Review by Jeff Maki
What could the Evil Clown and the madmen of Sweden’s Avatar possibly do to follow up their 2016 album, “Feathers & Flesh?” If you’re Avatar, the answer is easy: You form your own country, led by a king whose legend is shrouded in mystery, then open up its borders inviting all to this newfound land of metal. Then the king, “alongside his elite orchestra will put together a sonic remedy, named after the nation it represents: Avatar Country.”
Consisting of 10 songs in tribute to the king, “Avatar Country” grows on you with each listen, eventually leading the listener to apply for own citizenship to this great nation.
As difficult as it is, I will get out of character briefly so I can describe the music of this album withmore detail.
I was skeptical when I first saw the track list—10 songs that all feature “king” in the title?
An “Avatar Country?”
As fantastically bizarre as “Feathers & Flesh” was, is this going to be too much?
Yes, yes, and a resounding fuck no.
After the introduction of “Glory to Our King,” the eight-minute-plus “Legend of the King” sounds like a song from “Feathers & Flesh,” with equal parts mesmerizing instrumentation and guitar work, melodic and harsh vocals, a middle break that brings Iron Maiden to mind, a classy acoustic part and epic finish. Wow!
Then we get a Southern rocker in the vein of Cinderella (yeah, I know, but hey, a king needs a princess, right?), done up Swedish metal style in “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country.” This is a fun, twangy rocker, complete with hand claps that will put a smile on your face. It’s sure to be a live favorite.
“King’s Harvest” is the heaviest song from Avatar since “Hail the Apocalypse” and my favorite of the album. Carrying a similar structure, this one is equally violent with a pummeling guitar riff and rhythm, while vocalist Johannes Eckerström barks the memorable chorus:
“The King Wants You” is more of an alternative rocker, but with a totally bodacious ’80s chorus and catchy riff. When I say ’80s, think avant-garde, think Faith No More. The soloing from Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby (or Tim Öhrström) is worthy of the king.
“The King (then) speaks” … and it’s pretty hilarious. I have no doubt he is a great leader.
“A Statue of a King” was the first taste of “Avatar Country” before unsuspecting fans knew every song was about the king. This one is more bombastic and daring, reminding me once again of “Feathers & Flesh” material with it’s multifaceted vocals and song structure. There’s a part in the middle of the song that is speed metal—I think the king is just showing off at this juncture.
“King After King” is epic in an In Flames/Hammerfall way. This one has the most memorable guitar melodies of the album, while Eckerström transitions back and forth from his signature growling to singing in the choruses.
The album ends with the two-part “Silent Songs from the King.” “Part I – Winter Comes When the King Dreams of Snow” is more of an ambient interlude that leads into “Part II – The King’s Palace,” a Maiden-esque instrumental masterpiece.
The king already has said he welcomes you, so become a “King for a Day” and accept his most generous invitation—he wants you. Opposing kings also are welcomed and shan’t be turned away, including but not limited to “Kings of Fools,” “King Nothings,” “Mountain Kings” and, of course, “Kings of Metal.” I, for one, will now hereby call “Avatar Country” home. This nation ever so graciously provides me with the metal resources I so require.
January 12, 2018, Entertainment One