REVIEW: AVATAR – “Avatar Country”
Avatar started out in 2001 as a fairly generic melodic death metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden. Over time they’ve branched out with more alternative influences emerging in their sound. They’ve also made a name for themselves with their theatrical circus themed live shows. Things seem to be looking bright for Avatar, they’ve recently won the “breakthrough artist” metal hammer golden god award due to the success of ‘Feathers and Flesh’ it’s important that ‘Avatar Country’, which releases on January 12th, 2018, carries on the positive momentum.
This is the second concept album by Avatar and this time it covers the story of the King of Avatar Country who’s worshipped similarity to a God for his ability with his “six-stringed axe”. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, so I’ll just say that it’s extremely corny, meta and tongue in cheek. It does bring an extra dimension to the album but frankly, I could take it or leave it, and the inclusion of the “Kings Speech” which involves the king talking about enemas and his bath is mildly amusing on the first playthrough, but an instant skip on repeated listens.
Fortunately, the music is a lot more interesting than the concept. “Legend of the King” starts off with a blazing solo that wouldn’t be out of place on a power metal album before falling into grove laden riffs and growled vocals. At 8 minutes 17 seconds in length, it’s one of the longest songs Avatar have created and it’s a ballsy way to kick off an album but it works well, displaying a variety of styles and setting the tone for the album. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström is particularly impressive, displaying incredible range and stylistically variance to match the instrumentation.
‘Avatar Country’ has less heavy songs compared to other albums, but this is partly made up for by the inclusion of “Kings Harvest”, a song impossible not to bang your head to with its galloping rhythm and punchy bass tone. Catchy riffs, melodic leads and vocal hooks seem to be more of a priority here and while they manage this with aplomb some fans may be left disappointed that for a band who started out as melodic death metal has lost almost all the death metal.
One other thing that may disappoint people is the length of the album. At only 43 minutes long it feels like it’s over too soon, especially when you take into account over four minutes of that are musical skits in the form of “Glory To The King” and “The Kings Speech” and another eight is the two part instrumental finale. Personally, I’d rather have a shorter album that one with a ton of filler and if the main complaint is that an album leaves you wanting more it speaks volumes for its quality.
‘Avatar Country’ takes what worked from previous releases and streamlines it. Avatar has refined their approach, and while some may miss the more experimental and heavier aspects of previous albums, they’ve created a short but sweet selection of songs that are as varied as they are excellent. If the future looked bright for Avatar before, it’s now dazzling.