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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Vicious Rumors

Razorback Killers

Review by Mike Korn

Thirty-three years is a long time to be in any kind of business. To last that long in the world of heavy metal is a phenomenal achievement. And to put out a record of such outstanding quality as Razorback Killers is nothing short of a miracle.

By the time I discovered Vicious Rumors in the late 80s, they'd already been around for ten years. They came up in the same Bay Area metal scene that produced the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus and so many more, but whereas those bands could be called “thrash metal,” Vicious Rumors stuck to the tried-and-true template established by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Accept, only with more speed and vigor. The band unleashed some great efforts like Welcome To The Ball and their self-titled album, but were badly hurt by the tragic death of their great vocalist Carl Albert in the early 90s. The switch towards grunge and rap music didn't help their cause much either.

Vicious Rumors soldiered on and in 2011 have released the best record of their career in Razorback Killers. This one will stay nestled next to the likes of Priest's British Steel, Maiden's Piece of Mind and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime on my record rack. It is that good. In fact, I'll say if you don't like this album, don't consider yourself a metal fan, because it has got the total package and more. This will very likely be my top pick of 2011.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Murderball

This is about as strong as a straightforward heavy metal song can get. One thing you notice right away is that the band has got a monster vocalist in Brian Allen...crystal clear, melodic and full of blood and thunder. He's the man Vicious Rumors has been waiting for since the untimely death of Carl Albert in 1994. This power-packed number has all the VR trademarks such as magnificent guitar work, but it's just the tip of the iceberg as far as Razorback Killers goes.

Black
Beginning with odd, nervous sounding chords, this song is not the thunderbolt that "Murderball" was but it attacks your brain in a different way. It's a smoldering, stalking cut with a dark melody. Brian Allen's vocals again are amazing, sounding like the perfect cross between Tim "Ripper" Owens and former VR singer Carl Albert.
Razorback Blade
This is where things really start to kick into high gear!  This high speed scorcher will fry your eyebrows off with pure metal fury. The lead guitar work of Geoff Thorpe and Kiyoshi Morgan sizzles and the double bass drum attack of Larry Howe pushes it all along. This is speed metal with both class and brutality. Fans of Testament and Megadeth should eat this up with a spoon!
Blood Stained Sunday
Here's a multi-faceted epic that seems to combine the best aspects of the previous three songs into one. It's one of the most ambitious tunes Vicious Rumors has ever done. Beginning with awesome screaming guitar licks, it powers into a combination of fast driving riffs and complex vocal hooks. Allen screams like a man possessed and shows his great range here. Guitar solos come at you from every angle. You don't hear much metal like this anymore!
Pearl of Wisdom
The beginning to this cut is moody and restrained but it isn't long before those killer guitar solos start blasting out. Man, these guys smoke! This is another tune with a variety of speeds and feels. The majority is a strong mid-tempo crunch but in the last third, things speed up in the most devastating way, leading to a powerful climax. You could certainly call this progressive metal, with the emphasis on the "metal.”
All I Want Is You
This starts out a lot like classic Scorpions but grows to resemble more of a mid-tempo Judas Priest style anthem. Fist-pumping rhythms and a rougher vocal approach really get the adrenaline going...this would be great live! "There's no limits, there's no boundaries / There is no one who can stop us now."
Axe To Grind
More precision speed metal is belted out in typical VR fashion. You get no mercy at all from guitarists Thorpe and Morgan. They are everywhere, hitting you from every side with stinging solos and twin harmony work. A highlight on just about any other metal album, this is par for the course here.
Let The Garden Burn
This sucker grinds with a powerfully mean slower riff as it relates the story of Vicious Rumors laying waste to some hapless concert venue. The shouted chorus will get your fist pumping and head banging. This is pure power distilled into its base musical elements.
Rite of Devastation
If you haven't had enough great metal so far, your skull will surely explode after this blazing beast. Incredible drumming from Larry Howe fuels a speed metal classic chock full of killer riff after killer riff. Allen's vocals are way up in the god-like Halford class. This is the album highpoint for me and maybe the best VR track ever!
Deal With The Devil
The final track does give you a bit of a breather with a melodic, subtle lead-in, which builds up to another chugging Priest-like rocker. The song's lyrics deal with technology gone out of control. This catchy singalong-type track actually ends the record on a fine note.
 
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