Avatar has quickly become an Idaho favorite, in large part to our own Big J and Nic on The Morning After at 100.3 The X. So it is a no-brainer they would return for this event. The band will perform alongside Breaking Benjamin, Saint Asonia, Shaman’s Harvest, Stitched Up Heart and Traitors Gate at this year’s 2016 X Fest on Friday, August 26 at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Nampa. They will go on right after Shaman’s Harvest and Stitched Up heart. Gates open at 3pm; show starts at 4pm. Tickets are still available.
Sweden’s Avatar began its journey in 2001, releasing its debut album, Thoughts of No Tomorrow a decade ago. Driven by the charismatic voice and personality of Johannes Eckerström and powered by founding members Jonas Jarlsby (guitar), Henrik Sandelin (bass) and John Alfredsson (drums), the band has morphed from a melodic death metal band into something new and inspired. The transformation began to take place with the band’s fourth album, Black Waltz. Avatar’s music and image began to reveal itself in new and interesting ways. Metal fans across the globe began to take notice. Guitarist Tim Öhrström joined the band in 2012 to tour the Black Waltz and help write the follow-up, Hail the Apocalypse, which further cemented the band’s evolving and unique sound. The music combined with Avatar’s dark circus imagery has made them massively popular on both sides of the pond.
On May 13, Avatar released its sixth and most accomplished album to date, Feathers & Flesh. It is the band’s first concept record to date, and is built around the story of an owl in a poem penned by Eckerström. This spring, we caught up with Johannes to talk about Feathers & Flesh and look back at the 10th anniversary of the band’s first record. Eckerström shared that Feathers & Flesh began with Avatar looking for a new way to challenge themselves.
“Hail the Apocalypse was all about recording live and catching that kind of atmosphere and dare to do won’t you don’t think you’re able to, cause Led Zeppelin did it, and we’re not Led Zeppelin. So that was kind of that journey. Having done that once, it became way less important to prove ourselves in that matter. So then we were kind of into wanting to build a proper studio monster of a record. In that thought process it seemed the next logical step or challenge artistically was a concept album. So the next unnatural step for us would be a concept album. All about that new challenge.”
Johannes offered that the idea of creating a concept album came first and then the journey to find the proper concept became the first leg of that process.
“There was a period of figuring out what would be our story to tell. I first started with you know I’m a clown, and its horror, and it could be a haunted theme park, and then I fell asleep from my own thoughts because it felt so cliché, boring, lame, stupid. So I moved on and then it was a Swedish novel series, The Immigrant series, and I thought there’s some stuff in here that could be turned into something, then I realized that Bjorn and Benny from Abba did a musical about it in the 90s, so that one was taken. (Laughs) So I reached the conclusion it needed to be something where we had the same ambition as we do with the music—to do something fresh and original. So I started to soul search for an original story and that led me to researching the concept of fables.”
Eckerström wrote the poem or fable that would be the basis for Avatar’s 70-minute masterpiece, Feathers & Flesh. Then began the band process of putting the fable to music and bringing the story to life.
“A huge part of the process was very similar to—you know we write songs in a certain way and there were some other things to take into consideration, but still people show up with a bag of riffs and we bounce things back and forth and that whole thing. And in that process, when I’m working on lyrics, and people are like ‘So what is this song about?’ And instead of saying, I don’t know—what people say when they write metal—Harley Davidsons or Satan, or whatever—it’s to say, it’s about a pike, it’s about a fish (laughs). This is the fish song. Which is a very interesting and different environment to work in when things like that are always an agenda. This is a fish, this is a raven—well a raven’s a pretty good metal trope—but this is about bees. You know, this is a bee song, this is a pike song. It was special like that.”
Johannes talks in-depth about making Feathers & Flesh and working with famed producer Sylvia Massy. He also talks about making the band’s first album Thoughts of No Tomorrow in 2006, and how it compares to where the band is today. Check out the full interview below.
Avatar will also perform Wednesday August 24 in Post Falls, Idaho at the Greyhound Park & Event Center for Rock Hard in the Park with Breaking Benjamin and Alter Bridge, as Saint Asonia, Shaman’s Harvest, and Stitched Up Heart. Tickets for this show are $41.50.