As of late, Sweden seems to be given fans around the world a great deal of music and metal seems to be one of the biggest exports. Avatar aren’t a group who are new to the scene and in fact began back in 2001. It has been the past four or five years that have seen them become much more known in the United States. Much like their fellow Swedes Ghost, Avatar seems to also be one of those bands where there isn’t necessarily a middle ground. I’ve never heard anyone state that the band is “okay” but instead it most often seems that either someone likes the band or absolutely hates them.
It could be that the new generation of metal bands comes across as relying too much on gimmicks and image but honestly, that’s been a part of many metal bands. It doesn’t matter if it’s sticking to a lyrical theme or having a certain image that they bring to the stage and it’s going to always be a part of the music to some degree. Avatar have quickly made their way in terms of tours of North America from the opening slot to mid-tier and to headlining tours and soon a co-headlining tour with Japanese metal/pop hybrid BABYMETAL.
I would like to point out that Avatar does seem to have an attraction that goes beyond just your average metal fan. My daughter recently turned seven but absolutely fell in love with the band after hearing them a little over a year ago. Unfortunately, she couldn’t attend the show with me and even seeing one of the pictures from the show currently sends her into an emotional fit.
This particular tour has a very eclectic collection of artists on the road as support. There is ’68, a noise punk band, Dance with the Dead which is categorized as a retro-synth band. With only two members they do bring some old school synth sound which at times does have a vague similarity to some of the science fiction and horror movies of the era but the band works in heavy guitar and a small number of samples here and there. Then Devin Townsend but performing solo and doing his songs as acoustic versions and of course with that wit that many are familiar with. It’s a combination that lends itself more to the open-minded fan and certainly not the type of tour that you’d find where this a metal show of the black or death variation.
Having seen Avatar previously I knew a little what to expect although with any tour, there are bound to be changes. Throughout the venue there were already signs of that carnival inspired approach the band brings to the stage. The merch table not only included people dressed as carnival barkers trying to get you to buy shirts and anything else but a half-bred gentleman who had the wheel of death at his disposal. For a mere $10 you could give the wheel a spin and you were guaranteed to win a prize. This included things such as stickers, limited edition Avatar Country coins, t-shirts, banners, and signed tour posters and there were quite a few takers. I watched a number of signed posters given away, not nearly as many stickers as I would have thought, and overall most seemed rather pleased.
With Avatar touring in support of their latest release, Welcome to Avatar Country, the theme of the show tends to go more for that majestic element in the beginning. My past experience with the band found vocalist Johannes Eckerström center stage at the start of the show but this time it was guitarist Jonas Jarlsby dressed as a king who kicked off the ceremony. He was eventually seated in a throne during the second song while Eckerström worked his way around the stage. Occasionally he stopped alongside the King as if playing some sort of court jester which matches his onstage appearance.
The evening set list consisted of the following:
A Statue of the King
Legend of the King
Paint Me Red
The Eagle Has Landed
Get in Line
Ready for the Ride
Let It Burn
King After King
For the Swarm
Smells Like a Freakshow
The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country
Hail the Apocalypse
Avatar brings high energy to the stage during their performance. They aren’t one of those bands who seems to exhaust their energy within the first few songs but manage to keep the pace going. They slowed things down quite a bit with the song The Tower before allowing the energy to swell up once again. Eckerström is also an incredible front man who seems to draw from some of the better elements of other performers such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Mansion.
Avatar have proven they are more than capable of holding their own as a headlining act and easily seem poised to break through to the next level, being one of those acts that at some point may be capable of filling much larger venues. Seeing them on a smaller stage is fantastic but I can only think that in the future, a bigger tour with a bigger budget is going to see Avatar elevate to yet another level and become a metal band who is known for their music as well as their stage show. Even if you missed this tour there will still be time to catch them once again when they head out with BABYMETAL and they are guaranteed to bring the same frantic dynamism to the stage no matter what the tour.
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