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A beginners guide to … Avatar

Since their inception in the early 2000s, Sweden’s Avatar have released 9 full length records, and created a whole world to accompany each. This might seem like an intimidating volume of lore for those keen to get in on the fun, but rest assured, there’s never a bad time to join this wild rumpus.

It’s an open invite that’s hard to resist. Despite never physically arriving in Australia, many fans found themselves drawn to their darkness and mystery – enough to fuel multiple petitions to get the band within our borders. It isn’t purely the unknown that drives audiences to their wears, even those who have seen the band side-of-stage, such as Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, find themselves somewhat aggressively flying the flag.

Progressive, industrial, theatrical – There’s been a lot of attempts to describe Avatar’s particular brand of metal, and oddly enough, none of them are wrong, it’s somewhat reductive to try and describe Avatar by what’s already been. ‘Modern’ and ‘interesting’ are more appropriate descriptions or perhaps ‘high concept’.

Having succeeded in their mission to draw the gaze of Avatar, Australian fans are now set to experience this modern, interesting and high concept extravaganza live for the first time, and far be it from us to gate keep.

Use this helpful guide on your journey to Avatar fandom, and god speed.

My Shining Star – Thoughts Of No Tomorrow (2006)

Context is an important thing and while Avatar are a band who have always been more concerned with what they’re doing than what they’ve done, the beginning is always a good place to start. Our list starts far from the shock and awe that would come, with My Shining Star, one of the brightest sparks from their 2006 debut album Thoughts Of No Tomorrow.

A groove infested headbanging hallmark, My Shining Star rains on you with thick, heavy downpours of riffage and beats. There’s clearly a talented, authentic troupe of musicians beneath the on-stage costumes and theatrics that have become synonymous with Avatar, and My Shining Star is irrefutable evidence of that. The song is of its age, and holds its own against others of the era including the grit of Soilwork and the panache of In Flames.

It’s aged wonderfully, despite the ebb and flow of trends. While we wouldn’t be surprised if it made its way to the Australian tour setlist, we can forgive them for exploring other, less erstwhile outings.

Torn Apart – Black Waltz (2012)

So it’s with all the grace of a Marvel film that we teleport 6 years into the future, to 2012 when Avatar released their fourth record Black Waltz, which catapulted to #25 on the Swedish album charts upon its release, showcasing just how many heads they’d turned since the debut. It wasn’t just the acclaim that made Black Waltz a moment for Avatar, but it was also when frontman Johannes Eckerström first donned the fact paint that would come to identify the band today.

A lot of emphasis was put on the title track, which was far enough, but for this exercise I draw your attention to the creepy, unsettling and deeply groovy Torn Apart. This song is one of the key reasons why ‘progressive’ is so often used to describe Avatar as it highlights a true exploration of their hard rock sensibilities, returning to base camp with some ideas that really weren’t anywhere else. It expands and contracts, it’s crushing but thoughtful.

Several years in the game and four albums deep, this Avatar was only just getting started.

Bloody Angel – Hail the Apocalypse (2013)

Avatar wasted no time, churning out album #5 the following year in 2013 and with Hail The Apocalypse, we really see the band let the wild horses run. It’s also noteworthy as the first Avatar record to breach the US Billboard charts at #97, having laid waste to the US rock charts at #6. The album consisted of 12 tracks, including a Nirvana cover, and nestled in the gooey centre was Bloody Angel.

Bloody Angel sees Avatar fully embrace their cinematic sensibilities, with the song delicately escalating for more than a minute before all hell breaks loose. Bloody Angel, much like the rest of its brothers and sisters on the album, was dramatic and sensational – Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige and repeat. A true rock opera as epic as A Little Piece Of Heaven by Avenged Sevenfold was covered by Panic! At The Disco, and then that version was covered by Avenged.

We’ve gone full Avatar mode now, and there’s no knowing where we’re rowing.

Colossus – Hunter Gatherer (2020)

Hunter Gatherer was preceded by 2018’s Flesh & Feathers and 2018’s Avatar Country and sees the band truly master the skill of world building. Hunter Gatherer was decidedly a reaction to what came before it, meaning fans had to explore Avatar to truly get it. Avatar Country became Avatar World, and plenty of people didn’t want to leave.

Colossus was a key focal point of the album, which was largely overlooked by the charts but quickly found love with the fans. Grim, cold and detached, Colossus is everything the album was distilled into a track, replete with a dystopian music video. Hunter Gatherer asked a lot of questions, with ‘Silence in the Age of Apes’ supposedly based on Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, and so as far as we’ve now come from Thoughts Of No Tomorrow, it was clear with album #8 was a whole new dawn for Avatar.

The Dirt I’m Buried In – Dance With The Devil (2023)

Which brings us to hear any now, and Avatar’s latest album Dance With The Devil which dials up the riffs, the groove, the cinematics and the production value all the way to 11. Landing at #7 in the US rock charts, it was also a stern reminder of Avatar’s staying power.

Writer’s choice goes to The Dirt I’m Buried In, a stadium banger in waiting. With a looping lasso guitar riff and a vocal hook that sinks deep, the song pulls you in from all angles and won’t let up. Without sacrificing any of the aforementioned creative determination, Avatar managed to piece together a lead single that is as accessible as it is fun. Indeed given the way in which The Dirt I’m Buried In goes off live, there are whole levels that Australian fans are yet to experience.