Avatar – ‘Avatar Country’ (Century Media) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Tim Bolitho-Jones   
Monday, 08 January 2018 04:00

Avatar Country artworkSweden’s Avatar have been threatening to go nuclear for years now. Since coming to international attention in 2014 with their ‘Hail The Apocalypse’ album, they’ve built up a dedicated fan base and earned a reputation as a fearsome live act. They’ve played almost every festival under the sun, attracted loads of media attention and picked up the Breakthrough Band award at the Golden Gods as well. Despite this though, they still haven’t fully cracked the big time and seem destined to remain a cult band rather than rock superstars.

 

Listening to ‘Avatar Country’ offers some explanation as to why. There are more ideas crammed in to it than most bands manage in their entire career and it’s an eclectic, unhinged listen. So much so that trying to take it all in is a significant challenge, even if it does reward perseverance. It opens with ‘Legend Of The King;’ eight minutes of technically proficient death metal. There are melodic riffs aplenty, lightning-fingered solos and a deep-throated growl from frontman Johannes Ekerstrom all the way through. It recalls the angrier side of fellow Swedes Scar Symmetry and is a dizzyingly impressive introduction.

 

So when it’s followed by ‘The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country’, it’s easy to believe that there’s been a mistake and another band has taken over. Riding in on the sort of guitar playing you’d normally hear while flicking through radio channels in America’s Bible belt, it quickly descends into madness. It’s as if Willie Nelson decided to jam with In Flames and the resulting song was filtered through one of Hunter S. Thompson’s wilder drug induced freak outs.

 

They return quickly to the pit for ‘King’s Harvest’ (yes every song does have the word ‘King’ in the title) but throughout the rest of the album, they refuse to stick to any definitive approach. This leads to a few inspired moments, the epic ‘King After King’ being a notable highlight that comes across like a Scandinavian System Of A Down. No two songs sound alike and it’s clear that Avatar have no real boundaries when it comes to making music, all bets are off and anything is game.

 

However, it also results in a few duff moments, like the cringe-inducing ‘The King Speaks.’ This mid-record interlude is presented as a news broadcast where a self-obsessed monarch talks to his people about baths and constipation and it’s painfully unfunny. Plus ‘Avatar Country’ as a whole seems like a wildly unfocused album. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to any of their dramatic mood shifts, they’re just veering from one genre to another whenever they like.

 

 

That said, it’s still very worthy of your time and repeat listens reveal a very talented band. Avatar don’t play to any rulebook and you have to salute anyone that’s ballsy enough to end a major label release with a two-part instrumental that goes on for eight minutes. There’s a reason they’ve become cult favourites but this eclectic approach is probably going to prevent them ever becoming arena fillers.

 

Well, that and their image. Dressing up like circus folk is brave when one of the worst bands in history have spent decades putting on clown make-up. Mentioning no names but whoop whoop homies.  

 

‘Avatar Country’ is released on Friday (12 January). You can get your copy HERE.

 

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