When it comes to concept albums, Avatar have clearly decided to go hard or go home by releasing two in a row. After 2016’s Feathers And Flesh, built around a French fable about an owl who goes to war against the world to prevent the sun from rising (no, really), the Swedish oddballs have risen to the challenge of creating a follow-up that’s just as barmy. Welcome to Avatar Country, where The King awaits.
While it’s unclear if The King referenced on the album is just a heavy-handed metaphor or if Avatar have actually written a whole record about founding guitarist Jonas ‘Kungen’ (’The King’ – geddit?) Jarlsby – which is kind of sweet – what is clear is that they’ve really hammered home the concept by including the word ‘King’ in the title of every single song. In fact the tracklisting reads like a recipe for disaster in which words start to lose all meaning, but thankfully for these miscreants they pull it off with finesse, humour and excellent musicianship.
First song proper, Legend Of The King, has a multitude of tightly harmonised riffs and an instrumental section worthy of Iron Maiden, before channelling Devin Townsend on the bonkers The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country. Charismatic Froot Loop and frontman Johannes Eckerström takes melodies and cadences to unexpected places in his vocals on A Statue Of The King while the rest of the band pool their classic metal, blues and thrash influences to create a unique record that culminates in not one but two instrumentals. On paper, nothing about this album makes any sense, but Avatar Country is worth the trip, if only for a day.