I will admit, until the line up was posted for Welcome to Rockville, I had never heard of Avatar. When I saw their photo, I had to know more about them. After I heard them, I had to talk to them. Their flamboyant lead singer, Johannes Eckersrtom and their drummer, John Alfedsson were kind enough to stop by and have a chat following their performance at Welcome to Rockville. This metal group from Sweden is anything but ordinary. I was once told by a musician in Prague, in Europe everyone is expected to be different so in order to be noticed, you must be very unique. Avatar certainly meets that standard.
They formed in their teens in 2001, playing as Johannes described it, “a mix between technical metal and death metal”. Slowly evolving in to the style they have today. It is certainly paying off. “Hail the Apocalypse” from their last album of the same title reached number 25 in Sweden and broke into the Billboard top 100 at number 97. Not bad for a group whose home country only has “one last record store”. “It’s the reason we, (the country of Sweden) invented Spotify. There are no record stores.” Judging by the crowd at Welcome to Rockville, they are a band with a significant following. When asked if there was a difference in the audiences between Europe and the US, he quickly answered “Metal heads are metal heads. Always passionate.”
From the moment Johannes walked on the stage, prior to the music, over the din of the crowd of several thousand you could hear people yelling “I love you, Johannes”, and chants of “Avatar”. One family brought their child, who might qualify as Avatars youngest fan; he looked about 5 in his noise canceling headphones. He enjoyed the show from the perch atop his father’s shoulders. On stage, the energy is incredible. The band flows
together beautifully. Johannes is a force of nature as the leader of what feels like a very scary yet engaging carnival. The performance is mesmerizing. When asked about his onstage persona he said “It comes from various places, I’m a creepy person inside. I don’t play a character. It is just another side of me, creepy and seductive.” He is 100% invested right down to his gas can from which he drinks onstage.
Their previous album “Hail the Apocalypse was recorded in Thailand the benefits to were as John described “Warmth and isolation, friends couldn’t come over so we were super focused. Feathers and Flesh was recorded in Germany, Finland and Sweden, but again in the country side. It was “all about being isolated”. In regards to their carnival like style Johannes said, “We like dramatic melody so (the carnival feel) became a natural part of our pallet”. That’s not to say they won’t continue to evolve. Their formula for creativity is simple “Widen your horizon, push yourself. By not letting ourselves really repeat what ourselves or another band has done, I think that is where (our) creativity comes from.” His vocal style is a mixed bag. He can growl, scream, and in the same song carry a stunningly beautiful melody. He prepares his voice as “any other musical instrument. You must practice.”
They are very focused and serious about their craft, but they still have a sense of humor. I asked what was next for them. Johannes replied “Next we have lunch (long pause)…..but we just finished Feathers and Flesh and after the US, we have festival season in Europe and then the US again and then Europe, and then we die”, referring to their rather rigorous touring schedule.
I asked if there was anything else they might want to add and was met with a quick and cheerful, “No, that’s your job. No really we got to say Feathers and Flesh like 10 times so we are good!” With that, a couple of hugs and some rather hilarious photos, and a creepy one, they were gone. If you have an opportunity to see them live, do it. If you are going to Rocklahoma it’s a band you want to make time for! You can also view more information, their brand new video for “The Eagle Has Landed, and order their album Feathers and Flesh from their website . I think I may have worked the title in a few times myself.
Written by: Belinda @belindareedy