I haven’t been to the circus in a VERY long time. So, I caught up with Avatar in Phoenix at Joe’s Grotto. It looked like a freak show, it sounded like a freak show…it even smelllllllled…..like a freak show.
Avatar is a highly theatrical melo-death metal band from Gothenberg, Sweden. Making their way around the States to show off their latest outstanding Feathers & Flesh album, Phoenix was their first introduction to the American Southwest. Phoenicians know good music when they hear it, and the evening with Avatar was no exception. With a venue packed to the gills, the band put on a spectacular show, debuting their latest singles – Night Never Ending, The Eagle Has Landed, and For The Swarm – in a performance that transported fans into a dark carnival realm straight out of a Ray Bradbury fantasy freak show novel.
The show opens with a circus cage draped in big top colors, a big blast of confetti, and the ride is a carousel of madness from the first note to the last breath. Matching Olde World circus costumery, complete with twisted kabuki clown make-up and freak eyes, fog, lightening strobes, Avatar presents a stunning visual experience in addition to their sonic genius. Sprinkled with subtle Scandanavian cultural overtones, Avatar offers a unique, refreshing musical alternative in a daily barrage of “sounds like”. Avatar “sounds like” Avatar, and that’s pretty much it. Even though their music isn’t over the top or overly ornate with grandiose technicality, there is no shortage of instrumental mastery. It is a fine balance of melodic old school twin axe attack and modern active thrash – the perfect marriage of classic metal the older fan can appreciate while the kids bounce to the heavy bass. Singer Johannes Eckerström emcees the show, elegantly ringmastering the polite melodic vocals before transforming into a figure of roaring, dark metal vox with his signature wild eyes and psychotic smile, pulling the audience into a twisted mirror maze of sight and sound. Eckerström’s villainesque banter vaguely channels that of everyone’s favorite Dark Knight bad guy, completing the overall circus creep show experience. Despite their appearance and antics, Avatar was quite a personable and engaging band, treating fans like family…maybe more like the Addams Family, but family just the same. Move over Ringling…there’s a new Greatest Show on Earth.