It’s been two years since AVATAR released the sensational Feathers & Flesh to global acclaim, reaching 33 on the Billboard 100; a rare feat for a Swedish metal band. This chart performance in no way contradicts the band and here for their seventh record, AVATAR have returned with a royal concept album, welcome everybody to Avatar Country!
Avatar Country starts with the anthemic Glory To Our King a symphonic introduction that sets the royal theme of the album. Immediately after Legend of the King pounds into action; a sea of tapped guitar solos blazing above a pummelling rhythm section immediately reminds you of the incredible skill and cohesion this band have. Johannes joins the cast as the guitars mellow down, his signature vocals pitched to spread the message of the illustrious king before the band returns for another riff. The vocals return in fury as Johannes range is displayed; his crystal cleans rising high with incredible control before they drop and unleash a rasped almost guttural attack. The complex structures and changes brought through dual guitar solos are reminiscent of iron maiden in the best way, never feeling cliche or overly flamboyant.
Following such an epic introduction to the album the band keeps the intensity up, albeit in a fashion only AVATAR could get away with. The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country has a bouncy, country/folk feel which normally would feel out of place, however when embellished with pinch harmonics and group vocals it provides an atmosphere in complete contrast to that of Feathers & Flesh; an uplifting atmosphere that perfectly fits the concept. Moving forward Kings Harvest refuses to pull any punches, trading in an uplifting mood for a low slung, dirty sounding riff that’s sure to get crowds bouncing. Its simplicity isn’t a detriment to its ability to make you bang your head gloriously for your new king. The King Wants You follows in an offbeat, slide based riff unlike anything heard before. Its polyrhythmic nature once comprehended is instantly enjoyable, chopping and changing as the chorus transitions seamlessly through a healthy dose of cowbell. After The King Speaks, a speech transition from Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby himself, the band launches into the first single released: A Statue of the King. Returning to form with short bursts of AVATAR insanity combined with several moments of intense guitar shredding alongside the more aggressive verses; it’s a song worthy of singing along or banging your head at any given moment.
Slowing down King After King begins softly with backed off instruments, letting the ambience build around Johannes impressively unique vocals soaring while the riffs bounce in a cathartic creation. The chorus features the entire band and as the song progresses this blossoms into an anthem of undying love for the king’s glorious reign. Stunning solos bring the song to a close before the 2-part Silence of the king Pt.1 (Winter Comes When the King Dreams of Snow) and Pt.2 (The King’s Palace) begins softly. Part one is a slower electronic based piece centre around a dark and ambient melody, minor in nature but with a glimmer of transition as the synths pan across the spectrum. This mood is unleashed as part two beckons its way into fruition, taking the dark melodies introduced and amplifying them with laced distortion and wailing solos across a thick wall of sound.
Any concept album risks being too divergent and splitting fans, especially those with heavy themes featured throughout the album. Avatar Country maintains its unique feel and theme while making sure fans won’t be bewildered, their sound is prevalent and more refined than ever. The boundaries pushed through various complex structures and polyrhythms shows a band looking to better itself, the vocals are better than ever and theme suits them perfectly. It’s a great start to 2018.
Avatar Country is out now via Century Media Records.
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