Splice Magazine

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Avatar at the Royal Oak Music Theater

Avatar © John Swider

Royal Oak, Michigan(May 16,2023) -Having a gimmick is always a difficult thing for bands to master. It can come across tacky if not done well or conversely, it can develop into a 50-year career like a long standing American band. Swedish heavy metal visionaries Avatar have managed to use their own unique aesthetic to make them one of the most highly sought after bands in the world of metal right now. Sunday evening  at the Royal Oak Music Theater in Royal Oak,Michigan Avatar showed why they’ve been a budding force in the metal scene for the past ten years. Releasing their ninth studio album Dance Devil Dance this past February Avatar has blessed us with their talents and charm for a night of “avant-garde” metal that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

With their unique blend of melodic death metal and theatricality, Avatar proved why they are one of the most exciting and dynamic bands in the metal scene today. From the moment the lights dimmed it was evident that this was going to be a special night. The band burst into their opening song, the smoking hot  title track of their most recent release “Dance Devil Dance,” and the crowd immediately erupted into a frenzy. Lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström emerged with his charismatic presence, clad in his signature black and white face paint, captivating everyone in the sold out venue.

Avatar © John Swider

The stage setup was nothing short of spectacular. A massive backdrop that depicted a industrial yet dystopian world, setting the overall  tone for the night’s performance. The band themselves donned in the now requisite elaborate costumes that reflect the eccentricity and theatrics that Avatar is known for. They wasted no time in showcasing their musical prowess, seamlessly transitioning from blistering guitar riffs to thunderous drum beats during “The Eagle Has Landed” and “Valley of Disease” the second of five cuts in the set list culled from their latest release.

One of the more unique aspects when it comes to the world of metal music is Avatars ability to engage the audience. Eckerström effortlessly commanded the stage, his energy and charisma radiating throughout the venue. At one juncture Eckerstrom even acknowledged the youngsters at the show saying the band loves that parents bring their kids to the show and, “The family that slays together, stays together” He interacts with the crowd effortlessly, encouraging them to sing along and raise their fists in unison. The connection between the band and their fans was palpable, creating a sense of unity and shared excitement.

Avatar © John Swider

The setlist was a well-curated mix of old and new, catering to both long-time fans and newcomers. Songs like “Chimp Mosh Pit” and ” Bloody Angel” ignited mosh pits, while newer tracks like “Do You Feel in Control” and “The Dirt I’m buried In” showcased the band’s evolution and growth. The musicianship on display was impeccable, with guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström delivering face-melting solos, bassist Henrik Sandelin anchoring the low end with precision, and drummer John Alfredsson unleashing a relentless barrage of thunderous beats.

During the carnival inspired “Puppet Show,” a time when you figure the showmanship has peaked, that Eckerström appears in the top balcony to engage in balloon sculpting and perform a trombone solo. There’s a guitar battle between Öhrström and Jarlsby leading into 2012’s maniacal “Black Waltz'” and for the sultry ‘Tower,” Eckerström is seated at a piano for a superb solo performance. “Tonight is incredible!” states the chief provocateur … and it certainly was that.

Avatar © John Swider

What truly sets Avatar apart is their ability to merge heavy music with theatricality. The band’s stage presence was reminiscent of a macabre circus, complete with fire-breathing stilt walkers and eerie dancers. These visual elements, combined with the band’s infectious energy, created an immersive experience that transported the audience to another realm.

As the night drew to a close, Avatar left the stage with a trail of destruction and deafening, thunderous applause. The 18 song performance was exhilarating, leaving their fans ears ringing and their hearts pounding. It was clear that Avatar had once again proven their status as a force, albeit an under-appreciated force to be reckoned with in the metal world.

To put it simply, Avatar had it all Sunday night. They had the songs, the look and the presence. It was a tour de force of musicianship, showmanship, and pure unadulterated madness. Their ability to create a spellbinding atmosphere, combined with their infectious energy, made for an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious about the metal genre, an Avatar concert is an absolute must-see.

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