REVIEW: AVATAR – “Hunter Gatherer”
Sooner or later, we all knew that we would have to leave Avatar Country. Leave behind our venerable King and his royal estate that gave life to so many captivating performances. Now Swedish rockers, the madcap visionaries that are Avatar, are gearing up to release a new album, ‘Hunter Gatherer’ this August. One opening up into a new landscape that is indeed heavier, yet one that lacks the excitement of its predecessor. Making it a journey worthwhile for some of the scenery, but one in which the woods get lost for the sight of too many dark trees.
‘Hunter Gatherer,’ offers, right from the starting gates, the darkest, most sinister version of Avatar yet. Cemented by guitarists Tim Öhrström, Jonas Jarlsby, and drummer John Alfredsson, ‘Hunter Gatherer’ confronts the listener with a relentless wall of sound on opening track “Silence of the Apes.” A ruthless study, both musically and lyrically, into mankind’s rush toward a dangerous and uncertain future. Yet ruthlessness is about all this song has going for it. Similarly “Justice,” which thrives on its main, impactful riff, with others, unfortunately, failing to follow suit. Thankfully efforts such as “Wormhole” and “God of Sick Dreams” have a little more to offer, giving way to a longing for dance-inducing rhythms. Something Avatar have shown an impressive affinity for multiple times over.
Luckily, there are moments of greatness too. And of humor. Despite this being their most unflinchingly brutal album to date, Avatar have not lost their sense of humor. Part band, part camp theatrical troupe, Avatar are renowned for memorable quirks injected into some of their songs. On ‘Hunter Gather’ this can be found on “Secret Door” containing a unique performance by Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour). In hilarious Avatar fashion, Taylor whistles a catchy, infectious melody, this musical oddity playing no small part as to why “Secret Door” finds itself among the list of standouts here on on ‘Hunter Gatherer.’ Others include the unforgiving, twisted grip of “Colossus,” and, in a rare moment of undeniable tenderness, “Gun”. A piece which sees vocalist Johannes Eckerström make a brief departure from the albums dominant guttural stylings with a performance ripe with emotion. An honesty that compensates for the singers uncharacteristically less than stellar vocals.
If every new album should feel fresh, challenging, and ambitious, these sentiments are not necessarily evident on ‘Hunter Gatherer.’ Where Avatar often embody a flare for the dramatic, here that flare is reduced to a spark, and the dark emptiness that surrounds it is dictated heavily by an unapologetic serving of rage, and not much of anything else. A rage that targets our cultural landscape and quickly begins to feel less like aggression and closer to something that reflects a timid moodiness, or perhaps even a tantrum. Following the hunter-gatherers outside of Avatar Country may have sounded exciting at first, but the adventure ultimately leaves you with some fond memories, but little desire to venture out again.