Of all of the sorely mistreated NWOBHM classics post-1983 Avenger’s debut full-length ‘Blood Sports’ has been the most unfairly trashed over the years. I usually don’t fume over defamatory or just unfairly cruel professional reviews very often but Allmusic‘s treatment of ‘Blood Sports’ as “very well the worst ever NWOBHM release” is pure fucking bullshit hyperbole. Think I might be way off base? Listen here on YouTube to the original tracklist/mix and tell me that’s the worst NWOBHM ever? Ridiculous. Well, the only reason I care is that this is also one of my favorite heavy metal albums period. It is well loved too, with even the 2009 remaster selling online for over a hundred USD for its superior sound/tracklist compared to the archival the ‘Too Wild To Tame – Anthology’ compilation. Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself: ‘Blood Sports’ is an excellent example of NWOBHM and speed metal’s traded influences as thrash metal began to quickly storm its way across the United States and Europe.
Avenger’s line-up represents a complex web of artists that make up some of my favorites in NWOBHM. Brian Ross, who is best known for fronting Blitzkrieg and most of Satan‘s output, was the original vocalist for Avenger’s demos and single ‘Too Wild To Tame’ and that is what originally drew me to the band being a huge fan of his. Interestingly enough Ian Swift, vocalist of Avenger and later Atomkraft, was briefly in Satan before swapping places with Ross. I know most people don’t care about this stuff much, but I was that kid who stared at those ‘History of Iron Maiden‘ genealogy charts that came with their live albums and write down all the side-projects and bands etc. Swift’s vocals are just as expressive as Ross’ but his tone leans away from theatrics and fantasy metal and instead has that ‘street’ NWOBHM feel of Jaguar or Virtue.
Though ‘Blood Sports’ doesn’t outdo the melodic expression of Tysondog‘s ‘Beware of the Dog‘ nor does it out-thrash the speed metal of Exciter‘s ‘Violence and Force‘ it still holds it’s own on the same playlist. The track order here is a peeve of mine because I typically prefer the arrangement of the 2009 remaster which saves the power of “N.O.T.J.” and “Enforcer” for the B-side and allows for more even pacing, though I think “Warfare” should end the A-side, as in the original release. Much like Satan‘s stint into commercial metal as Blind Fury, the strength of Avenger is always within their faster and more aggressive guitar work. Songs like “You’ll Never Take Me (Alive)”, “Enforcer” and “Death Race 2000” take their sound away from traditional heavy metal towards speed metal and the lead guitar work here is dizzying despite it’s fairly simple methodology.
Avenger’s second album ‘Killer Elite‘ just never appealed to me with it’s murky production and lean towards stadium metal rather than the jock-rockin’ club metal of ‘Blood Sport’ which felt more honest and heavy. The band would reform a few times over the years and eventually recorded ‘The Slaughter Never Ends‘ an average record heavily influenced by classic German speed metal rather than NWOBHM. For my taste, ‘Blood Sport’ is the definitive release from Avenger that best captures the era that saw them sandwiched between British heavy metal traditions and speed metal’s increasing stranglehold upon the world. It doesn’t deserve to be called the worst NWOBHM release of all time, not even close, and instead deserves the same respect that bands like Jaguar, Raven, Satan, and Blitzkrieg receive today.
|Listen to Avenger’s ‘Too Wild to Tame’ Anthology (2002)||Avenger on NWOBHM Encyclopedia | ‘Blood Sports’ on YouTube|
Left in the dust. 4.0/5.0
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