Talking Heavy Metal With AvatarOctober 10, 2018
This month, Swedish metal band Avatar is bringing a whole new nation with them when they cross the Atlantic to tour America: Avatar Country.
The melodic death metal band from Gothenburg loyally has played together since their start in 2001. The members met in the circles around music schools growing up in Sweden and have stuck together as a family since their humble beginning. Working with artists from around the world has led Avatar to find their artistic voices amongst the international metal scene, and their Scandinavian roots have always drawn them back home.
“Most of us have been together since we were around 14, 15, 16 years old,” lead singer Johannes Eckerström said. “How we met and started is a big chunk of our lives, and how we grew up. The important part is that since we started so young, we really grew up learning how to play music together, how to be artists together, how to run a business together.”
Their latest album, “Avatar Country,” was released in January (peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart) and allowed the artists to open up the narrative of their work to the public for the first time. In previous albums, Avatar always gave thanks to “Kungen,” which is Swedish for “the King.” In their new concept album, Avatar invites listeners to understand what the name really means to its founders.
“There’s a kingdom far greater than the kingdom of Sweden in this world,” Eckerström said, “And that’s Avatar Country.”
As a band, Avatar represents a nation of metal and embodies everything metal through the country of its listeners – a country that transcends international borders to unite the scene across the world.
“We reached this point in our careers and in our lives as artists where we felt the world was finally ready to learn the truth of Avatar Country, and the true nature of our king that we have known for a long time,” Eckerström said. “That saga is what’s being told through our music videos, they are part of a greater puzzle that we still aspire to finish.”
The band’s music video releases for “Avatar Country” began with three songs in sequence with each other. First, they dropped “A Statue Of The King,” then followed with “The King Wants You” and “The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country.”
“The foundation for what we do is metal, and the reason we are committed to that is for the love of metal music: what it has meant to us, what it has meant to the world, through all eras of it,” Eckerström said. “We want to keep the essence of what we feel in the music alive, and bring that with us.”
To the eyes, Avatar stands out: Set against a backdrop of largely audio-focused artists, they are one of few to focus also on the visual aspects of things. Other groups like Ghost and Sabaton are known for their impressive performance effects, and Avatar’s attention to detail in their costumes add a new level of entertainment to those who catch them live.
The upcoming tour will bring fans a new sound compared with previous shows, and Eckerström noted the changes in narrative that came alongside the new release.
“I think this is the most positive- and optimistic-sounding you will ever hear Avatar,” he said. “Before that, it’s your healthy portion of doom and gloom, and what we do is look for those darker chambers in your mind…you open the door to that, and you study it a bit closer.
“That is where art becomes more useful – if you really break down what ‘art’ is, it seems to me that a good answer is ‘an attempt to articulate something we otherwise couldn’t.’ And we don’t necessarily need to do that as often with the good things in life as we need to with the bad.”
Eckerström says the band’s music typically focuses on life’s darker areas, as a way of studying and dealing with its own emotions, shortcomings and mistakes; and most importantly, as a way to grow.
“Those are the things we need to work through,” he said. “All that is just what interests me more. Maybe that’s just because we’re miserable, or maybe that’s because it’s what the human condition is at large. It’s also just a bit Swedish, with the built-in melancholy.”