Hail the Apocalypse
5/14/2014 - Review by: Eric Compton
Sweden's rising force, Avatar, are now thirteen years in the business. Dyed-in-the-wool fans remember the band's early melodic death characteristics on fine staples like "Thoughts of No Tomorrow" (2006) and "Schlacht" (2007), however it was the voluminous grooves of "Black Waltz" (2012) that brought the Gothenburg natives to prominence. After prosperous tours with Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch the group reportedly "found their voice" with new release "Hail the Apocalypse".
The album is produced by two-time Grammy nominee Tobias Lindell (Mustasch, Hardcore Superstar), mixed by Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Steel Panther) and mastered by Paul Logus (Stone Sour, Adrenaline Mob). The veterans have certainly partnered with enough successful professionals to make "Hail the Apocalypse" their crowning achievement. While many of the band's kith may find some semblance of the prior Avatar sound, this new record is one of alteration and refinement. Tidying up with the same rumblings of infectious grooves and melodies, this 2014 chapter pushes the envelope further with a cavalcade of arrangements and sounds. Influences ranging from Marilyn Manson to Lamb of God help define a record that is dauntless in its attempts at perfection. While many bands steer for the safer middle of the road, this group swerves wider to proselytize for diversity and innovation.
The album's title track and "Bloody Angel" were both lead off singles that showcased two very different aspects of the band. The title track is a resounding opening statement built on robust riffs and vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom's signature growls and screeches. It is songs like this one and "Tsar Bomba" that prove Avatar still have aggressive "melodic death" tendencies albeit different and less complex than the first three records. Tracks like the Goth tinged "Bloody Angel" and the haunting "Something in the Way" (dedicated to chills) are exhibits of angularity. Saturating doomy riffs sweep behind Eckerstrom's clean vocal chants to create a sense of atmosphere and isolation. The same can be said for "out of the box" elements like "Puppet Show", complete with macabre carnival themes, and the wickedly delightful "Tower".
"Hail the Apocalypse" is definitely the devil in the details. There are so many aspects to the band's approach and delivery that it is uncanny. This is an act that embellishes the primal instincts of Gothenburg, Sweden's historic past yet is extremely comfortable providing abstract melodies that are anything but safe. It is bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson that remain seminal and timeless. If Avatar continues that trend then they certainly could be just as relevant. "Hail the Apocalypse" or "Hail the Beginning"?
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