May 10, 2016 Avatar Bring Freakshow to NYC 5-4-16 w/ Sunflower Dead
The Swedish band known as Avatar has seen their career attain new heights following the release of 2014’s Hail the Apocalypse. Their first studio album ever to enter the US charts, Hail the Apocalypse took position at number 97 on the US Billboard 200 and opened the eyes of a new fanbase. Amazingly, it was their fifth studio album and over a decade into their their existence, but thankfully a record deal with Entertainment One gave Avatar the platform they rightfully deserved to reach the North American audience. Now, in just a short two year span, Avatar has toured the USA a bunch of times, including headlined shows, had a big single with “Hail the Apocalypse,” and become a buzzword amongst Metal fans. What makes Avatar so appealing is their unique take on Metal; picture melodic Death Metal, Alternative Metal, and a circus-like theme all mixed into one.
Now looking to keep the momentum going, Johannes Eckerström (vocals), Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby (guitars), Tim Öhrström (guitar), Henrik Sandelin (bass), and John Alfredsson (drums) are set to return with a brand new record entitled Feathers and Flesh. A concept record, it will hit stores May 13th and could be one of the most anticipated Rock albums of 2016. Begun to be recorded back in December of 2015, Avatar worked in Castle Studios in Rohrsdorf, Germany, Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland and Spinroad Studios in Lindome, Sweden to record the fourteen track album. First introducing some of the new music back in March, shortly after, the band announced plans for a return across the USA for a new run of shows. Kicking off April 28th at Fort Rock in Florida, the tour continues until May 29th, but on Wednesday May 4th made a special appearance in New York City. Held at the Highline Ballroom, the night would include direct support from Sunflower Dead and local act One Day Waiting. Always an event for any band to visit the Big Apple, Avatar drew in a large crowd of anxious fans eager to learn more about Feathers and Flesh.
Up first was the band One Day Waiting from the Hudson Valley region of New York. Having supported everyone from Texas Hippie Coalition, Tantric, Trapt, and Wednesday 13, among others, One Day Waiting is a band that is building interest quickly. Consisting of Tyler Kray (vocals), Nick Cozzolino (guitar), Connor Koch (bass), and John Zambito (drums), One Day Waiting came out full of energy. Bringing their brand of Alternative Metal to the crowd, they provided a unique performance of original tunes from their 2015 EP, The Key, as well as an impressive take on Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” The band continue to tour through the month of May with gigs lined up with Sons of Texas, Otep, and Whitechapel, so get out and see what they are about.
After a brisk, pleasant performance from One Day Waiting, Long Beach, California’s Sunflower Dead took to the stage to an intimate, yet eager crowd. Come together back in 2012, Sunflower Dead immediately caught many’s attention with their self-titled debut album. Possessing a sound that separates them from other contemporary Hard Rock acts, Sunflower Dead followed up with It’s Time To Get Weird in 2015. An album that is picking up more steam as they hit the touring circuit, their matching with Avatar for dates on this run is a perfect fit visually, as well as sonically. With that in mind, Sunflower Dead came out with uniquely painted faces and get ups ranging from spiked jackets, to industrial boots, and suspenders.
Vocalist/Accordionist Michael Del Pizzo broke ground by creeping to the stage with an eerie accordion solo accompanying a sinister grin from ear-to-ear. As the other members of the band made way to the stage, they broke out into the first song of the night, “More Than a Habit” off their eponymous debut via Bloody Bat Records in 2012. Breaking the ice fairly smoothly and having more than their share of heads bobbing, the band rolled right into a few new tracks from their sophomore debut, It’s Time to Get Weird including the bouncing single “Dance with Death,” the title track, and the haunting, yet beautiful “My Mother Mortis,” which really showcased Vocalist Del Pizzo’s impressive vocal range. The band is rounded out by Lead Guitarist “Jaboo;” whose presence was most felt on the shredding solos during “My Mother Mortis” and “Wasted,” Rhythm Guitarist Jamie Teissere (ex-Droid), Bassist Lats Kearns (ex-Memento), and Drummer Jimmy Schultz, all of which seemed perfectly comfortable and compatible as a tight unit.
Having shared the stage the past few years with bands like Hed P.E., Powerman 5000, and KoRn, it is clear that Sunflower Dead have matured and germinated from burgeoning evil seeds into a formidable California Redwood. Slowing things down a bit, the band rolled into their take on The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” which was well-received by crowd members unfamiliar with the band. Before closing with “Wasted” and their evil seed anthem, the band encouraged fans to come hang out with them at their merchandise stand, which was definitely populated with new fans eager to join the Sunflower Dead garden.
After a brief intermission while the stage was prepared for the Swedish “Freak Show,” the venue filled up rapidly as hordes of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fans began to crowd the floor. As mentioned, Avatar are a hot commodity in the Metal world where there are often many sound alike acts. Rising from the Metal underworld, they have shared the stage with some of the scene’s biggest names including Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold. Having completed a recent North American headline run with Gemini Syndrome and September Mourning, the band has paid more than their fair of dues, and is now ready to up the ante.
With all that being said, as the house lights dimmed at Highline Ballroom, the first piece of evidence to support Avatar’s recent graduation into the bigger leagues came from their new stage setup. Looking more and more like an actual circus, the band’s name was emblazoned behind them with big lights and impressive amps. Alfredsson, Jarlsby, Öhrström, and Sandelin huddled around the kit in their circus-themed suits as the house music was cut and the band raged into the beginning of “House of Eternal Hunt,” off their forthcoming release. As Jarlsby looped the riff of the first verse, Eckerström sauntered onto the stage and bellowed “NEW YORK” before kicking things off. Donning his notorious face-paint and ringmaster attire, Eckerström commanded the crowd, which he had comfortably in the palm of his gloved hand.
Rolling right into the groovy “Hail the Apocalypse” saw Jarlsby, Öhrström, and Sandelin’s heads circling in rhythm with dreads and long hair flying to the double kick of Alfredsson’s framework. No song would have fit better for a blood-pumping anthem to warm up the night than the first track off of 2014’s Hail the Apocalypse. Eckerström not only looks the part of a leader of a demented carnival side-show, but certainly plays into the role in a very effective tongue-in-cheek manner. “It looks like a freak show,” he teased, “It sounds like a freak show,” he taunted, “And it definitely smells like a freak show!” he exclaimed as the crowd cheered in response to the introduction of the single “Smells like a Freakshow,” off the 2012 Black Waltz album. It was really quite impressive to see how confident and in control the band was of the stage and of the fervent New York crowd when Eckerström orchestrated all audience members to jump in unison to the bouncy shuffle of “Vulture’s Fly,” exclaiming, “That’s more like the New York I remember!” Performing more Avatar favorites like “Bloody Angel” and “Let it Burn,” the band also incorporated quite a few newer tunes from the anticipated release like “For the Swarm” and of course the new single “The Eagle Has Landed” before leaving the stage.
Playing for over a solid hour, Avatar put on a spectacular show, even offering up older cuts from their back catalogue prior to signing on with Entertainment One. The road to stardom is never a quick or easy endeavor, but Avatar certainly has been blazing a fiery trail since getting the proper distribution and support here in the USA. The tour will continue for another couple of weeks, so make sure to get out and see Avatar as well as pick up a copy of Feathers and Flesh.