June 10, 2014 Avatar – Hail The Apocalypse (Album review)
Swedish melodic death metal band Avatar is quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. these days. The band was formed by drummer John Alfredsson and vocalist Johannes Eckerström in 2000, which happened to be around the same time the extreme sub genre of heavy metal started becoming popular in the states. The band went through only one band member change through the two demos, two EP’s and five studio albums they have released over the last fourteen years. Avatar has a fantastically dark and theatrical stage presence that is nothing short of captivating. This along with their amazing diversity, albeit being a death metal band, has landed them many tours to date including Five Finger Death Punch/Avenged Sevenfold and Lacuna Coil/Sevendust. The band ended their second tour on U.S. soil with Pop Evil where they celebrated their release of the band’s newest album under One Music titled Hail The Apocalypse. Reaching #6 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums and releasing songs such as title track “Hail The Apocalypse” and “Bloody Angel”, the album is nothing short of daring and captivating.
Opening this circus of brilliant madness is the title track, “Hail The Apocalypse”. Swedish melodic death metal takes a different approach to metal, combining post-hardcore aggression and gruff vocals of black metal along with melodic and technically skillful guitar. This track bleeds those techniques right away. Once the bass and drums come into play, the listeners’ attention is there and ready for the guttural vocals to start. Eckerström demands the listeners full attention with his hardcore vocals, and rightfully so. Continuing the twisted sideshow is “What I Don’t Know”. The music itself is a bit on the playful side on this track; as if almost to make the listener feel they may be attending a dark circus of sorts. The chorus turns to the melodic side for this track, though the lyrical content for this song is kept fairly simple, sometimes you just have to do that; especially if you have a lot of energy elsewhere in the track. Next up is “Death Of Sound”. The drums are pretty primal on this track which also has a completely notable guitar solo and also shows some diversity to Eckerström’s vocals peaking in.
“Vulture’s Fly” is definitely a catchy, fist-pumping piece as they “welcome you to their wasteland”. If you have had the pleasure of seeing this theatrical band live, it is songs like this where you can just pinpoint all the parts in the song where everyone on stage would be head banging with timely precision while rocking out with equally synchronous timing. The whole atmosphere of the track is a bit on the tastefully primitive side with the riffs coming from guitars and bass, married together with a more melodic Eckerström and haunting back vocals. Following that we have the second radio single for the album, “Bloody Angel”. This track is confidently one of the most memorable on the album. It is brought in by a beautiful string of guitar melodies and then fades out for a split second before being joined by bass and drums pounding through your eardrums like proper metal should. When listening to melodic death metal specifically, it is important to keep in mind that the lyrical content is going to be a little different. It is going to be twisted, beautifully alluring, and dark all at the same time. This track is extremely mesmerizing due to the vastly diverse manipulation of the vocals throughout, along with the music perfectly accompanying the journey. Eckerström has an indefectible scream that is nothing short of hair-raising and is quite infectious in this song. By this point in the album it is no secret that album producer Tobias Lindell has done an impeccable job on this piece of mind shattering art.
The track that follows is called “Murderer”. It paints a bit of a disturbing picture that the listener just cannot help but sing along with. Be prepared to not be prepared for what to expect from this song with the intensity build up and where it takes you; it is easily a repeatable song. The album then brings you “Tsar Bomba” and “Puppet Show” before releasing an assault of riffs and beats that will have you wanting to find a mosh pit somewhere even if you never took part in one in your life; it is that good. Then, there was Nirvana. This undeniably talented Swedish metal band brought to life sacred Nirvana song “Something In The Way”. This track will stop you right in your tracks if you are not expecting it. The music in the song keeps its originality while taking on a darker presence. The vocals on the track are almost hypnotizing as the listener is still in shock at the ballsy attempt of a Swedish metal band to take on such a song. The final result is a completely acceptable remake of the song, which for the record is not easy to pull off. The album closes with the final track titled “Tower”. It is a slow but well-paced song without screaming, but that is actually a great way to wind down the listener and close out the album.
To say the least, Avatar has to easily be one of the most talented metal bands there is right now. Many fans immediately want to see them again right after leaving a show. Nothing short of dark, twisted and wickedly contagious, this band should be headlining their own tours in no time. Bringing melodic death metal to the U.S. will hopefully inspire other metal bands to think outside the box a little more. This band, from their performance to the lyrics and music, is what fans crave. CrypticRock gives Hail The Apocalypse 5 out of 5 stars.