The froth levels were ridiculously high when the recent news dropped that Mudvayne and Coal …
Metal sensations Avatar broke new ground last year when they ventured to Brazil for the first time.
For the multi-faceted theatrical Swedes, it was a chance to show another part of the world what has made them a major drawcard in Europe.
They were there at the invitation of Iron Maiden, not only the band’s heroes, but a group whose status in the huge South American nation is close to godlike. It could have been overwhelming, but frontman Johannes Eckerström says they just took it in their stride, mainly by mentally reverting back to the Maiden-obsessed 20-somethings they had been when they first formed their band.
“We went to Brazil for the first time to play three shows with Iron Maiden,” he begins. “That was new territory for us and we were playing with our childhood heroes, and we were twenty years younger all of a sudden!”
“It was a different set of nerves and we didn’t really have time to consider what the audience might think. Well, actually … it was a new continent for the first time, a new country for the first time and there was our relationship to Iron Maiden. The first time we went to Stockholm, when we got together and started a band, was to go watch Iron Maiden. It was one of the first things we did. It was a big deal for us.”
Avatar are now quite a big deal themselves, with a string of hit albums in Sweden going back to 2006 and more recent ones making inroads in other major markets including the UK and the US. Their sweeping catalogue of albums, that now numbers nine, exhibits a wide sonic range and outlook. From their early days as a melodic death metal band, Avatar have evolved through groove, alternative-flavoured concept albums about avian warfare, comedy and the harder rock direction taken on current release Dance Devil Dance, which will bring them to Australia in August.
It’s one of the huge highlights of this summer for us, to break new ground. We did it in South America last year, and this year, it’s Australia.
[ Johannes Eckerström ]
“Going back to Black Sabbath,” Eckerström says as he explains the band’s eclecticism, “the science behind it has been very old school. It’s riffs. You come up with the best riffs you can come up with, and then figure out where the drummer should be. Because, you know, if you double the tempo in Iron Man it goes from one of the best riffs ever done to one of the worst riffs ever done. But once you lock in the beat alongside the riff, if it’s powerful enough, you start seeing things, feeling things and that leads to working out what your sound becomes.”
Respecting what makes heavy metal music great is important, he continues, but Avatar give equal significance to reinventing themselves while keeping an identifiable sound. He compares it to the way bands like the Beatles and Queen were always recognisable despite how varied their material may have been.
“You have the Black Sabbath aspect,” he says, “and then you have the Queen/Beatles aspect where you don’t worry about what your sound is. Another One Bites the Dust, Bohemian Rhapsody, I Want to Break Free, The Show Must Go On, We Will Rock You are all different songs, but tell me which one of those do NOT sound like Queen? The same goes for the whole White Album – it’s all Beatles. So we never worry about not being able to play [any] type of bass line, and that makes it kind of eclectic, but I do think it sounds like us – always. We don’t have the talent to sound like other people!”
After two decades of taking their increasingly avant-garde and theatrical shows to audiences in Europe and the US, Avatar come to Australia as relative unknowns. Eckerström admits that this debut tour will he will be a challenge and adventure, but will also be a highlight for their (European) summer schedule.
“The first time is always the hardest to do,” he suggests. “This could a make-or-break situation, right, because, if you do well the first time, they might call you back! You want to be at a level where you can say about Australia the same that you say about Paris, being able to plan that into your life and tour. We are extremely excited about this. It’s one of the huge highlights of this summer for us, to break new ground. We did it in South America last year, and this year, it’s Australia.”
While the budget doesn’t allow for the band’s full stage production, Avatar has a reputation for getting the job done regardless of any forced limitations. They once famously appeared on stage in their underwear when their stage costumes were temporarily lost in transit. Eckerström promises that Australian crowds will get the same commitment to performance as any other place they play.
“We’re just going to do the same thing that brought us into the race in the first place. We are going to be our beautiful old selves, and see if that connects with Australian metalheads as it has with metalheads elsewhere. You don’t want to treat shows as more [or less] important … every show is important. It will be stripped down in a way, but we will not go in empty handed. Some of the stuff we do that we have in shipping containers is not doable this time. We’ll rent the lights, bring the outfits and there’s certain cool things we can do wherever we are. Our show is a two hour show, and flies by, and it will fly by in Australia.”
Catch AVATAR at the following dates:
Friday, August 25 // 170 Russell // Melbourne w/TERAMAZE
Saturday, August 26 // The Metro // Sydney w/Our Last Enemy
Sunday, August 27 // The Triffid // Brisbane w/KRAVE