Swedish metal circus Avatar is back at it again while continuing their story of madness with a fable about an owl on a doomed journey to stop the sun from rising. This fable, titled Feathers & Flesh, is presented in the form of an album and physical book combo and is to be released May 13th. This owl’s war experience spreads across fourteen tracks and is elaborated in the book. Avatar has obviously been a very theatrical and concept-driven band from the start and are taking it to a whole new level with this work.
The intro track, “Regret,” is a tease of what is to come in the rest of this album with its brooding melody and a very medieval-circus announcer commencement. “Regret” leads up to “House of Eternal Hunt,” which is the first track of the album receiving radio play. It has a hint of a celtic feel. The soaring notes of Kungen’s guitar lead the song while vocalist Johannes Eckerström forms a bed of growling lyrics to complete the song. “The Eagle Has Landed” is another of the first songs that have been released and is focused on the antagonist (the eagle) of the fable. As I mentioned before, its extremely circus-plot-theatrical sounding with a metal twist. I hear it as a dark, heavy, bold Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band with Sweeny Todd vibes. “Tooth, Beak, & Claw is a really cool song. Eckerström croaks out lines that sound like a nursery rhyme gone wrong and there’s this odd surf-rock feel to the whole thing. “For The Swarm” is probably my least favorite of the album with the barking (chorus?) lyrics but is nevertheless interesting and is important in the story as a whole. The video for it is available if you’d like to check it out. “Fiddler’s Farewell” offers a softer side of the story that does not last for long because dark chanting opens the next song which becomes one of the heaviest of the album other than “Raven Wine.” “Night Never Ending” is a song full of hope for the owl and is the most positive time during the owl’s journey. Nearing the end of the tale, “When the Snow Lies Red” is a sick, heavy hitting song with ominous breaks. Eckerström instantly transitions from blood curdling scream to beautiful serenading, revealing the true control and variety of qualities he has in his voice. A nearly seven-minute long “Sky Burial” ends the tale with a honoring yet mournful mood.
Avatar is a tough act to beat when it comes to concept bands. They are amazingly talented at being visual through their music and the glass runneth over when actually combining their appearance to their sound. The rhythm section is explosive, the guitars outstanding, and the vocals full of surprises. I hope we can look forward to a date on their next U.S. tour; Avatar has passed through our own lands a few times in the past year, touring on Hail the Apocalypse of 2014. Feathers & Flesh is out May 13th, I recommend ordering the book because you will be eager to read it after hearing the album.