When you hear the word AVATAR, several things may come to mind including lanky blue creatures in a fantasy world. One may not expect the mental configurations to include a Swedish heavy metal band serving up smashing hits while adorned in gothic makeup, but that is exactly what exists from across the pond.
AVATAR has been highly active since forming in Gothenburg in 2001. Nearly two decades later, the group is still creating hard-hitting song collections that leave you feeling otherworldly. Most recently, AVATAR has released their 8th studio album Hunter Gatherer on August 7th via Entertainment One (eOne) that features some of the group’s most interesting pieces to date.
AVATAR front man Johannes Eckerström gave Loudwire insight into the lyrical themes of the album late last year when the upcoming release was more under wraps: “I’m trying to put across certain emotions that maybe, myself as a lyricist, maybe I wasn’t comfortable with in the past. Saying there’s something wrong over there is different than turning a finger and pointing it at yourself. It takes some maturity to start to do that and maybe revisit places I was at in the past and shine a more honest light upon it. It’s full of those things that I have never done before, we have never done before, and thus it’s completely different again.”
Because of this attempt to dig deep into the crevices of their pasts, the songs off of the album hold a depth and darkness that ceased to exist on previous records. The album kicks off with “Silence In the Age of Apes” embodying a futuristic vibe that is entirely new for the group. Amidst the pounding instruments that they are known for, you will find synth beats that encase the message of a history steadily marching toward the confinement of technology. This message parallels the album title, Hunter Gatherer, referring to our primitive past that has evolved into something more complex and more menacing.
Eckerström told Apple Music that “for the most part of our existence as a species, we lived as hunter-gatherers. That seems to have been what we were hardwired to be by nature. But as we have evolved, we have slowly made our civilization more and more complex. We’ve created a way of life that is completely detached from where we came from. This album very much tries to deal with what it means to be human right here and now, with all our shortcomings and all the damage that we do.”
This message is explained clearly in the first track off of the album and vocalized even louder in the title track, “Colossus.” Being the most synth-heavy song that gives an unsettling feeling of static among beautiful metal acquisition, this track provides the most urgency in spreading the word of technology’s negative impact on our society. With melodic vocals among heavy breakdowns, this proves to be one of the most dynamic songs that has already gained significant media attention.
This dark lyrical content only gains more depth and despair through the rest of the album, our conscious’ well prepared after embarking through the heavy messages and presentation within “Silence in the Age of Apes” and “Colossus.” AVATAR brings in some of their metal friends to help revive this spirit of dystopian provocation. Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor supplies the eerily cheerful whistling and guest vocals on the track “A Secret Door.” Whiplash exists in this song as it transitions from an almost ballad-feel and hauntingly slow layers to screeching riffs in mere milliseconds. This song provides a nice break before returning back to the tech-inspired riffs showcased even heavier in “God of Sick Dreams” that seems to solidify the apocalyptic nature of the album.
The song sings about how not only can apocalypses exist in reality, but also within your own mind. In the album description on Apple Music, Eckerström says “I had a string of very vivid apocalyptic nightmares for a while … More than anything, I think it’s a song about facing yourself, because ultimately, those images were created by me. I am the god of my own sick dreams.” The screaming in this song combined with the quick riffs make for a very intense feel that is extremely satisfying.
The combination of synth sounds with soaringly clear vocals, unapologetically heavy instruments and deep, dark lyricism extends throughout each and every song within the compilation. The rest of the album features tracks of extremely different taste which gives tremendous variety as you close out the experience. From nostalgia wrapped in rock vibes on “Scream Until You Wake,” symphonic-folk “Child,” 80s tinged “Justice,” narrative-inspired “Gun” that took seven years to create, to poingantly aggressive “When All But Force Has Failed,” this album gives you new sounds at every turn that keeps the listening experience sharp and engaging.
There is not a single second on this album that you will be bored. The dark development AVATAR has showcased in Hunter Gatherer seems to have worked in their favor, driving their creativity and dynamism to new dimensions. The album wraps up with distressing “Wormhole” that grates your ears in the best kind of way while speaking about finally, after many years, owning up to the damage we do to ourselves and the world — but hopefully not going through it alone. Similarly, we wish to admit the impact Hunter Gatherer has on our view of the future of metal and hope to not have to share this experience with only our own ears.