Released: 2016, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
In heavy metal, there’s a fine line between homage and parody. Consider the likes of Cauldron, Gruesome, Enforcer, and Steel Panther; you could make the case for any of these bands as being either the former or latter. Each of these bands has chosen a particular sub-genre, or even a moment-in-time within a particular sub-genre, and made the conscious choice to create new music within the strict definitions of said sub-genres. And while it’s (for the most part) all been generally well conceived and well received, it’s still a derivative of the creative output of the bands that preceded them.
Add Finland’s Ranger and their sophomore full length SPEED & VIOLENCE to that list. It’s a pretty ass kicking platter of classic speed metal, but a handwritten thank you note to the boys in Razor and Exciter might be in order. From the skinny jeans tucked into their blindingly white high top sneakers to the twin V guitars, to the choreographed headbanging – Ranger has studied the style and look of mid-80s proto-thrash like most of us would study for a trigonometry exam. Thankfully, they’ve given just as much attention to the sound of the era, delivering 10 new tracks of over the top and fully accelerated metal madness.
Much of SPEED & VIOLENCE follows the same formula – high velocity guitars cranking riffs that gallop like Maiden on amphetamines, dueling harmonies and solo runs, gang chant choruses, and nasaly, high pitched vocals that sound somewhere between Zetro Souza, old Tom G. Warrior and King Diamond. The title track rips through your skull with appropriate force, and it’s hard not to smile and throw up some appreciative horns, even though there’s an immediate reaction of “I’ve heard this somewhere before”. “Demon Wind” comes across as downright anthemic, while “Satanic Panic” blatantly cribs from Slayer’s “Black Magic”, but you’re still somehow on board with horns hoisted firmly in the air. You could play “name that riff” all day across SPEED & VIOLENCE, but nonetheless, you’d still find yourself enjoying a pretty capable album.
As the saying goes, “everything old is new again.” And as long as the attention to detail and commitment to substance sounds as good as Ranger does, what’s not to like? Much in the way that Metallica introduced an entire population of metalheads to bands like Budgie, Satan, and Diamond Head (not to mention practically reviving the entire Misfits franchise), maybe bands like Ranger will help keep names like Razor, Exciter, Onslaught, Whiplash, Hallows Eve, et al alive for another generation to come. Pontificating aside, SPEED & VIOLENCE shreds like it was 1984 all over again, and there's nothing wrong with that.