At the peak of retromania in the early 2000s, heavy metal brazenly nosedived into its back catalogue. Dividing those enchanted by nostalgia from others frustrated at what they perceived as a lack of willingness to push forward. Raising a recurring question; does heavy metal need to be saved? Some think so, Avatar among them. Their upcoming ninth album, ‘Dance Devil Dance’ due for release on February 17th looks to inject movement back into metal. To dismember the “shut up and sit down” spectator quality they feel it has come to share with opera and ballet. Like punk did with its “F**k Art, Let’s Dance” philosophy. Though here it’s a little ironic given that ‘Dance Devil Dance’ frequently inspires about as much movement as two garden snails racing to the opera.
On their own merit, leading singles such as “The Dirt I’m Buried In”, as well as the album’s title track each serve as unique, abrasive, melodic metal pieces. As does ‘Violence No Matter What”, which sees singer Johannes Eckerström duet with the unmistakable Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. A song that, despite its title, promotes healthy debate. When it comes to getting your metal groove on, the most enjoyable single is “The Dirt I’m Buried In.’ Its verses conjuring elements of dance, disco, and rock ’n’ roll, bringing about some enjoyable, albeit fleeting moments.
Literal interpretations hold no weight on ‘Dance Devil Dance,’ with lyrics requiring an open minded listening to allow for the imagery to manifest. As Avatar shape-shift into whatever kind of band the songs need them to be, listeners are invited to follow suit. A big ask, but playful numbers such as “Gotta Wanna Riot” and “Chimp Mosh Pit” are just fun enough that you cannot help but let your imagination run with it, even if it goes nowhere fast. Similarly, “On the Beach” and “Clouds Dipped in Chrome” add elements of groove and doom riffing, courtesy of guitarists Tim Öhrström and Jonas Jarlsby, that feel alive if, admittedly, a little archetypal.