"Avatar Country" By Avatar
Avant-Garde Metal/Groove Metal/Released Jan 12, 2018
Avatar is definitely one of the more unique bands in metal today. Ever since their 2012 album The Black Waltz the band's image and sound has grown ever more experimental and theatrical. Far outgrowing their melodeath roots the band has explored elements of progressive metal and groove metal among other styles. With their previous album Feathers & Flesh the band fittingly went the concept record route and pulled it off with a great level of style and adeptness. The band decided to go with a concept again with their latest effort Avatar Country but it's very different from the majority of their previous releases.
Avatar Country holds a central theme about a nation's king and the citizens devotion to said king. Going along with this concept, all ten songs on the album have the word "king" in the title. While this may seem a bit gimmicky it fits due to the vibe of the record being very light-hearted and at times humorous. This is made most obvious on the spoken word track "The King Speaks" where all that needs to be known is that the phrase "Royal Enema" gets used.
Some longtime fans of the band may be disappointed in the lack of heaviness this album has compared to previous ones in Avatar's discography. However the adept songwriting displayed more than makes up for it along with the focus on being fun and catchy. The lead singles "The King Wants You" and "A Statue Of The King" showcases this focus very well with the former having a groovy guitar riff and catchy vocal melodies that are very fun to sing along to. The latter shows Avatar's penchant for quirky songwriting and is a bit more aggressive than most of the album. It's fast pace and headbanging rhythm is interspersed with sections of theatrical vocals from Johannes Eckerstrom pushed forward by swift double bass and melodic guitar.
The record shows some other unique musical extremes in the likes of "The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country". The song gets literal with the title as country inspired guitar is prominently featured as the core of the track and even slips into smooth jazz in the song's bridge. "King's Harvest" is probably the heaviest song of the album and resembles some of the band's older material with primarily screamed and growled vocals being used and a straightforward heavy guitar groove staying constant through the whole song.
Closing out the album are two instrumental tracks. The first of which is very sparse with a blend of acoustics and electronics used and the second being much heavier and driving. It could be imagined as a heavy metal royal march for the album's king and makes for a fitting album closer. With these two instrumentals, the spoken word track, and the royal anthem "Glory To Our King" introducing the record, there's really only six conventional songs that make up the meat of the album. While the non-conventional tracks do add a lot to the album's theme the EP length of traditional songs to be found may leave listeners wanting more. Especially considering the high quality of the main songs.
Avatar Country is quite the unique entry into Avatar's discography. It's probably the most fun and catchy record the band has released to date but it's lack of traditional songs may leave some fans feeling the album is too short despite it's 43 minute length. This does however encourage listeners to enjoy the album as an entire work rather than cherry picking specific songs for a playlist. Regardless, Avatar's well of creativity looks far from running dry. And with the more accessible sound of this album compared to the band's other works it could entice newcomers to the group to give the band a listen.