Newcastle’s Avenger (sometimes referred to as “Avenger UK” to distinguish themselves from other like-named acts) are one of the many NWOBHM acts giving it another go in the 2010s. My personal feelings about these bands trying to recapture the glories of three decades past are somewhat mixed. To be sure, I applaud the effort and I categorically reject the notion that there’s some kind of age limit, shelf life or sell-by date for old-school metal musicians to stop rocking. But the unfortunate fact of the matter is that all too often these reunions come across as rather pale, tired facsimiles of the genuine article, falling short of their own distinguished legacies. However, there are exceptions, most notably the rejuvenated Satan, who charged out of the gate in 2013, snarling and breathing fire with the incredible ‘Life Sentence’ opus. After listening to ‘The Slaughter Never Stops,’ I emphatically place Avenger in that same category.
This album betrays not the slightest hint that it is Avenger’s first recording in more than a quarter century. Sure, the usual NWOBHM hallmarks are present, in the form of the glorious guitar melodies and classic riffage dished out by Liam Thompson and Sean Jefferies (their harmonies on “In Arcadia Go” are nothing short of magical), the (mostly) straightahead song structures and memorable choruses, and the distinctive vocals of Ian Swift (who reminds me in places of Ravage’s Al Ravage, but occasionally goes into high-pitched wails like Peavy Wagner used to do back in the ‘Execution Guaranteed’ days). But ‘The Slaughter Never Stops’ isn’t some second-rate rehash of days gone by. No sir, this album is punchy, it’s lively, it’s fresh and it’s powerful. Many of the songs are delivered at a lurching, reckless speed that recalls the early days of thrash metal. But beneath the din lies a powerful, thick crunchy rhythmic foundation to reassure the listener that this is no rickety old garage recording, leaving no doubt that ‘The Slaughter Never Stops’ is a modern recording taking advantage of today’s technology.
What rings through loud and clear is that Avenger are doing this for all the right reasons, with profound inspiration running through their veins, and true metal in their hearts. Songs like “In Arcadia Go,” “Into the Nexus,” “Fields of the Burnt,” and “Flayer Psychosis” demonstrate a band truly at the top of its game, a veritable feast of old-school riffs, fist-pumping melodies, and memorable writing. The energetic cover of Iron Maiden’s magnificent “Killers” may be the icing on the cake, but frankly Avenger’s original tunes are so strong I’d almost rather have heard another one of theirs instead. If you’ve ever liked Avenger before, if you’re a fan of bands like Saxon, Raven, Iron Maiden and Satan, or if you just appreciate well-executed heavy metal that combines the wisdom of the past with the power of the present, then ‘The Slaughter Never Stops’ should be a mandatory purchase. Word has it the boys are working on a Raven cover tune for a forthcoming Raven tribute. Can’t wait to hear it!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~