Before my spiritual awakening in 2014 with Hail the Apocalypse I had never heard AVATAR, but once I did I was an instant fan. One of the biggest things that has always impressed me with them is the uniqueness of their sound, especially guitar-wise. And up till now my only taste of them in concert was a 20-minute set at last year’s Rock Allegiance, which was basically a tease, good as they were. So when the chance came to catch them doing a headlining set at The Chameleon Club on an off night from that other tour they’re on I was in the car quick as you please.
Arriving at the venue with my friend Bobby we were subjected to some awful, and I do mean AWFUL band called GUN METAL GRAY for an hour or so, during which they played four covers, and badly I might add. It couldn’t end fast enough. Luckily they were the only wretchedness we’d have to sit through because AVATAR was set to go on at 8:30, thank the Gods. When the time came, they hit with opener “Hail the Apocalypse”, still my favorite in their catalog, and the perfect way to start us off. Johannes Eckerström is rapidly becoming one of my favorite frontmen in metal. His command of the stage, and evil, evil, leering, maniacal faces are the kinds of things that keep me riveted all show long.
And as expected, the guitars of Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström lit up the room like a Christmas Tree on each and every track. From new record Feathers & Flesh came “For the Swarm” and then 2012’s The Black Waltz made the first of several appearances with “Torn Apart” another one I friggin’ love. That groove is downright sexy, as was evidenced by the way some of the dirty girls in attendance were swinging and swaying. Also from the new disc was a version of “New Land” that sounded even heavier than the studio version, “The Eagle Has Landed” (drawing some of the loudest cheers of the night with the “Hey! Hey! Hey!” parts), and “When the Snow Lies Red”. In amongst them was “Bloody Angel” from Hail the Apocalypse. This band knows how to put together a setlist, that’s for sure!
A double shot from The Black Waltz was up next in “Paint Me Red” (another favorite) and the title track before it was time for another new one in “Black Waters.” If for some reason you haven’t bought Feathers & Flesh yet then hit yourself over the head with the nearest blunt interest. Maybe that will fix whatever the hell’s wrong with you. Anyway, this one moves with the calm ease of the killer in a slasher film, taking his time, because he knows you’re his. It’s only a matter of time. “Vultures Fly” and “Murderer” followed, the chorus on the latter particularly ripping in this live setting.
More Black Waltz goodness came in the form of “Let It Burn” which is one of their best songs live and perennial crowd favorite “Smells Like a Freakshow.” The faithful were on their feet and screaming all night long, but this one really put them over the edge. The band fed off that energy and put everything into making this the showstopper of the evening and it was glorious. Bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson, locked in a groove pocket all night long, really carried this tune and provided an extra push ensuring no one would leave unsatisfied.
The dark and mysterious “Tower” served as the closer for the evening, and when it was over the guys took their bows individually, then collectively, almost Broadway-style. This was apropos because an AVATAR concert is more than just that; it is a full-on production with each member a vital cog in the machine. And I for one am glad I got to experience that machine in person. This band is every bit as good live as they are on tape, and sometimes even better. I cannot stress enough how completely awesome and amazing AVATAR is live. If they’re in your city, do what you have to do, get a ticket, and GO!!
LIVE IMAGES: KATE DREXEL PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO