With the possible exception of SLAYER, nobody in the '80s thrash scene ripped as hard or with as much psychotic aggression as Canada's RAZOR. Perennially underrated, their back catalogue is full of overlooked gems, with the seminal viciousness of 1985's "Evil Invaders", and 1990's unstoppable "Shotgun Justice" standing out as undeniable examples of thrash metal at its brutal best. 25 years on from their last studio record — 1997's good but not great "Decibels" — the Ontario quartet have reconvened in the exact same furious mood that made their early records so addictive. From the opening seconds of "Flames Of Hatred" onwards, "Cycle Of Contempt" blows away a quarter of a century of silence.
With three members of RAZOR's classic lineup on board (guitarist Dave Carlo, bassist Mike Campagnolo and vocalist Bob Reid), this was always going to be true to the Canadian thrash bone, but it still seems remarkable how utterly ferocious most of "Cycle Of Contempt" is. "Flames Of Hatred" sets the tone: RAZOR's wiry, stripped-down thrash, reborn with a dash of contemporary precision, but essentially unchanged since the early '90s. "Jabroni" takes off at the same pace, Reid's hoarse bark bursting from absurdly fast, serrated-edge riffs that reek of bloody concrete. "Off My Meds" is even more berserk, as its title suggests. Raw, punky and violent, it's the perfect, sub-three-minute assault, replete with yobbish gang vocals and a mad-eyed, speed-fueled solo from Carlo.
Most bands would throw a slow one in at this point, but no: RAZOR are not here to fuck around. "A Bitter Pill" is another incensed, hell-for-leather tirade, and so is "Crossed". Only "First Rate Hate" releases the accelerator to any meaningful degree, but its classic metal swagger is laced with malice, and the riffs still connect like elbows to the eyeball. Normal service is resumed on the manic, pummeling title track, the steroidal crossover sprint of "Setup", and the self-explanatory "Punch Your Face In" and "All Fist Fighting". If you haven't thrown a major item of furniture across the room by the time "Darkness Falls" offers a brief but spooky moment of respite, you have simply extraordinary self-restraint.
"Cycle Of Contempt" ends as it begins, in kill mode and at top speed. "King Shit" features a cameo from the current king of rock 'n' roll, Danko Jones, and rattles along at a life-threatening pace. Bob Reid spits fury in all directions on the track, which includes another incendiary Carlo lead break and a mid-song interlude which confirms that RAZOR have exquisite comic timing.
It would be easy to once again overlook RAZOR, particularly in a year when bands like MEGADETH and KREATOR have flown the flag for thrash with such panache, but "Cycle Of Contempt" is every bit as essential for fans of the fast and the furious.