RAZOR OF OCCAM’S PROBLEM MAY BE A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE
The problems most people have with black metal – shitty production, sloppy musicianship, lack of substantial riffs – are solved in the realm of blackened thrash. While using the skeletal elements of black metal (tremolo picked minor key riffs with raspy vocals), the genre forgoes those relative weaknesses and makes black metal a matter of ball-kicking fury instead of grouchy Satan/Odin worship. Of course, blackened thrash’s need for speed and punishing fretwork sacrifices the subtle emotional depth and dynamic intensity of good black metal, and increases the possibility of a skin deep encounter. Good blackened thrash, though, is like Pringles: despite its dubious nutritional value, it’s impossible to not consume as much as possible at once. (Skeletonwitch and Absu are great examples, providing relatively varied songs to maintain interest throughout an entire full length of raspy shouting and relentless, frosty jackhammer riffing.) Razor of Occam aren’t as successful, drifting into same-y territory after a while, but certainly are quite enthralling for a song or two. And perhaps, according to late and (very) great comedian Mitch Hedberg, this make Razor of Occam’s Homage to Martyrs the pancakes of blackened thrash – all exciting at first, but then by the end you‘re fucking sick of them. Though, in staunch defense of RoO, pancakes are by no means a commodity worth getting rid of just because they’re good in small doses. Nor does this make Homage to Martyrs a bad album, just a hard to take all at once.
If it sounds like a negative aspect, it surely is not. Perhaps some bands shouldn’t strive to make solid front to back albums, and focus on making streamlined, effective-to-the-millimeter metal. Razor of Occam succeed there, taking Immortal-grade riffs and processing them through the all-pistols-blazing sort of ferocity usually executed by The Crown. “Bite of the Dogmata” is a perfect example: from its opening groove riff to its epic-as-fuck ending, it pulls out every necessary stop, with not a relenting moment to catch one’s breath. And there is certainly no shortage of riffs on this album, either: every song is a parade of top notch thrash and black metal composition. For whatever fault you can find with the album, it’s certainly never boring. Or even if you find it so, it’s not due to Razor of Occam’s lack of trying.
And perhaps my complaint of “too much of a good thing” is entirely too harsh. At Razor of Occam’s worst, they’re a bunch of guys that have a good thing going but perhaps need a better sense of dynamic to foster a sense of variance; even their “worst” is most band’s “pretty good.” At their best, they’re damn fucking good at what they do, and they’re a goddamn blast while they’re there. So while they lack the sort of emotional depth certain strains of black metal have in spades, it’ll be a strange day when Xasthur warrants horns or a raised pint. Even if Homage to Martyrs does grow a little tiresome after a while, before that while sets in, it makes me want to throw shit out an 18th story window. And maybe that’s all one should need. For a song or four, it certainly feels like it is.
(3 out of 5 horns)