When this promo was headed my way, I thought, “Wow, new Razor”? Well no, it’s actually very old Razor, but it still cuts as keenly. Escape the Fire is a very nicely restored version of the demo album by the same name, apparently shelved by the band’s label in favour of what coalesced into the vaunted first full-length, The Executioner’s Song.

What we have here is an important artefact to long-time fans of the band, because it is sophomore-era Razor presented in the same mode as their debut EP, Armed and Dangerous. This means a drier, more blood-and-guts approach to the material, compared to the looser and reverb-drenched versions found on the official follow-up LP. The performances here feel live and immediate, with a no-nonsense approach to the production that would make AC/DC envious. Bassist Mike Campagnolo describes the recording as the band ‘firing on all cylinders’, and indeed, the energy in the performances are assured and aggressive. Metal’s evolution was exponential in those days, and it’s worth considering how this rawer interpretation of the band’s sound would have changed things.

As for how it sounds, it’s fucking Razor. Do I really need to explain? It’s another example of how heavy metal was continuing to be angrier and more steroidal as newer bands began to pull away from their Judas Priest-inspired efforts in the name of something much more confrontational. You’ve got Sheepdog‘s famous howl over Dave Carlo‘s relentless downpicking, all unvarnished and in your face in this iteration. There’s little else I could say to convince you to investigate this if you’re still unaware of one of Canada’s most famous metal institutions.

The question of this album’s role in the Razor timeline comes down to preference. It’s certainly a worthy purchase for collectors , but at the same time, three-quarters of the material made it onto Executioner’s…, and if you’re married to those versions, this might not do much for you. Escape the Fire is a great snapshot of the band in the heat of the moment, though it missed its chance to be the intended building block for their sound. That said, it’s still a high-impact, unvarnished listen that makes you want to beat the shit out of people, like all Razor albums do. This record is the group at their most bare-knuckled (save for the unrelenting Violent Restitution), and that’s certainly saying a lot.

(Editor’s note – video clip from original 1984 version of the album as none supplied from new version of the album).

Escape The Fire releases on July 16th.