Review: Avatar – ‘Dance Devil Dance’

With Metallica set to release their new album ’72 Seasons’ very soon, the usual suspects that normally turn their noses up at metal will no doubt become metalheads for one week in the year. ’72 Seasons’ will be the biggest-selling metal album of the year, no dispute there, but will it be the most important? Much like founding father and ex-American president Thomas Jefferson once supposedly said; “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” (he was quoted in Nicolas Cage/Sean Connery testosterone-fest ‘The Rock’ so it must be correct), the tree of metal must also be refreshed from time to time. For if metal is to survive once the legacy bands fade out, then new bands need to be given the same level of support from the metal community that acts such as Metallica receive. Enter stage-left Swedish nutters Avatar and their totally gonzo ninth studio album ‘Dance Devil Dance’.

If the most common negative thrown at metal is that it “all sounds the same”, then Avatar and ‘Dance Devil Dance’ is the grease-painted stick in the spokes of that particular slur. Variety is the name of the game, and there won’t be many albums released this year as eclectic as ‘Dance Devil Dance’; want some Maiden-inspired guitar melodies? Strap on some decent cans and check out the opening/title track, and feast on the twin guitars from Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström. Want to lose your shit to Janes Addiction-does-metal? Take two shots of ‘Chimp Mosh Pit’ and call me in the morning. ‘Valley Of Disease’ constantly mixes it up, as does ‘On The Beach’ with its insane instrumentals, and how about something that sounds like the original Batman TV theme tune on speed? Then try ‘Gotta Wanna Riot’ on for size and howl at the moon as the bridge of “Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-da” kicks in, while you windmill like crazy alongside the thick, nasty, groovy guitar licks from Jarlsby and Öhrström, but mostly marvel at the nailed-on drumbeats from one of the best drummers in modern metal today – John Alfredsson, and the insane vocals from the shining light of metal in 2023: Johannes Eckerström. Want to dance? Pop on ‘The Dirt I’m Buried In’ and dance like no one else is looking on. Such a gorgeous ’80s-inspired picking guitar tone on this one, and is that a homage to the much-missed Peter Steele from Eckerström about three minutes in?

You want it heavy? ‘Clouds Dipped In Chrome’ will sort you out and if there was such a thing as a trademark Avatar sound then it might just be this blast-beat-filled banger of a track where Alfredsson constantly shines throughout – and the vocals from Eckerström? Sheesh, where to start? Maniacal. Full of life. Insane. ‘Hazmat Suit’ is an instant floor filler. One to open up the biggest of circle pits, and thanks to the pulsating bass lines from Henrik Sandelin this one plays at an incredible pace. An utterly bonkers track that would not look out of place on the soundtrack to ‘Natural Born Killers’. The same could be said of ‘Train’ which features a show-stealing spoken narrative vocal from Eckerström interspersed with short blasts of death metal – Leonard Cohen fucking shit up? Aye, having that.

’72 Seasons’ will be the biggest metal album of the year, but sometimes the biggest is not necessarily the best. Avatar have created a winner with ‘Dance Devil Dance’, and right now that tree of metal is looking well-refreshed.

Available now via Black Waltz Records.

Review – Dave

Photo credit-Johan Carlèn

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