TVD Live Shots: Avatar at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 1/20

It would be way too easy to slap a “melodic death metal” label on Sweden’s Avatar, but we’d be cheating ourselves.

I mean, it’s not easy to create an entirely new world called “Avatar Country” where the king is referred to as “the savior of mankind” and performs from a golden throne as part of an elaborate stage production. The makeup, the theatrics, and over the top costumes could easily be written off as gimmicky, but I had to see this for myself. Is the band overhyped? Does the production overshadow the music? I’m happy to report that the answer is a resounding no, to both.

The reality is that these guys are tremendous musicians, but possess the even more important trait needed to pull off this over-the-top, twisted circus—fun—something these guys have in abundance. It reminds me of the glory days of MTV, or more specifically Headbangers Ball when videos meant something and the best ones told a story. These guys lean in on the visuals and storytelling, and it works brilliantly in their videos without becoming a caricatures. Musically Avatar is all over the place, it’s controlled chaos, and it’s really fucking weird at times. It’s truly a cornucopia of styles grounded in hard and fast technical metal.

The two standout songs for me were “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country” and “A Statue of the King.” If you are just discovering these guys, then this is a great place to start. Their latest record Avatar Country is their biggest and boldest piece of work, and it’s clear to see that Avatar have their eyes set on broadening their audience and crossing over into commercial territory.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing as they will certainly need to feed the machine to continue to evolve and bring their vision to life. This can be seen as they recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the creation of “Legend Of Avatar Country,” a musical featurette to their latest album. The Kickstarter hit surpassed its goal in 90 minutes. That’s got to be some kind of record.

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