you a free copy to play in the store and a bunch of records to sell. We’ll come back in a month and if you sell them you pay us “X” amount, and you keep the rest for yourselves.’ They all agreed because they had nothing to lose since they didn’t put any money up. So they did that and lo and behold, everybody we went to after a month were sold out of the EP.”

The band’s dedication paid off and earned them shows with Twisted Sister, Anvil, Over-Kill, and Slayer, which Carlo considered a pivotal moment for Razor, both because it proved that Razor could appeal to fans of extreme thrash, but also because Slayer’s music and live show inspired Razor to push the envelope even further.

“That was the direction we were headed in, and doing shows with them and seeing how incredibly heavy they were at the time and how blown away I was by them really influenced my writing,” Carlo says. “When we first met them, Kerry King was still in the process of making that big armband full of nails. We had a great time hanging out with them.”

By the time Razor released the faster, more aggressive full-length Executioner’s Song in 1985, they were touring with some of the biggest names in metal and still maintaining a strict writing schedule. Six months after they released Executioner’s Song Razor achieved their first international exposure with Evil Invaders, the video for which received airplay on metal TV shows. “That was our first big step but I’m embarrassed to say we only had two days to record that album. It was crazy because people were mentioning us in the same breath as Metallica, and it's like, ‘Okay, guys. That’s flattering. But you’re comparing a band that has a million-dollar budget or more to a group that has maybe $5,000 per album.”

Carlo still loves each of Razor’s records and cherishes the memories of where each album took the band, both commercially and geographically. Cycle of Contempt is as energetic and exciting as Evil Invaders and as urgent and powerful as the band’s 1989 speed-fest Violent Restitution. At the same time, Reed’s vocals are pugilistic as ever, the perfect match for his chip-on-shoulder, kick-to-the-teeth lyrics (“Get out of my face as fast as you can, you disgrace/ The die is cast, I’ve got no room for you” – “Crossed”).

“I tried to write songs that everybody could listen to and say, “Yeah, I know a guy who's done that to me or done this, or I know that situation. I can relate to that.” Carlo says. “And I didn’t want to make everything specifically about me because when you do that, you exclude people. I wanted to include everyone that’s ever felt pissed off about anything.”