Brent Lienemann: Story and Photos
Spencer Fleming: Editor
On May 28 I traveled from Omaha all the way to Minneapolis to see the dark circus-freaks, Avatar! For the third time, I was amazed at the crazy energy and theatrics that Avatar brings to their live show. Hailing from Sweden, Avatar invaded the United States in 2013 supporting Lacuna Coil and Sevendust. Known mainly for “Bloody Angel”, “Smells Like a Freakshow”, and “Hail the Apocalypse”, they found their true breakthrough with their concept album, Feathers & Flesh. One year after its release in 2016, they won Metal Hammer’s Golden God Award for Best Breakthrough Artist. Since their award win, the crowds at each show have grown bigger, and bigger.
This was my first time visiting the historical First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN. Like many die-hard Avatar fans, we lined up about 3 hours early to get as close to the gothic circus as we could. After the long wait, we got in and the anticipation began. One of the best ways to kill time is to look at merch. After spending an embarrassing amount of money, we made our way to the front and the show began.
The first band on the bill was an eccentric sounding rock duo called 68’. They go by the genre of noise-punk and feature Norma Jean’s original lead singer, Josh Scogin. I remember two things from their set, their energy, and their comedy. Scogins started off by cracking a few jokes before ripping into some noise-punk riffs. Josh had crazy energy, bouncing all over the stage, and even on a drum set. Although it was only a duo, it sounded like there were at least 6 people on stage. According to 68’s Facebook page, they’ve been compared to “The Black Keys on crack”, and I agree!
After 68’ was another duo, Dance with The Dead. They were even more eccentric than 68’ since they had synthwave influences and no vocals. Being a mix of synthwave and metal, it sounded like I was stuck on the boss level of a 1990’s video game. Each note the guitarist played, combined with the synthwave sounds just melted my face. Even though their sound was a little outside my normal listening tastes, they kept my attention and made me want to check out their music when I got home!
The last on the lineup, before Avatar, was the legendary Devin Townsend. Devin Townsend is known as the founder of the extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad, and the melodic death metal band The Devin Townsend Project. Instead of the flying V’s and Devin’s signature guitar The Stormbender, he came out with a stripped down setup and acoustic guitar. However, that’s all he needed, as Devin Townsend has one of the most angelic voices in all of metal. If you haven’t heard him sing before, listen to the first minute of “Kingdom” by Devin Townsend Project. He even played one of his old extreme metal songs, “Love?” by Strapping Young Lad.
Like 68’, Devin Townsend kept the crowd entertained with tons of jokes, especially about how a heavy metal artist is now a 47-year-old dad playing acoustic songs. After that, he began to play as heavy as he could on an acoustic as a joke, but to his surprise, a moshpit opened! He also had his ‘emotional support sloth’ with him, which is renamed each night. The Minneapolis crowd decided to call it St. Paul.
Finally, after the long wait, a curtain with the largest Avatar logo I’ve ever seen blocked the entire stage. Each member of Avatar plays a character as part of their stage show. Their current concept is called “Avatar Country” and guitarist, Kungen, plays the king. According to avatarmetal.com, Avatar Country came from a barren wasteland, saved by The King. “You are no longer lost wanderers, you are Citizens! This is no longer a wasteland! This is Avatar Country!” The citizens in the crowd chanted “Glory to Our King”!
The curtain dropped and their anthem “Glory to Our King!” played as The King rose slowly from under the stage. Sitting in his royal throne, he started to shred the guitar. The members slowly joined and began to play their beloved single “A Statue of The King”. Lead singer, Johannes Eckerstrom took the stage by storm with his fun dances and wild showmanship bringing each song to life!
Avatar whipped out some surprise songs they rarely play, such as “Ready for the Ride”, “Torn Apart”, and “Get in Line.” They also played very lively songs like “Puppet Show”, which had Johannes playing the trombone, and “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country” which left my friend and I soaked with the soap from all the bubbles.
Avatar puts on a spectacle that truly amazes the eyes and ears. With on-stage effects from lighting and props, mixed with the band’s energy, Avatar gives their fans an unforgettable show every night. Each time I see them, the show gets bigger and more uniquely entertaining than the last one. If you get the chance, make sure you check these guys out, you won’t be disappointed!
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