Dance Devil Dance: The Album to Finally Catapult Avatar to the Top?

The theatrical Swedish metal band Avatar have had a phenomenal studio output over the last decade or so and don’t get nearly enough praise or listeners for it. They are catchy, fun and tremendously avant-guarde, writing whatever style they want, regardless of the norm. It made me fall in love with them after seeing them live years ago, and have been a fan since. Even their last album, 2020s much ignored Hunter Gatherer, was a banger, with me giving it 8.5/10 when I reviewed it. So, how will this release live up to that? Let’s dive in and find out!

The album opens on its title track, and it’s a really interesting way to kick things off. Diving straight in with a clean guitar riff that reminds me heavily of ‘Welcome to Avatar Country’, it quickly heavies up with a huge sound and Johannes’ iconic harsh vocals. His vocal range never ceases to amaze me as he so effortlessly transitions between low growls and glam-like high notes. The chorus is pretty catchy too, feeling both dark but still big and arena-filling.

We get an awesome bluesy bridge after the second chorus, a combination between Deep Purple and the odd time in Metallica’s early work when they used to break it down. The bass is focused on really heavily here, which of course I love, and it was a real highlight of the track. Then we head into a final chorus to finish us off. A fantastic way to open an album, especially when building on what they left us with with Hunter Gatherer.

‘Chimp Mosh Pit’ opens on a great riff on the heavier side of things, but the clean vocals for the verse quickly lighten things back up. The quick delivery was fun, and made it all pretty sing-alongy. There’s a nice breakdown of sorts tucked in the middle, before an almost nu-meral riff and some awesome slide and lead guitar lines lead into a final verse and chorus. The guitar solo was the highlight of the track for me, it was a lot of fun and something different and interesting that we typically don’t hear in metal, which I think Avatar are always trying to do.

Next up is another single, ‘Valley of Disease’. A fast, heavy riff sets the tone right out of the gate, and the harsh vocals continue the same energy. The gang vocals for the pre sounds great and builds on the simple nature of the track well leading to the chorus. Speaking of which, the vocals clean up for a pretty radio-friendly sound, a rather standard format for metalcore(?). It’s still good though, and definitely another ear-worm of a chorus. The bridge riff coming out of the second chorus was cool, as was the electronic part in the drop-down after. It almost made it feel like an industrial track for a moment. And it makes the heaviness even more impactful as it explodes back in. Overall, a great track!

The same formula is followed by ‘On the Beach’ and ‘Clouds Dipped in Chrome’. The chorus of the former is pretty jazzy though, making it standout against the rest at least a bit. The guitarists, Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, are so massively underappreciated in the wider metal world, but they have such a unique, distinguishable sound and style, and can make almost anything fit with pretty heavy metal. It’s impressive! Given that we also have a blistering solo in ‘On the Beach’ too is just a testament to their talent. Gushing over the guitars aside, this is one of my favourite tracks on the album, and makes our playlist!

Oh, meanwhile the latter track is good, heavier track, and there’s a fun vocal part for the bridge that sounded like it had some early Corey Taylor in there. However, not much about the track actually stood out to me, unfortunately.

The heavy, balls-to-the-wall riffing of ‘Do You Feel In Control?’ was a lot of fun. So too was the call and response nature of the verse, the gang vocals answering Johannes’ lines in an awesome contrast. Johannes himself puts out one of his best vocal performances to date on this track too, using his full rang impressively well. The chaotic outro is also awesome and reflects the band perfectly. From more awesome lead guitar work to lightening fast drumming and the vocals kicking it off perfectly, it’s an amazing album.

‘Gotta Wanna Riot’ caught me off guard as Avatar hadn’t gotten weird (for them) on this album yet. I loved it. From the wacky, almost cartoon-like vocal harmony to open it up to the general line delivery, Johannes’ inner showman comes out fully here, and it’s honestly when I enjoy him the most. The riff is also fantastic, reminding me of a glam or even NWOCR style than anything metal. It’s possibly the best chorus on the album too, and up there with one of their best overall. If there is any track that you should check out that fully showcases what Avatar are about, it’s this one. Playlisted!

Single ‘The Dirt I’m Buried In’ is finally a slower track, a chance to breath quick. It almost has an indie vibe to it, being stripped back and simple. Actually, the closest band that springs to mind surprisingly is Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even when it gets a bit heavier for the choruses, the vocal melodies and harmonies still scream RHCP to me. It’s the closest thing we have to a ballad on the album and it’s massively enjoyable. It’s the perfect change of pace, and makes our playlist!

‘Hazmat Suit’ opens on the catchy chorus before an almost punky pace takes over for the verse. The pace of the drums keeps up through the chorus and rest of the track too, making it sound like Avatar infused with Motörhead. It was another fun track and one I’ll be listening to a lot going forward.

‘Train’ brings back the weird vibes, hitting us with less than three seconds of djent before immediately dropping down to slow jazz. This band can do whatever the fuck they like and I’m here for it. Give me all the weird, Avatar! The jazzy verses are awesome, especially with Johannes’s low, theatrical vocals. Then the chorus (I guess?) kicks in and it’s straight death metal. I love it. The contrast between the two parts is excellent, especially since they are practically smash-cut together. This was an awesome, short little chaotic song, and was a lot of fun.

Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale kinda steals the show on album closer, ‘Liolence No Matter What’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a duet with Johannes and both play their parts perfectly. But hearing Lzzy mirror Johannes, be it high notes or screams, was something special. It’s the heaviest I’ve ever heard Lzzy go and I have to hear her scream more on Halestorm’s next album! The instrumentation is pretty simple for the most part, clearly putting focus on vocals front and center. However, there’s a pretty fun, odd guitar solo in the middle, and the main riff is decent enough! It’s an odd choice to close out the album with, but is a good song in its own right!

Overall: I enjoyed this album. I think much like their last two, it will take a few more listens to really appreciate it and it’ll definitely be a grower. There are some truly stand-out, amazing tracks on here, even if it did feel like a bit of a slow starter. I’ll be listening to it a lot over the coming months and it’ll probably go up by the end of the year, but for now I’m giving it…

The Score: 8.5/10