ROLL UP! ROLL UP! For the weird and wonderful world of Swedish lunatics Avatar, who, after a delay of over a year, returned to Manchester with their uniquely decadent display of metal.
Openers Mastiff sound exactly the way their name would suggest. Heavy and aggressive with undecipherable lyrics growled at a worried-looking audience. Unfortunately, they have more bark than bite, and there wasn’t much variety offered in their 30-minute set.
Next up, Chicago’s Veil of Maya brought a much more energetic set with more musicality and seemed to raise the crowd’s energy, with frontman Lukas getting up close and personal with the concertgoers on a few occasions.
Headliners Avatar have built up, through hard work, consistency, and musical growth across nine studio albums, a rabid fanbase that had been frothing at the mouth to be at this show for over a year. Their twisted, off-kilter travelling freakshow is both visually stunning and sounds incredible.
Led expertly by the slightly unhinged ringmaster Johannes Eckerström, they delivered a set full of groovy melodic death metal that, unlike much of that genre, has so much joy to it.
“I can’t believe it’s legal to feel this way,” states Johannes, and he’s not wrong. Opening with the title track of the new album, “Dance Devil Dance,” they are straight into the headbanging-inducing Rammstein meets Mercyful Fate-esque metal stomp they are known for. All underpinned by a barrage of pummelling drums that are a perfect base for the synchronized windmilling that they are famous for.
With several tracks getting their live debut, including the brilliantly titled “Chimp Mosh Pit” and a rhetorical “Do You Feel in Control?” it’s clear the new album has had a chance to bed itself in and become a firm fan favourite.
Midway through the set, Johannes leaves the stage and reappears moments later at the mixing desk towards the back of the room to become his own freakshow’s sideshow by proceeding to create a balloon animal and play a trombone solo. It felt so wonderfully weird, and that is the appeal of Avatar. Off-kilter, quirky and slightly deranged.
A colossal trop of songs—“Collosus,” “Let it Burn,” and “A Statue of the King”—closed out the show with ferocity before an exquisite encore. This band has it all in abundance, and it’s clear to see why they have captured the twisted imaginations of the audience.