The zany and ambitious metal quintet AVATAR is back with its 9th album, appropriately called “Dance Devil Dance”. This time, the AVATAR lore stops around a figure that in different ways has always been part of its discography, only for this time to put the Devil under the spotlight, and with a clear sight of him, we can see that, surprisingly, he is dancing!
While the record portrays different themes – among which we can encounter disastrous diseases, rarefied riots, extreme mosh pits, or unbridled violence – “Dance Devil Dance” triumphs by maintaining a constant throughout its running time, that the listener, just like the devil, can’t stop moving. I was fortunate enough to witness the live debut of “Dance Devil Dance” and “Valley of Disease” and saw the unanimous approval of an eager audience that could not help themselves but move, claiming for more AVATAR with their fists in the air. The first two singles proved to work perfectly in the live setting, ultimately the hardest test for the debut of a new song.
The sound of a bell is the first thing we hear when we press play. It heralds what’s to come for the sonic journey ahead: an ominous yet festive journey full of devastating riffs, a harsh and clean vocals masterclass, and a tight and ripping musicianship. The album starts in massive style with “Dance Devil Dance”, and this track confirms even more that AVATAR has crafted a unique sound that is easily identifiable, yet one that is evolving, including a vast number of musical approaches and styles, making this musical journey unexpected, exciting, and overall, quite enjoyable. And then there is Johannes‘s vocal range. It’s getting to the point that it seems absurd what he can do in terms of singing. He is on fire throughout the record, and this first track is only a sample of what he has in store for us.
However, let’s not forget that AVATAR is not merely a vehicle for Johannes‘s spotlight shining brighter. Instead, his vocal delivery is accompanied by his band-mates impressive musicianship, one that shines with its brilliance and awes just as much. For instance, “Chimp Mosh Pit” delivers a tremendous groove, the rhythm component of AVATAR on a complete rampage approach.
Released as the first single, “Valley of Disease” is where madness and savagery converge. Such track fiddles with passages reminiscent of industrial metal while jumping into pure thunderous heavy metal, showcasing a dichotomy in two different aspects. The first is the conjunction between their earlier sounds and the new musical direction that they have developed with “Hunter Gatherer”. Similarly, the balance between Johannes‘s clean and harsh vocals manages to converge pure brutality with a melodic component, with seamless results. This song reaches a high level of intensity and heaviness, and the fact the chorus is sung with a clean approach simply highlights how smartly Johannes uses both techniques, a practice that the vocalist has been implementing more and more frequently.
“Dance Devil Dance” does not include any long-track, in the vein of “Lullaby (Death All Over)”, “Use Your Tongue”, “Bloody Angel”, or even “A Secret Door”. The longest song here is “On The Beach”, which despite not being comparable in running time to the aforementioned, contains some unexpected curve-balls. The playful and festive chorus contravenes the ferocity and aggressiveness of the major section, where the frantic rhythm of drummer Alfredsson guides our steps as we celebrate by the sea. Metal and rock come together to give the listener one of the best passages on the record, topped off by guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström ravening guitar interplay, sweetened with a killer and memorable solo.
“On The Beach” ends so delicately and gently that it could pass for a sweet lullaby, only to be ripped from such tranquility with the fierce beginning of his successor “Do You Feel In Control”, a cut that walks a straightforward path, delivering heavy blows in a simpler but effective fashion. “Gotta Wanna Riot” pairs a provocative message with a lively and energizing vibe, simply epitomizing the essence of rock n’ roll. Filled with hooks and invigorating parts, the listener will have no choice but to join this rock and metal riot.
Johaness’s clean vocals in “The Dirt I’m Buried In” are the stuff dreams are made of, a full display of the AVATAR‘s chameleonic essence, in this case drenched in melodic hooks and a catchy chorus. Simply another winner. “Clouds Dipped in Chrome” follows, and is wholly opposed to the radio-friendly harmonies we just listened to. Led by doomy riffs and blasting beats, the music embraces an insane death metal energy and plunges us into a rabbit hole of mayhem and destruction.
Next up is “Hazmat Suit” , and if strong emotions and unbridled insanity compel you, it will suit you perfectly. The track invites the listener to get carried away by endless hazardous materials and not stop moving for a second. An electrifying mosh pit is guaranteed when this one is included in the live set-list.
AVATAR zig when we expect them to zag with “Train”, a slow-tempo cut where Johannes behaves as an illegitimate son of Johny Cash to deliver a heartfelt performance. Just as they did with “Gun” in the previous album, his voice carries the dramatic weight of the song. However, don’t think they stop there: “Train” also contains a deafening section that destroys the subtle and tender atmosphere achieved before, and the dynamism and ease to intersperse opposite interludes within the same composition, and keep it cohesive, truly stands out here.
For the album closer AVATAR teamed up with the mighty Lzzy Hale from Halestorm to serve-up “Violence No Matter What”, a raw anthem full of angst and dissent, exploring themes of greater social and political depth – and of course, they do so in pure banger fashion. As absurd as it may seem, many people worldwide have not yet understood that “no one gets to be a fucking fascist”. They are the ones who believe the end justifies the means, and the means usually entail unredeemed violence. When these despicable beings rise, voices manifestly oppose them. AVATAR and Hale join those voices with a direct, harsh, and wrathful song that conveys all the frustration, indignation, and anger provoked by the terrible things that cowards holding a position of power can bring unto the masses.
The dark circus is about to premiere a new infuriating show, where horror, the strange, and the savagery will be presented through frisky and portentous pieces of music. Its ringmaster, known as Johannes Eckerström, is a thirsty and untamed madman who has a deadly weapon for a voice and is coming for you. He wants you to join the freak-show. You will enjoy, you will vibrate, you will feel alive, and above all, you will dance!
Full of fantastic twists and a superb dynamism that allows for intermingling different musical approaches, with its brilliant musicianship and a mammoth vocalist, “Dance Devil Dance” is a must listen within the AVATAR discography, and within metal overall. Expect to encounter this album across several top album lists at the end of the year.
Released by: Black Waltz Records
Released Date: February 17th, 2023
Genre: Heavy Metal
- Johannes Eckerström / Vocals
- John Alfredsson / Drums
- Jonas Jarlsby / Guitar
- Henrik Sandelin / Bass
- Tim Öhrström / Guitar
“Dance Devil Dance” Track-listing:
- Dance Devil Dance
- Chimp Mosh Pit
- Valley Of Disease
- On The Beach
- Do You Feel In Control
- Gotta Wanna Riot
- The Dirt I’m Buried In
- Clouds Dipped In Chrome
- Hazmat Suit
- Violence No Matter What (Duet w/ Lzzy Hale)
Pre-order “Dance Devil Dance” HERE.
“Dance Devil Dance” is a gigantic and brutal record that encloses some of the smoothest, most vicious, most infuriating and anthemic moments that AVATAR has ever produced. With superb musicianship and titanic vocals by Johaness Eckerström, AVATAR delivers an outstanding heavy metal record that brings them closer to the pinnacle of metal