Originally a melodic death metal band, Avatar have become more theatrical and more avant garde. The previous album, Feathers and Flesh, was a concept album about an owl at war with the world. Concept albums are often hard to follow on from, so, how did they do?
First of all, they said this would not be a concept album, but the album starts with the Swedish Royal Anthem, and every song title has the word ‘King’ in it. There’s obviously some sort of theme here. The first ‘real’ track is probably the most commercial, ‘Legend of the King’ is a very radio friendly track, with plenty of gang vocals but also it’s share of growling (although there’s also plenty of softer singing). The start sounds a bit like Iron Maiden, but that soon changes. The track actually goes for 8 minutes, so if it makes the radio, it’s bound to be severely edited. That feels like another curveball – they write a commercial track but make it far too long to play on radio.
The album has 10 tracks, but one is a quirky intro, one is spoken and two dovetail together as instrumentals, so there’s really only 6 songs on this CD. That’s a real shame, the quirky stuff is fun, but, it would be nice to see a longer playing time to make up for that.
If there’s another band that seems like Avatar, it’s In Flames. Not so much with the theatrical stuff, but in terms of starting off as straight up extreme metal and then drifting towards something a bit more quirky and varied. ‘The King Wants You’ is the track on this CD that most shows In Flames as an influence.
Elsewhere, ‘The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country‘ is mostly a blues rock track but turns into a lush chordal ballad for the middle 8. ‘Kings Harvest‘ is straight up growled metal before suddenly turning into lush Faith No More like sections. ‘A Statue of the King‘ is very radio rock before it too turns in to screamed metal for the chorus. Every step of the way, when you start to settle in to a track and feel you understand what it is, it changes. Johannes Eckerstrom, the frontman of Avatar, has stated he never wants metal to be boring. They certainly achieve that aim, always keeping the listener on their toes and changing direction in a moment.
Of the other three tracks mentioned, ‘Silent Songs of the King Part 1‘ is a quiet instrumental that turns in to a heavy one (which is part 2). It’s an OK track, but it’s really one track, and in the context of the 10 track album, feels a bit cheeky.
The one track we’ve not mentioned is ‘The King Speaks’. It spoofs a king of a European country addressing his subjects in a clueless manner, reporting both that the king is no longer constipated, and that he has had a bath recently, in significant detail. The whole thing feels a bit superfluous, and doesn’t add much except for maybe helping feed the idea that the band is ‘quirky and fun’.
This is a great, varied album. If you like to be challenged as a listener, but still want good hooks and rock, if you’ve not checked out this band, you probably should. If you like new In Flames, you will probably love this. If you loved the quirkiness and variety of Faith No More, you will probably love this. We thought the music on here was great fun, but took off a few points for an album that essentially has 6 songs on it.