Avatar – Avatar Country (eOne)Wednesday, 20th December 2017
Say what you will about Avatar and their direction, but they’ve never been a band to sit still. One can go back all the way in time to their more textbook-esque take on Gothenburg melodic death metal in their beginnings and observe how they have changed over the years (even if there were a few more stagnant periods). Point is, that they have evolved into a more unique entity (especially considering their live shows) and Avatar Country presents another stage in the band’s perpetual metamorphosis.
The second concept album in a row from the band, Avatar Country is a tale of the King of said lands. It’s also a particularly frustrating album to listen to at times. When it works, it’s fantastic and compelling material. The groove and theatrical combination on tracks like “King’s Harvest” and “The King Wants You” are supremely catchy and can stand with some of the best work the band has done – strong melodies and engaging vocal work (both harsh and clean) of the highest order. Even the rocking and AC/DC-esque “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country” may be a different take on the band’s formula, but an undeniably fun track to listen to. They can create a theatrical feel, which can lend itself well to crafting a conceptual vision.
But the album stumbles as a front to back listen. The intro track sets the stage but never really lasts long enough to become interesting, and oddly, the album ends with two instrumental tracks. The first of the two seems more like a mood-setter that simply drags on far too long. Closer “The King’s Palace” fares better, but it just seems like too much tossed on the end to add length. The biggest offender is that of “The King Speaks,” a spoken word track that delivers a few laughs the first time you listen, but never to the point where you feel the need to hear it again. So out of a 43-ish minute album, there’s close to 13-minutes of filler.
Given the strength of previous 70-minute concept album Feathers & Flesh, it feels like Avatar Country has a tad less substance. When Avatar are on, it’s some of their best work to date. But unfortunately, it’s bogged down by way too much filler material that keeps it from reaching its full potential.