Modern Oi is in an ugly place, a sub genre of a sub genre populated by small fish in an even smaller pond trying to grow limbs after three decades of recycled riffs, copied lyrics, and redundant sloganeering. If punk is a corpse then Oi is the distended liver poking out of its abdomen, hanging loose like a nipple to feed the legions of bands that are pushing for opening slots in the last throes of the Warped Tour and Punk Rock Bowling. Maybe someday MTV will come calling again and we’ll have a bigger platform to show off our new bleachers but until that day we’re all just stuck on the wash cycle and lemme’ tell ya, that bleach will make even the sturdiest of denim fall apart if you leave it in too long.
Enter Ultra Razzia, the Mountie Marauders, the Quebecian Killers. Their 2017 demo tape was a trudge through familiar territory, copping the early Blitz singles in all their blown-out glory. It’s an easy path to follow and it’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. Luckily their trek through the catacombs of Oi found them cutting through the brush into less traveled terrain, and their first full length finds the band dialing back the distortion and focusing on single string riffs that sound straight out of ‘82, like the Meteors laying down singles for Riot City Records. The drums rarely push faster than mid tempo, but this band provides proof that speed doesn’t always equal intensity because, let’s face it, you can hear armies marching from a mile away and still realize that stomp still means your untimely doom.
Our take: Chicago’s Foreign Legion Records have become one of the world’s foremost purveyors of legit oi! over the past few years, with the Fuerza Bruta LP they released last year turning heads that had only recently returned to a resting position after being blown back by Rixe’s recorded output. If you’re into the sounds that Rixe and comparable, hardcore-affiliated bands like Crown Court are making, then you should know what Foreign Legion is up to. Their latest is the debut LP from Quebec’s Ultra Razzia, who play primarily mid-paced, stomping stuff that reminds me of early Blitz crossed with tougher-sounding old French oi!. With 13 tracks (most of them hovering in the 2 1/2 to 3 minute range), the LP seems like a lot to digest at first, but after a listen or two highlights emerge. I’m a big fan of the track “Razzia.” While it’s the longest track on the record, the extra space makes room for killer, Criminal Damage-esque melodic lead guitar. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the first part of a one-two punch with “Dans La Guele Du Loup,” the record’s fastest track... its “Never Surrender,” if you will. No one would accuse Ultra Razzia of redefining the oi! template, but the songwriting, production, and performance here are all top notch. If you’re partial to Criminal Damage or Rixe, this LP would be a great soundtrack for a night in with a 6-pack and a few of your mates.