ALBUM REVIEW: From the Offices of the Royal Documentarian

A subjective and comprehensive look at Avatar Country
by Brian Kuhn on January 15, 2018
Editor's Pick
Overview
Item Reviewed

Avatar Country

Author
January 15, 2018
Synopsis

Avatar Country is an album that will transcend genres and bring new fans into metal to rally behind a celebration of a Country that makes you want to abandon your allegiance and testify to the MIGHT of our King! GLORIOUS! It’s familiar but new, fresh and will facilitate the current fanbase to open their minds to pushing the envelope of one of the most unique bands in the world who are dangerously close to their masterpiece and discovering how good they really are.

Features

Poster Insert

Specifications

Available everywhere January 12th

Length

44 minutes.

Badges
AwardsEditor's PickMust Have!
Positives

- Masterful Instrumentation
- Easy to rally behind theme
- Musical genre transcendence
- Deeper than the surface implies
- Proper evolution of one of the best bands in modern music

Negatives

- Short (subjective)

   Today I’m Going to explain to you why Avatar is the next Iron Maiden with Mike Portnoy on drums while sounding nothing like what you may imagine Iron Maiden with Mike Portnoy on drums would sound like.

   Does that make sense? My state of mind may be enlightened as I came up with that.

   As confusing as that sounds, what I’m talking about is a band that has very clear influences from the music we were raised to hail satan to but still sounds like nothing that’s ever existed before. Which is, arguably, the most difficult thing to accomplish in music. Having such a distinct and identifiable sound that nobody else can’t replicate it without being labeled derivative.

Avatar has done this.

   Nobody else can be a Gothenburg Swedish Death Metal band that takes the whimsical shape of a traveling Freakshow, combining a warm inviting presentation that’s mainstream friendly, includes bubbles for the kids in attendance at a metal show and it fucking makes being good at your instrument cool again. We’re deep into a state where modern music is lazy, repetitive and indiscernible from the last track spun on the radio. Band’s like FFDP and Breaking Benjamin writing the same god damned cycle of song’s for six albums and it all sounds the fuckin’ same.

   Avatar, a bunch of Swedes that are incredibly generous with their fans and just loved what they were doing, is the most unique working band in the industry and transcended Gothenburg Death Metal into the mainstream. Knowing them on a personal level, I can say that they, genuinely, have no idea how good they are…but they’re about to find out.

   Avatar Country marks the Royal Orchestra’s seventh full length studio effort all for King and Country. Produced and Mixed by Jay Ruston at Spinroad Studios in Lindome, Sweden, whom has been working with the band since Hail the Apocalypse, Avatar Country represents and evolution of a band that is already known for their whimsically unique pageantry. Clocking in at a swift but memorable 44 minutes, Avatar Country is a concept album that tells the tale of our GLORIOUS King and his mighty kingdom, Avatar Country. The album is a celebration and we’re all invited to join the party as citizens.

   Preface – I feel that, in my opinion, between having had the album on repeat in every listening situation combined with the rapidly changing events in my life during this, I have a unique perspective on this album. Having said that, because of said events, these songs have been the background noise for what has become my tale of great sacrifice in this life for my career as a photojournalist in the music industry to be a reality. Some of them will be forever cemented in time with emotions I’ve never experienced before and may very well never again. So this is all to say that I’m not sure how this will affect my words as I type this. It’s my opinion and interpretation of music that has been connected with a specific time. That is my official disclaimer.

So come! Your first step must be to learn our national anthem as showing of loyalty and honor for our GLORIOUS King!

  1. Glory to Our King – 0:52

The opening track and our introduction is the National Anthem of the story. Powering through like Star Wars in an IMAX theater, we’re introduced to and lead in praise by The Royal Orchestrator, lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström to deliver the words of a nation gathered under one cause…King and Country. This is exactly the purpose of a track like this. You pledge your allegiance to the King. Once you do, it’s time for you to be introduced to our GLORIOUS leader. From the crown upon his head to his EXCELLENT mustache, he is perfection. Now it’s time for you to hear his tale. Hoisted upon a mighty throne, King Kungen, Jonas Jarlsby is raised for all to see and for him to rally you.

        2.   Legend of the King – 8:18

   Ascending up the scales of his mighty Ibanez axe, King Jonas accelerates us into our inspirational rally around him. At almost eight and a half minutes and a swift 128, “Legend of the King” is example number 1. This is straight out of the book of Iron Maiden. A modern day Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Huge driving rhythms driven by, in my opinion, the most underrated rhythm section in modern music backed by diverse, dynamic guitar melodies written by guitar wizards. Complete with feel changes and each player’s dynamic approach, this is a story we’re being told about the King by the King. Being a drummer and having listened and watched and studies others, drummer John Alfredsson seems to be, in my opinion, heavily influenced by metal drummers Lars Ulrich and Mike Portnoy. Be dynamic, compliment your band but still drive with power. But yet, this song sounds a lot like If Iron Maiden had Mike Portnoy and they we’re trying to cover Avatar. Because the influence is there, but it’s never confusing as to who is playing because the sound is so unique to what Avatar has crafted since The Black Waltz and continued to evolve. This has become my new favorite Avatar song. A title previously held by House of Eternal Hunt.

   After the King graces us with his presence, it’s time to celebrate, citizens! We bid you welcome with what will be the most shocking song of the album for long time fans, but what I believe with be the most popular song off the album, but it’s okay, it’s a celebration!

        3.   The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country – 5:36

   There’s so many words that can be said so many ways to try and articulate them so I could begin to tell you why this song is one of the most unique songs I’ve heard in a long time, will be the most popular song off the album, will transcend genres and bring new fans into metal and will be heard on the radio in 20 years. These are my very real predictions and feelings about this song.

…looks like that’s not a bad way to say it at all!

   This is the happy song, the dirty song, the infectious chorus, Toto Elevator Breakdown song, all with a solo by The Royal Wizard, Tim Öhrström, that starts SO fast, it’s in danger off all being one note, but still has the soul of a blues man, an insanely hooky drive that’s impossible to not just smile when you hear. Avatar decided they wanted to write a Southern Rock AC/DC style stripper pole song to celebrate the new citizens and it’s fucking awesome. This is the song that gets your mom, your kids, your neighbors all to like Avatar. It’s a party song, it’s a song cover bands will play to get the women dancing, all to give our GLORIOUS testimony! LONG LIVE THE KING.

   If what I said doesn’t happen, there was a glitch in the Matrix somewhere. If you honestly scoff at this song, you may need to reevaluate how truly open-minded you are about music. Having said that, I don’t believe it will be an issue. Any “fan” of Avatar that can’t just smile when hearing this just doesn’t understand this band yet completely but will embrace it along with the superfans. It’s meant for a fun, whimsical break from the heavy, from the seriousness that we all hold ourselves to and sometimes we need that. I firmly believe that the only reason this song wasn’t released first was because they didn’t want to scare the shit out of their fanbase. It’s also worth mentioning that the pinnacle of this song it’s seeing it performed live. It’s here and it’s the party. If you’re still terrified, the heavy didn’t stray far.

4.   King’s Harvest – 3:55

   Without missing a beat, after celebration come’s Harvest. The peons and grunts in the vast fields over the kingdom that slave for King’s that tell them they must for us to flourish. King’s Harvest is djenty trip through the mind of the zombies that slave to the King everyday because it’s their purpose. Echoing the story of Sisyphus, it’s a tale of purpose deemed down by the gods. Everything from the lyrical content down to the repeating “verse > bridge > chorus” arrangement can point to, in my opinion, a philosophical discussion about purpose and how just about any working citizen in this world can relate to this feeling. It’s like a finely tuned game of Warcraft II, for the palace to be flourish and be powerful, the sheep must work. Musically approached the same way, the Harvest will cause the head banging and the mosh pits. Also, bassist Henrik Sandelin is a MONSTER on this track, but nothing new for the Royal Grovesman. This is our pass through land that shows us the purpose these slaves have, to grow. Now it’s time for us to hear our purpose in this land, and our calling to war at our footsteps is here. Our country needs us.

5.   The King Wants You – 4:21

   When the first two singles of AC were initially released, The King Wants You was met with less reception initially by fans but I believe that this is lyrically the most powerful song on the album. I want to try and help you see that.

   TKWY is a tale of a young soldier whom, during the verses struggles with the confusion of being a soldier at war. Preparing himself mentally at the train station for a journey that he already is confused about. He must fight because he’s told to, because he will be a hero they say. Whenever he starts to question and forget, the bridge and chorus is the military, the government, the KING here to remind him why.

…because the King wants him.

   The King wants him to know that that he’s the ONLY one who will carry out his wishes. Reminds you that the enemy is vast and there is only glory to continue to kill to protect our lands and the King will show you the way. You are the best, and there are few of those. You’re doomed but you will be hailed as a military hero.

   Remembering a time where you were just at home with mother. Now suddenly I don’t know where I am but I’m a big boy and I have big guns. My letters to my mother use words that ease her mind because I don’t want her to know I’m lying. Tomorrow I’ll be somewhere, they don’t tell me but they tell me it isn’t important because I’m eager to die to be remembered for my country.

   This is tremendously relatable not only in a very literal sense but also in every persons life where they, on a day-to-day basis feel like they aren’t in control. Somebody else has to remind us of our purpose for us to continue to live our lives the way we’re being told to live them. The whimsical presentation casts a cloudy veil over the depth contained within AC as a whole but TKWY definitely is at the forefront. Johannes isn’t a shallow lyricist, the subtexts and relatable narratives contained within this album reaches new levels for this band and for most modern music. This keeps it true to it’s label as a concept album.

   Musically, this is, according to Tim, is the most complicated riff on the album. It’s deceivingly simple but requires a level of finesse that only a King and Wizard can write. Simple March rhythms to remind us left, right, left, right, left with a certain distinction that just says “This is Avatar.” Johannes’ vocal melodies are rhythmic of the marching soldier in the verses, melodic of the song of the governments trance over us and a firm reminder that we aren’t to worry about why, where, who but just keep your eyes on the crown, the King will guide you. Let him speak to you, citizens!

        6.   The King Speaks – 3:18

   This is the point in the album that you need to stop taking this metal shit so damned seriously and sit back and have a laugh. Even so, the comedic break continued within as we hear the King update us on his bowel movements, it’s effect on the harvest and how his day being great is, of course, indicative of your day, doesn’t stray far from depth. I am of the personal opinion in that I interpret this as a mockery of Donald J. Trump.

   Everything from the meaningless details to his life, from the YUGE crowd response to the priority of Volleyball over war, this track can’t help but mirror the current situation in the United States. Which is ridiculous and laughable just like this track. But there is only one thing left to do because now we must immortalize his existence and build a beacon for all to see his might.

       7.   Statue of the King – 3:45

   This song was released first for a reason. The sound that Avatar has crafted is evolving with this album and there was, sonically, no better song to release first. Statue of the King has the mix of both that welcomes all fans of this band. The metal heads love it because it’s powerful and driving, the musicians love it’s precision, the everyday fan loves the infectious vocal hooks Johannes catches us with and the kids love the goofy narrative and whimsical presentation. It didn’t matter if you had never heard it before, you KNEW it was Avatar. The most pit in Columbus, OH for the first date of the tour was NUTS when this was played. HUGE mosh pits with crowd surfers and everybody was jumping. Horns and fists to the sky for the glory of their King. This is a rally chant for the symbol of might we display and have worked for harder than everybody else to craft. Our button on our desk is bigger than yours.

   We have worked so hard for all of this pageantry, the glamor, the ratings and the eyeballs to be upon us for what? A Statue? A Palace? A Wall? It doesn’t even matter because when the current one leaves, he’s replaced by another King that we will just repeat the process all over again for us and we will do this King after King.

        8.   King After King – 5:08

The last song on the album to feature vocals, King After King is a thundering ballad to the rinse and repeat lives of our King. The verses are mean, the chorus is insanely hooky (I find myself singing this chorus randomly whilst going about my day) and it peaks into a glorious solo section. The lyrical content here is the biggest mystery for me because I feel there are several different interpretations to be found. Which wouldn’t surprise me considering Johannes isn’t exactly a slouch when writing lyrics.

…but then again, I can imagine a scenario in which Johannes giggles at me and says “Ha, nooo Brian, it really is about Jonas being a Zombie.”

   Whichever it is, this the plateau of the story about our King. Sing his praise when he is gone. Remember him, immortalize his place in history. It’s another Maiden feeling track that builds us up in our last walk as citizens under the King. Once the mood falls and chimes ring in, it’s time to let our King sleep.

        9.   Silent Songs of the King Pt. 1 / Pt. 2 –  9:00

   This is Natasha. it’s easy to see why Natasha is my muse. We have developed very particular sleeping habits like listening to the rain but recently we found a Spotify playlist for deep sleep. When I received this album from the band for review, I began listening to it and while it was on the stereo, my daughter made the comment that The King Dreams of Snow made her think we were listening to my sleep playlist.

   So we began sleeping to it. Then it stayed on all day when I wasn’t listening to the album. The atmosphere it created was unobtrusive to whatever it was I was talking about or doing. It played in the background while one of the most emotionally demanding weeks of my life unfolded that left me being the one who was wrong. Events that i will never forget for the rest of my life.

   This song was the background music and will forever be solidified in my life with those emotions. This is different than to say “oh it’s dark and ambient and mysterious” because we’ve all read that. That’s not what music is about. It’s about invoking emotions in us that tie us to life and our experiences within. To live them and learn from them in whatever way necessary because music is the one love in your life that will never die. When the King Dreams of Snow will forever be tied to these memories for me and I will never forget when I hear this song that it’s a trigger for me. So I implore you, think about and find the emotions that you experience when living your life your soundtrack.

   Having said all that, I did NOT, however sleep to Pt 2 because of how damned huge the song is front start to finish. There isn’t any vocals because there doesn’t need to be. The Royal Orchestra joins us one last time for a stroll through the depths of the King’s palace. It’s huge, it’s mighty and serves the purpose if inspiring us in hopes of the next King to come and to repeat this all over again to forever build the citizenship level and might of Avatar.

   Avatar Country is an evolution.

   Evolution of a band that has accomplished the hardest thing to do in music. Sound like nothing else and nobody else can sound like you. But stay familiar, stay welcoming and introduce new and exciting. Avatar is not Iron Maiden with Mike Portnoy. But they sure are on their way to being as popular as that would be, and still will aways distinctly sound like Avatar. John Alfredsson and Henrik Sandelin are the best rhythm section in modern mainstream music, Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström are the next Dave Murray and Adrian Smith and Johannes Eckerström’s voice and face will forever draw in the masses of all ages and music styles. My only real issue with the album is it’s length at 44 minutes. It feels like it’s missing one last song at the end. Even then, who am I to argue as RUSH Masterpiece 2112 only clocks in at 38 minutes, furthermore, who am I to say the story isn’t over. I just want more music like this in modern metal and it’s clouding my judgement. I definitely approached this album review in a way that was unique due to the timing of it’s existence in my life and emotions it’s forever tied to. Which is what, I feel, is most important in the experience you share with music, it must invoke emotions. That’s the true test of an album and this exceeds that. It’s deceptively deeper than is being seen initially but I hope that my interpretation has helped some of you find your connection or helped you understand the music from a different perspective.

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