Avatar – Hunter Gatherer
Released: August 7th, 2020
Avatar Line up:
Johannes Eckerström | Vocals
Jonas Jarlsby | Guitar
Tim Öhrström | Guitar
Henrik Sandelin | Bass
John Alfredsson | Drums
In the beginning, there was metal…
In music, as in life it’s hard to come up with something new, original and fresh. We’ve seen theatrical stage shows, over-the-top costumes with lashings of makeup since the likes of Alice Cooper hit the stage back in the early 70’s. But few have managed to pull it off without looking like pretenders. Avatar fit squarely in with those very few. The Swedish avant-garde rockers have been breaking boundaries and genres since 2006 with their debut Thoughts of No Tomorrow. The bands look is a madcap mix of Alice Cooper meets The Joker with murderous intent and tongue firmly in cheek. They’re not afraid to experiment delivering a diverse sound not falling under a single genre. And now in this cursed year of 2020 the Gothenburg natives are continuing along the path of surprising fans with their latest offering Hunter Gatherer.
As previously mentioned 2020 is a cursed year so sure, we can all try and cheer each other up with songs about puppies, kittens and rainbows but once the sunshine has disappeared the cold hard reality is still here. A better idea is to face the darkness, embrace it and accept the world for what it is. Avatar almost certainly didn’t have a global pandemic in mind when they wrote this album. But without getting too bleak if you look around there’s always some fucked up shit going down, and it often doesn’t make the seven O’clock news bulletin. The band have tapped into this and delivered a dark, angry cynical look at humanity.
Their trademark tongue-in-cheek attitude mixed with dark imagery has gone on a decidedly darker path this time around. The album kicks off with the crushingly heavy opener ‘Silence in the Age of Apes’. Known for his diverse vocal stylings this time front-man Johannes Eckerström keeps it unclean and brutal. There are no smooth harmonies as the vocalist delivers his familiar guttural growls with metalcore-esque screams. Lyrically it’s a fusion of digital imagery and Asgardian lore as we blindly follow technology with no thought for the consequences. Its riff fucking city as Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström chug out some deviously evil grooves, albeit at breakneck speed. The albums frenetic pace is eased back with the second track and latest single ‘Colossus’. It’s a percussion heavy musical stomp marching on a relentless path. Each note crashes down like the boot of a giant destructive robot crushing humanity. This fist pumping, horns in the air anthem is sure to become a crown favourite when played live. Heaving masses of sweating metalheads getting lost in Henrik Sandelin’s distorted heavy bass – bring on the festivals!
‘God of Sick Dreams’ brings up the second single and video released and this maybe my favourite track. There’s a certain power metal bent to it, in fact if it wasn’t for Eckerström’s disrupting guttural screams it could be. The anthemic chorus is pure Helloween, and if I didn’t know any better I could have sworn its Andy Deris hitting those high notes, such is Eckerström’s range and versatility. But it’s not all rousing choruses and sing-a-long friendly anthems. The eighth track Gun strips it all back, gone are the growling vocals, thundering drums, machinegun bass and soaring guitars. What we’re left with is a gentle piano and suitably restrained vocals. For a little over four minutes you’re swept away by the haunting melody and vocals delivered with angst and passion.
The sixth cut ‘Child’ is another absolute belter. Avatar’s full musical diversity is on display here, marching band cadence mixed with soul crushingly heavy breakdowns. Lyrically it’s as dark as any track on the album, a nightmarish scenario punctuated by John Alfredsson’s insane drumming. His sense of timing is flawless switching effortlessly between swing groove and hyper blast beats.
Hunter Gatherer is an album of hits and very few misses. The band have woven cynical, intricate and disturbing storylines throughout. It’s as much a cry for help as it is a damning indictment on the state of the world, all set to a genre defying soundtrack. It’s hard and heavy dripping with emotion and anguish, and quite possibly the best music Avatar have ever released.
Avatar – Hunter Gatherer track listing:
1. Silence in the Age of Apes
3. A Secret Door
4. God of Sick Dreams
5. Scream Until You Wake
9. When All But Force Has Failed
Hunter Gatherer is out now via Century Media
Review by Gareth Williams (@notgareth)