The circus is back to tell a tale about stopping the sun from rising in Avatar’s new concept album Feathers & Flesh.
You can see my interview with Avatar at Welcome To Rockville by here = Interview with Avatar at Welcome To Rockville 2016
You can see my photos of Avatar live at Welcome To Rockville by clicking here = Photos of Avatar Live at Welcome To Rockville 2016
Clowns are a universally frightening image. When you pair that with intense growling, haunting lyrics and blistering loud metal, you can create more nightmares than the phrase “Future President Donald Trump. The band behind all of these elements however is now proving that this dark and imaginative imagery paired with new headbanging anthems is some of the best music the current metal world has to offer.
Avatar is another example of Sweden producing some of the best metal in the world. After several successful albums and radio singles, Feathers & Flesh is introduced as the capstone to the band’s discography for one huge reason: Feathers & Flesh is a concept album. And not only is it a full concept with a narrative and characters, but an accompanying book is being sold to help tell the story because the words just won’t fit inside a CD booklet.
It was two years ago we were introduced to Hail The Apocalypse and the bombastic and powerful singles Vultures Fly and the album’s title track. Just like those songs to that album: it was only the tip of the iceberg. With Feathers & Flesh, hearing only one song does not even scratch the surface of an album this layered.
Good metal with a thematic story that is carried by volume and speed and double bass drums and a range in vocals and blistering solos is rare. Having a good story to match it all is even rarer. The best way to explain the plot itself is to go by Johannes Eckerstrom’s own description: “It’s a fable about an owl who goes to war to stop the sun from rising. It’s a tragic story of someone ultimately being set up to fail. She will learn many lessons and encounter many other creatures with ideas of their own. In the end, however, one must ask if something was learned at all.”
In a sense this sounds like it is being built up as a true fairy tale and reminiscent of Aesop’s fables. But when Avatar started releasing songs from Feathers & Flesh, EVERYONE who heard it knew that Avatar were not only becoming unhinged with their potential, but that this story would be loud and ferocious. It became clear that the new album would be as wild and heavy as it unique.
The opening of this album with Regret and House of Eternal Hunt is now the mark of quality I play for people when I want to show them what Avatar is capable of. The double bass drums and guitar riffs carry the heavy hard rhythm and Johannes’ voice is so strong and present that it’s impossible to not feel it in your pulse. Both guitars complement each other and the bridge solo puts this entire song on another planet.
Even when the song dips down in speed to reset the flow and add a dynamic to the story, the song STILL feels just as engaging when the guitars and drumming are at full volume. When people talk about how gorgeous metal can be and nonmetal fans give a funny look, this is the type of song that should be referenced. It’s creative and flows but still drives home just how intense a band can get while not screaming into an open mic and hitting open notes and snares for four minutes straight.
And while listening through Feathers & Flesh, you notice quickly that Avatar is capable of going at different speeds. They can be as melodic as a symphony but still feel hard as steel. This is also helped with the fact that every track feels more like a chapter. The characters and story come in a sequence and you understand the mood of each moment as the album goes on due to how well the music is crafted.
When you hear songs like For The Swarm and House of Eternal Hunt you understand just how heavy Avatar can get, but you also get a ballad like Fiddler’s Farewell that breaks up the intensity. It’s becoming uncommon to hear metal vocalists really take the time to sing, but Avatar are proof that it can be done well in songs like Fiddler’s Farewell and New Land.
The music has different songs to fit the mood, while at the same time all connect to each other. This concept album feels complete from beginning to end. Nothing feels out of place both in the story or the music. And while the story is icing on the cake, it’s the music that Avatar have created in this album that will blow you away.
When you see a scary clown and hear loud screaming: your brain naturally goes into defense mode. When the name Avatar is attached, it breaks the synapses and you instantly love the horrifyingly beautiful music and imagery presented.
Overall, Feathers & Flesh may stand as the band’s opus and proves Avatar should be named with many of the higher regarded metal bands today. It’s the metal album you can play from the start and be happy about getting whiplash from headbanging but also love how relaxing the quite moments are. In 2016, you can’t say a clown can’t make you happy.