Avatar – Hail the Apocalypse (eOne Music)

Sunday, 25th May 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

A sturdy, well-adjusted band (we think) of the theatrical variety, Sweden’s Avatar routinely put themselves in harm’s way by wanting to be linked up with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and System of a Down. It goes without saying where this trio stands in the court of underground metal opinion, so for a band with legitimate metal sounds and a sort of sideways-carnival image, it’s an odd move. The band would have an incrementally better chance if they ditched the commercial/nu metal pipedream and focused on the “real” metal crowd, who shouldn’t have much difficulty with an album like Hail the Apocalypse.

One would be advised to ignore the band’s fondness for hokey and/or carnival sounds, for they’re not necessarily in focus, but enough to be a distraction. Such sounds sidetrack numbers like “Puppet Show” and various portions of the otherwise memorable “What I Don’t Know,” but again, aren’t enough to make Hail the Apocalypse a total wash. Instead, the double-bass driven “Death of Sound” is a winner, notably for the Vulture Industries-like chorus. (In fact, Vulture Industries, who are the Arcturus/avant-garde variety could be considered close aesthetic cousins to Avatar.) Elsewhere, the quirky “Murderer” cuts through with Jeckyll/Hyde vocals from Johannes Eckerstrom, while re-worked cover of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” is of haunting quality. (The original is quite good, our obvious dislike for grunge discarded.)

So again, it really comes down to how Avatar positions themselves with an album like Hail the Apocalypse. They’re too heavy and mult-faceted for lowest common denominator rock like Manson or Rob Zombie, but the real ‘bangers may not take too kindly to Eckerstrom’s Joker (Batman)-like appearance. Therefore, Avatar are one of the rare in-between bands who with the right amount of attention, could become polarizing. And when a band becomes polarizing, they become popular.

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