The Swedish heavy metal circus known as Avatar is pulling fans all over the United States under their big tent. Supporting their latest album, Dance Devil Dance, released in February of 2023. Accompanying them were American metalcore act Veil of Maya and fellow Swedish metal band Orbit Culture. The line of the sold-out crowd snaked through the parking lot of Manchester Music Hall. Fans of Avatar can be easy to spot with their painted faces and parrot party shirts. Some of the concertgoers travelled from hours away. And others waited at the venue for 7 hours before the doors opened to get the best spot against the barricade. The Avatar merch line quickly grew to the length of the venue once fans were inside. This was Avatar’s first gig in Lexington, Kentucky, since 2019, and they were set to deliver a special show.

Orbit Culture began the night with a dose of ferocious melodic death metal. They received a warm welcome with your traditional headbanging, but being an older crowd movement was minimal. With two drum sets on an already not large stage, the members still found ways to engage and move about by switching to different microphone positions. New music is also on the horizon from Orbit Culture. Their set included a new tack titled “Alienated,” and more music could be dropping later this summer.

Veil of Maya from Chicago, Illinois, played in the middle of the Swedish metal sandwich. Scene veterans in their own right, their 7th studio album [m]other dropped in May of 2023. They served the audience with a balanced setlist spanning their last three albums and non-album singles. With a packed crowd, some faithfuls found some space to mosh. Vocalist Lukas Magyar called for a wall of death early in the set. Their sound has expanded from the late 2000s deathcore to exploring a style that is technical and melodic, yet still heavy.

The third ring of the metal circus was set to take center stage. Eager fans chanted “AV-A-TAR” in anticipation of the headliners. This was one of the smaller venues of the tour. Fans still got the full show of lights, pyrotechnics, smoke and shooting streamers. The band marched on stage in their trademark uniforms as sparks shot into pillars beside them. The party started from the first note, performing fan favourites and new cuts. Avatar has a duality that serves as a playful approach but turns dark and intense in a second. The ever-charismatic frontman Johannes Eckerström played the ringleader with his inter-song banter, facial expressions, drinking fluids from a gas can, and overall showmanship.

Multiple songs featured props or a mini skit, although the band never broke stride when it came to the music. Technicality and musicianship were fully displayed, including duelling guitar solos from Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström. Even their mic stands were innovative, with a kickstand to raise and a cushioned spring to catch once folded. During the eccentric track “Puppet Show,” Eckerström snuck through the crowd to the soundboard to make a balloon animal and broke out his trombone. Something you would not expect from a metal show.

That’s what Avatar brings, unexpected entertainment. Living up to their avant-garde style. By the end of the night, the crowd was asking for more after a blistering 2-hour set. The endurance needed to perform that set night after night is nothing but impressive. Avatar has a promising trajectory with a larger-than-life stage show and catalogue that continues to experiment with different genres. The sky is the limit for the dynamic quintet. With their international following, Avatar is only able to hit so many territories. Having a chance to witness their onstage onslaught will satisfy you. And ready for the next chance to experience them again.