Calgary’s Bloodsport debuted last December with Kumite Attack, a two song EP aimed to deliver that good ol’ razzle-dazzled guns blazing speed metal sound. Focusing on honour, street fighting, and its unwritten code, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s dig in with our fists up.
While Asian culture has seen a decent amount of thematic presence within metal music, the region’s tendency to lean towards the lessening of freedom of thought and speech has held it back within the genre, at least in terms of hometown bands. Luckily for us Westerners, karate and the lore tied to Asian martial arts have been points of fascination here, with many films and musical numbers adopting these themes and otherwise implementing them within the public eye. Sure, we all know the “wax on, wax off” story, and cloaked ninjas flying from rooftop to rooftop in front of an illuminated city skyline is all something we can picture in our heads, but as a whole North Americans don’t really know a lot about what they’re talking about.
Thankfully for us, Bloodpsort have risen to the challenge, educating the innocent about street fighting and martial law with brute force. Or in other words, four guys from Calgary are going to play us some music.
The obvious comparison here would be to Tigers of Pan-Tang, who adopted a more Asian-centric theme back in the early ‘80s with their logo font and adoption of the South China tiger as album cover mascot. While them and Bloodsport may play within the same clean speed metal territory, Bloodsport have adopted a different thematic view, blending karate meta with general military code.
Kumite Attack follows a fairly self-explanatory narrative, both in terms of sonic and thematic presence, so we’ll just go through a track-by-track.
“Bound by the Code” opens the EP with blistering force, immediately setting the stage for Bloodsport as a quartet. You’ve got very a Rob Halford-esque vocal style, a cleaner speed metal production, and a bass presence that’s very prominent within the mix. The first half of the six minute number operates in fairly standard fashion, with two chorus repeats and nothing out of the ordinary to be found. One takeaway from this first half is the inclusion of two vocal styles overlaid on top of one another for the choruses. The vocalist switches between a more “manly” style and a typical soaring one, and for the chorus when “bound by the code” is shouted multiple times in succession, these two styles are played at the same time with punishing effect.
The song takes quite the turn when things start to slow down. Following some drum fills and intricate guitarwork, the listener is introduced to the first lead guitar solo of the bunch. I hope you’re a fan, because it lasts for a good three minutes until the song’s conclusion. The band actually kind of fakes you out, as the solo stops with about a minute left in the song, but it then continues following another drum fill. This whole portion is by far my favourite part of the EP, as the solo is quite entertaining as a whole. Furthermore, added in to the mix are interesting drumming patterns and guitar riffs played in the background, and this sonic trinity really makes up something special.
“Goin’ Awol (No Turning Back)” follows as the second and final track of the release, and it ultimately serves to juxtapose the themes established prior. “Bound by the Code” discusses a fighter’s travels within the world following his training, and the song ultimately establishes this presence of a code that all participants are bound to. While certainly a vague concept without outside knowledge, from what I’ve gathered this code symbolizes fighting for one’s country and maintaining an honour for those on your side. However, the flipside to this situation entails the story of the individual who inevitably wants to depart from this closed society, and “Goin’ Awol (No Turning Back)” presents forth this polar situation.
This second track talks about a fighter who escapes the enclosures of his fighting tribe, ultimately deciding to go rogue on his own. The song tells this tale, describing cops following our protagonist, and how he’s leaving in order to pursue his own morality. Ultimately, alongside some kickin’ riffs and steady drumbeats, our friendly foe succeeds in his quest, heroically leaving with glory and victory in his grasp. The song rips.
In terms of criticism, the two tracks rely heavily on repeating their respective track titles in place of a chorus. One of the major common song tropes lies behind an artist’s decision to simply repeat the song title as a chorus, which can potentially relay a sense of laziness or songwriting inability to the listener, if overused. Unfortunately, both tracks here rely on this technique, which could be a turn off to some. However, the mighty fist of your leader has struck down with overwhelming might, and I’m giving Bloodsport a pass for three reasons:
- The songwriting on Kumite Attack is generally of good quality, so the chorus repetition doesn’t seem like a hint at the artist’s inability.
- The overall cheesiness of speed metal warrants cheesy tactics, so the offending notion ultimately fits.
- The use of chorus repetition on the second track is used to enhance the story, as the vocalist repeats “goin’ awol” within the first half of the track, and “no turning back” in the second, splitting the song title in two and showing the protagonist’s progression.
With that being said, if our Calgarian heroes continue to rely on this technique within future releases (especially within the context of a full-length), it will begin to feel overdone. You have been warned.
As a final note, the cover art and band logo are both really well done. They nailed the retro style while still keeping a sense of uniqueness. The colours all blend really well and an imminent sense of action is relayed to the viewer. This is how you do cover art, folks.
Ultimately, Kumite Attack doesn’t overstay its welcome, and leaves you wanting more. The bass-heavy mix pulls you in initially, and you stay for the storytelling and memorable lead guitar solos. While there may be some songwriting kinks to hammer out, I’m really interested to see where this project is heading.