Genre: Prog/Groove Metal
January, and typically most of the first quarter of the year, tends to be a bit light when it comes to metal releases. Last year brought a welcome surprise with Gone is Gone’s Echolocation, but typically quality releases are few and far between until Spring hits. Avatar’s Avatar Country sadly doesn’t reverse this trend, throwing endless genres and gimmicks at the wall hoping that whatever stuck would become a good album, but ultimately leaving the listener with a forgettable, if not confusing experience.
This is apparently the second straight concept album from this Swedish group. While I didn’t dig super deep into the lyrics, I’m pretty sure the concept has something to do with a King (since, you know, every song on the album save for one has the word “King” in it). There’s plenty of folksy, playful music that they use in some tracks to add to the royal aesthetic, but no matter what genres the band throws your way, none of them resonate. And believe me, there will be plenty of genres. Between folk, hard rock, country, electronica, symphonic metal, and a whole smorgasbord of others, Avatar Country never sticks with a sounds long enough for the record to gain any momentum. I mean, Moonspell managed to craft one of the most incredible concept records of 2016 with 1755, and the entire album is in Portuguese. I didn’t understand a single word on that record, and it still managed to craft an infinitely more vivid and realistic world than the one on Avatar Country.
The issues with this album are many, and no member of the band comes out unscathed on this journey. The vocalist tries to channel his inner Freddie Mercury routinely on the record, but falls well short, sounding more like a dollar store Brendon Urie (dude from Panic! At the Disco, you jabroni). Even some of his growls are massively misplaced, most notably on…to be honest I forget which track, because they all have fucking King in the title. Hold on, let me give this a quick listen…and…that’s right, “King After King”. On the most subdued, laid back track on the record, vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom lays down what can only be described as spoken-word growls, fitting neither the song nor the record as a whole.
Musically, the album has a few interesting tracks (“King’s Harvest” is a killer song), but the musicianship doesn’t live up to the theatrical ambitions of the albums. Most of the guitar riffs are too basic, and the drums can only be described as Ulrich-ian. For a band that appears to rely so much on theatrics and showmanship, the last thing your record should be is boring. But that’s where Avatar find themselves on this whimpering start to the 2018 metal release calendar.