Swedish theatrical groove Metallers Avatar returns with album number nine, Dance Devil Dance, and the first on their own Black Waltz Records. “You always hear bands say, ‘This is our best album yet.’ This is our best album yet. It is Avatar at our most laser-focused, at our most razor-sharp. There’s no BS, no extra fat. “Every track is a weapon and has a purpose. It’s all in the title, as this album is our angriest, horniest, and most spiritual release, all at once. It’s a must-hear,” confesses the band.
Strong words indeed, but we’ll be the judge as to whether Dance Devil Dance is Avatar’s best album yet!
Avatar – Dance Devil Dance (Black Waltz Records)
Released Date: 17 February 2023
Words: Robert Adams
A bell is the first thing you hear when the album opener and title track, Dance Devil Dance, blasts from your speakers. A groovy guitar riff then hits you before the rest of the band kick in, and it sounds like glorious Metal thunder. Ringmaster frontman Johannes Eckerström let’s rip with the Devil’s own roar. It’s really something special.
Eckerström’s vocals throughout this album are nothing short of spectacular, and his range is ridiculous. Going from guttural Death Metal growls through to Angelic falsettos, he never lets up. That’s his visage that adorns the cover of this album. Think Brandon Lee’s The Crow played by a long-haired John Cleese, and you’re part way there.
When you get around a third of the way into Chimp Mosh Pit, you realise that Avatar might well have made their best album yet. I defy any Metalhead to listen to this and not headbang furiously. Johannes is channelling his best Perry Farrell vocal melody here, and it really works.
Producer Jay Ruston – Black Star Riders, Anthrax, Amon Amarth – has done an amazing job with Dance Devil Dance. The mix is perfect, with the guitars of Jonas Jarlby and Tim Öhrström being both cutting and thick at the same time. Henrik Sandelin’s bass is enough to make your fillings rattle, and John Alfredsson rattles around his kit like the Tasmanian Devil on speed.
With the exception of two tracks, which we’ll get to, Dance Devil Dance is predominately a Groove Metal album with more than a few twists and turns along the way.
Valley Of Disease has a main riff that’s not a million miles away from Strapping Young Lad’s Love? It’s certainly not a blatant rip-off. Think of it as a second cousin twice removed.
That’s the thing I’ve noticed about this album is most of the tracks bring images of other bands to mind. Not in sharp relief, more like a hazy image through the fog. Everything is 100% Avatar, and, to my mind anyway, this is their way of tipping their hat to their influences.
On The Beach sounds as if Korn has recorded a Groove Metal track. Henrik Sandelin’s bass is up front and centre throughout, and then we get a funky clean guitar riff for the chorus.
Do You Feel In Control starts off with a suitably schizophrenic guitar solo before a wonderful groove riff kicks in. If anyone tells you that Metal can’t swing, play them this. Gotta Want A Riot sounds like a Metal surf ’60s track and will encourage extreme headbanging when it’s played live.
The first non-Groove Metal track is Dirt I’m Buried In. This sounds like what would happen when an art rock band finds proper rock, and it comes with a gloriously cheesy video. Look out for Johannes’ dad dancing, and eagle-eyed viewers will also spot that Avatar’s chosen mode of transport is a beautiful classic Volvo Amazon.
To counteract the non-Metal of The Dirt I’m Buried In, Clouds Dipped In Chrome follows and is probably the heaviest track on the album. It positively rips your head off and proves that Johannes can reach King Diamond levels of falsetto.
Hazmat Suit sounds like the long-lost brother of Ministry’s Jesus Built My Hotrod, with The Warning era Geoff Tate popping up now and then.
The most non Metal track on the album is the glorious Train. This is a Nick Drake-style tale of a strange salesman on a train with a chorus provided Obituary! Not really, but that’s what it sounds like to me. It really shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does.
Avatar close the album out with a truly inspired collaboration with Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale. Violence No Matter What is a pounding Metal beast with both Johannes and Lzzy giving it their all.
So that is Avatar’s Dance Devil Dance album, and I have to agree with the band’s statement at the start of this review. YES, this is undoubtedly Avatar’s best album yet.
Avatar have forged their reputation as a killer live act, and now they have an album to match their bonkers stage presence.