Want to see Canadian history come to life? One of Canada’s premier thrash exports, Razor, is slicing through Hamilton so tonight is a must-attend event for any hardened thrasher in the Southern Ontario region. Supplementing the bill are the insistent heavy metallers in Anvil, whose award-winning documentary catapulted them into the global rockers’ consciousness. New metal blood Skull Fist were supposed to play and would have rounded out the line up evenly but were forced to cancel due to a pesky throat infection.
National darlings Anvil need no introduction in 2017. This stop on their Canadian tour may not position them as the final act of the night but it isn’t just Razor fans in attendance. Opening with instrumental “March of the Crabs”, guitarist and vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow delights by playing the whole song off stage and among the crowd with a grin from ear-to-ear. This leads into “666” from the Torontonians most discussed album Metal on Metal and frolics through the room with raw heavy metal gusto. The sound isn’t the best but the members’ comedic animated expressions and enthusiastic stage presence substitutes for this.
The crowd are taken through an overview of Anvil’s discography including the hard rocking “Badass Rock ‘n’ Roll”, the slow and stomping “This is Thirteen” and ode to the Godzilla universe “Mothra”. With their debut album released in 1981, these Canadians were much faster and harder-hitting than their peers while drawing traits from similar influencers such as Judas Priest and AC/DC. Lips’ vocals pair the gruff with the clean while drummer Robb Reiner punctuates with robust drumming. Such a vigorous stage presence wins riotous applause from the crowd after each set piece but it’s closer “Metal on Metal” that truly amps up the venue, uniting the audience in singing along unwaveringly. The stage is set perfectly for the next act.
Guelph thrash legends Razor take the stage to salivating fans, touching down with “Instant Death” from their intensely lauded Evil Invaders. It’s a short number but within three minutes, drinks are spilt as moshers hurl themselves against each other, headbangers break their necks and hardcore fans shout along while the band fires out their signature ‘80s thrash. Vocalist Bob Reid may be unable to enact a carbon copy of original vocalist Sheepdog’s throat-shredding shrieks but his raw voice commands violence like a general in battle. This opening track segues into one of the thrashers’ most important songs: “Cross Me Fool” devastates the venue with guitarist Dave Carlo’s tremolo work sounding like an assault rifle. The members’ enthusiasm is refreshing and something that is frequently absent from bands half their age.
Razor have Hamilton in their sweaty palms and it feels like they can do no wrong. The setlist weighs heavily on the two 1985 albums, the heavy metal-infused Executioner’s Song and the darker Evil Invaders. “Speed Merchants”, “Hot Metal”, “Cut Throat” and “Iron Hammer” slash with storming belligerence like a flurry of fists to the face. The guitar is particularly thick and vicious live, impressive considering the band utilizes just a single guitarist. Younger songs “Behind Bars”, “Stabbed in the Back” and “Violent Restitution” are also aired out, featuring a more contemporary guitar tone than tracks from the first two full-lengths. Moshing is persistent throughout the whole set and the band experiences two brazen stage-invading fans. One of the highlights is “Take This Torch”, building to a ripping crescendo of a chorus where Reid employs his most visceral screech. When this song concludes, it’s evident there is only one song left – “Evil Invaders”, naturally. Rider Johnson provides the honours with simple yet effective and recognizable drumming as the song develops into a riot of fury backed by what feels like the majority of Club Absinthe crooning along.
Tonight’s hot metal line up was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with two key bands in the early ‘80s Canadian metal scene. Age certainly leaves their full rocking competencies intact and they clearly still get a kick out of playing their music for a new generation of admirers as well as those who have remained loyal throughout the decades. It’s unbelievable the show didn’t sell out but the bottom line is that both bands dealt experiences that surpassed their fans’ lofty expectations in such an intimate setting.