Who The F**k are Avatar, and Why Should You Care?
No, not the crappy overblown James Cameron movie, Avatar the Swedish band. For those who came in late, let me introduce you to one of the most innovative and downright entertaining bands on the planet.
Created from a melting pot of influences all the way back in 2001, Avatar threw out a couple of releases, demos, EPs that sort of thing before dropping the debut album Thoughts of No Tomorrow in 2006. Immediately the band drew attention, with the album breaking into the Top 50 in their native Sweden. Not a bad effort considering it is soul-crushingly heavy with Johannes Eckerström’s vocals never straying far from the guttural screams he does so well. The Avatar of today and the band they started out as are almost two different beasts. But eight full-length albums will do that. The band evolved over time from a serious heavy band to genuine avant-garde genre-defying entertainers. The heaviness is still there, but there’s so much depth to this band.
With each album the sound progressed, each one was quintessentially Avatar but with a twist. The band never shy away from experimentation. When Frank Zappa, the godfather of avant-garde dropped Freak Out! in 1966 all the rules were thrown out. The likes of Zappa and The Mothers of Invention amongst others showed us the rules don’t apply. Everything is open to interpretation and experimentation; Avatar continues that tradition. The band walk so many fine lines, but they somehow find balance.
Their image is completely over the top from vocalist Johannes Eckerström’s Joker/Clown makeup to the red and black matching costumes. But somehow they manage to avoid self-parody. Part of this is to do with the fact they threw out the rule book. It’s impossible to pin someone down if you literally don’t know what they’re going to do next. Case in point, their 6th and 7th albums Feathers & Flesh and Avatar Country are both concept albums – seriously who does that?! Most bands will attempt one in their whole careers with varying degrees of success.
It takes a serious set of you-know-what to drop back-to-back concept albums, but as Eckerström told our very own Ebony Story in our 2020 interview on the release of Hunter Gatherer “music shouldn’t ever be easy”. I gave the album a whopping 9 ½ out of 10, you can check that out HERE. So pushing the envelope has paid absolute dividends for the band, but it’s not all just about doing things differently. They are a group of seriously good musicians. You can’t pull off the crazy shit if you don’t have the chops.
There’s a reason they call Tim Öhrström “The Guitar Wizard.” Well he does look like a wizard but the Ibanez-wielding magician is one of rock’s finest guitarists, teamed up with another Ibanez-playing maniac in Jonas Jarlsby the two swap riffs and solos with the best of them. Think Judas Priest’s Downing and Tipton or Murray and Smith of Iron Maiden and you get the idea. It’s a true twin-guitar attack. But what is a band without a solid rhythm section? Avatar have that covered. Enter Henrik Sandelin whose dirty bass groove is a staple of the band’s sound. Teamed up with one of rock’s most versatile drummers in John Alfredsson and you have another formidable pairing.
This melting pot of talent isn’t just restricted to music. Jump on to YouTube and you’ll find some of the most fun creative and downright bonkers music videos out there. Be warned you will go down a rabbit hole of sight and sound and may not emerge for days or even weeks. But wait there’s more! This troupe are really at their best when playing live. They’re madcap, emotional and above all thoroughly entertaining. This may be a cliché, but they are the total package. Not content with just standing on stage, playing live for fans, maybe letting off a bit of pyro and throwing in a clever light show they embrace the vaudeville-style show pioneered in rock music by the likes of Alice Cooper. Frontman Eckerström struts, marches, high kicks and bounces across the stage like an insane clown backed up by his equally mad posse. It’s a sight to behold.
So that is just a tiny taste of what Avatar are all about. There is of course so much more, if this is the first time hearing about them, you’re in for quite a ride. Dig down into their back catalogue, embrace the madness and get ready for the new album Dance Devil Dance hitting shelves and streaming services this Friday, Feb 17th.
Written by Gareth Williams
Think you got what it takes to be a member of the band? Take our quiz and learn a thing or two about Avatar in the process – right here!
Follow Avatar on Facebook | Instagram | Spotify
Pre-Order Dance Devil Dance here
Avatar – Dance Devil Dance tracklisting
1. Dance Devil Dance
2. Chimp Mosh Pit
3. Valley Of Disease
4. On The Beach
5. Do You Feel In Control
6. Gotta Wanna Riot
7. The Dirt I’m Buried In
8. Clouds Dipped In Chrome
9. Hazmat Suit
11. Violence No Matter What (Duet w/ Lzzy Hale)
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