Extreme rarity, obscurity and zero provenance offer some of the biggest thrills of collecting where the chase is often more meaningful than the ‘catch’. Sure, you might’ve spend years digging and found an authentic Legend or Medieval Steel pressing for the right price but, every once in a while you end up with a Thrash Queen or Dwarr album you might’ve been better off dreaming of. Angel of Mercy‘s sole 1987 release ‘The Avatar’ was never the most expensive rarity on the market but it was always up there due to extreme limited quantity and decades of sparse provenance.
I’d initially discovered this album on Vibrations of Doom as friends online (circa 2003) suggested that if you e-mailed the site owner and paid him a certain amount of money he’d send sound files on burned DVDs/CDs. I’d never worked up the nerve or desperation to make a request so I eventually worked out how to get the sound clips on the site to work as they were formatted with the technology used to stream clips on Amazon in the late 90’s. I devoured sites like VoD and Classic Thrash back in the day seeking out reissues, remasters, and eBay so that I could hear underground metal’s lost relics. The trouble at the time was that I was a reactive teenager and violently opposed the Christian mysticism expressed in ‘The Avatar’ and the clips were not impressive. I wouldn’t hear the full record, and absorb it, until a proper rip of the original vinyl (which wasn’t though to be much more than a test pressing) was uploaded and dispersed via piracy blogs a couple of years later.
For an independently produced heavy metal album from an unknown band in Las Vegas, Nevada ‘The Avatar’ was an anomaly. An accessible but somehow non-derivative epic heavy/hard rock record built from their love of Rush‘s storytelling, Iron Maiden‘s galloping creed, and the most serious operatic points of Led Zeppelin and KISS. Angel of Mercy were as much performative progressive rock as they were a youthful pounce upon heavy metal, yet their music was devoid of posturing and drowning in mystique. There is great talent for the melodrama of 70’s rock and the castle-storming clamor of NWOBHM within ‘The Avatar’, and yet the very late-80’s rock of “Chained to a World” and Christian themes probably scared off any hope of a record deal thereafter.
For the retro-obsessed, the underground metal history buff, and the epic heavy metal enthusiast ‘The Avatar’ will be a thrill to discover as it existed in a bubble and generally stayed there for so long that it feels like a record outside of time. This feeling is made all the more real with a fully dynamic remaster that better highlights Angel of Mercy‘s talented bassist and epic Manilla Road-esque approach to songwriting. Their sound isn’t too far from late 70’s Budgie but has heavy hits of the style heard from popular NWOBHM groups that’d eventually translate into softer releases from groups like Alien Force and Dark Star.
Not only is this fantastic oddity given new life with a professional remaster but with this 2CD/DLP issue a bonus disc offers some illumination to the band’s history and overall trajectory. The 1983 demo and 1992 rehearsals included suggest Angel of Mercy formed pre-’83 and folded post-’92. This extra content ultimately serves to show the quality of their performances and that they’d kept plugging away at their songs despite a lack of greater outside interest. I suppose if you don’t care much about the historical details and you’re just here for the music, there is still plenty of album here to dig into. If you’re a fan of epic heavy metal this ultimate edition of the long-lost, and now notarized, ‘The Avatar’ will be well worth your time.
|Released||October 8, 1987 [12″ Vinyl] | June 1, 2018 [Remaster/2CD]|
|BUY/LISTEN on Shadow Kingdom Records’ Bandcamp!||Angel of Mercy on Metal-Archives|
Something pulls from within. 3.75/5.0
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