By Scott Raymer
Swedish Heavy Metal rockers Avatar made a stop on September 5th at the Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, Florida. The band is currently on a 26 city tour of North America as an opening act for Japanese Metal band, Baby Metal, as well as headlining some shows of its own. On this night Avatar was the headliner with Like Machines and ‘68 as the opening acts. The tour began on September 4th in Orlando and ends on October 4th in San Francisco.
Avatar was formed in 2001 in Gothenburg, Sweden by Guitarist Jonas Jarlsby and Drummer John Alfredsson. Lead Vocalist, Johannes Eckerström, joined the band one year later in 2002 followed by Bass Guitarist, Henrik Sandelin, in 2003. Guitarist Tim Öhrström was added in 2011. The band has released seven studio albums with their latest being “Avatar Country” which was released in January 2018.
The music hall was filled with loyal fans ranging from small children accompanied by their parents to upper middle-aged adults. The show opened with the band performing their song Hail to the Apocalypse with them launching immediately into their characteristic head bobbing with long hair moving from side to side in a circular motion looking like the propellers of a plane preparing for takeoff. The stages were blinding, flashing in all directions. Eckerström approached the front of the stage placing his foot on top of a speaker, leaning his towering 6’4” frame in towards the crowd, dressed in his ringmaster attire, leading his freak show companions. He was in a full screaming low guttural death growl. The crowd was stirred into a frenzied mode with fans pushed up against the barrier bobbing their heads in unison with the band.
The second song of the night was Statue of the King. Eckerström seamlessly transitioned from his death growl into a melodic operatic tone showcasing the dynamic range of his voice. The show continued for the next one and a half hours with the band performing songs from their albums Avatar Country, Feathers and Flesh, Hail the Apocalypse, and Black Waltz.
Eckerström constantly interacted with the crowd, talking to them throughout the show and at one point leading them in back and forth chants of “Hey! Hey!”. He is a dynamic multi-talented performer that could just as easily be starring in musicals on Broadway rather than being the lead vocalist of a metal band. However, there is more to Avatar than just Eckerström. The rest of the band all contribute to make the band what it is, one big machine with each member providing a needed function to make it operate. Alfredsson and Sandelin deliver the pounding rhythms and Jarlsby and Öhrström contribute a wide range of galloping and shredding guitar licks and riffs. Taking one member out would throw the whole machine out of balance.
An Avatar show is not your typical concert, but rather a theatrical odyssey filled with visual and auditory stimuli pulling the eyes in all directions and resulting in sensory overload. I am not a hardcore metal fan. My expectation for the show was to take some photos of an interesting looking band and write a small review. However, it’s impossible to give the band and their performance due justice in just a few paragraphs. All I can say is I walked through the door at the beginning of night not knowing much about of the band and walking out of the door at the end of the night being one of their newest fans.