A State Visit From The King Of Avatar Country
Music and storytelling are a natural match.
The theatrics of a great stage show mixed with a story, even if just in a a single song, infects the listener to the point of wanting to know how it ends. The story unfolds.
For metal music, one band stands out for the concept of storytelling this time to give its king a global tour to meet the subjects of its country; Avatar Country.
Avatar has made its impact on metal. It isn’t just a scratch, but a deep footprint as members stroll across the landscape. Developing a sound that is unique, and creating a stage show that supports that sound have made Avatar a force that promises to deliver for a while.
The band is touring, well, in a sense, to support its newest endeavor, “Avatar Country.” The release is about the king of his land and his time on the throne, to include some rather humorous stories. The king has decided that he wanted to meet his ex-pat subjects around the world. Such a State Visit has been scheduled for Buffalo. The king, and his royal orchestra, will be performing at The Town Ballroom on May 16.
Special envoy of the king, and vocalist for the royal orchestra known as Avatar, Johannes Eckerstrom, agreed to take a few questions about the band, the King, and where it all goes from here.
The Swedish band has become known for its ability to push the envelope, visually as much as musically. The newest installment, Avatar Country, builds the mythos of how the king ascended his throne and how Avatar Country came into being.
Eckerstrom, the ringmaster and conductor of the Elite Royal Orchestra on this tour, said concept albums are something that just kind of happened. It wasn’t just about the music but was more of an event.
“It all started with Black Waltz. Good bands sound the way they look and talk. We started to figure that out and ourselves out for real,” he said. “As that fell into place and we started to understand ourselves, we started to look at the band as a whole. That our band would be considered a concept project.
“A band is a happening, like they used to say in the art world of the 1960’s,” Eckerstrom continued “There’s the music. There’s the album. There’s the cover art. There’s the visualization. We just got better at articulating our ambition before writing our songs. It all came into full bloom with ‘Feathers & Flesh’ when we said ‘Hey, let’s make one of those concept albums.’ It seemed very hard. We didn’t know how to make a concept album and it became out ambition, in that case.”
The challenge of pushing the limits are the basis of creativity and growth for the band.
“For ‘Avatar Country,’ we became, not by accident but unintentional (as a concept album),” Eckerstrom said. “We always want to do something that finds a new challenge or vibe..something we are not good at yet. The story of our king and opening the borders of our nation was something that had just grown. We have become better with working with the abstract parts of our profession as artists.”
Eckerstrom offered a glimpse into the band’s writing process.
“The songs come from so many different places,” he said. “I just happened to be writing music today. Your whole life is full of impulses and stuff. Your brain is full of little impulses, little seeds from other impulses of inspiration. Today, while I was eating, on a whim, I checked out some awful late 1990s teenage, college pop punk. I was checking out one of the latest Nickelback songs and that led me to a similar band and I was like, this was pretty awful. I went down this weird rabbit hole with these things that made me strangely nostalgic, for things I don’t like.
“There was a very abstract train of thought about music that I really don’t like,” he continued. “I just asked myself why does one particular chord or sound resonate with me more than this other thing? Is it really me saying that or the expectasious (sic) me, blah, blah, blah, and I picked up my guitar and wrote something completely different. Really being into writing, we have no idea what it is going to be when we actually get to making an album but what you really want to be is at least, opening up all the windows of the brain and let it flow through you. Another answer would be Black Sabbath…. And other bands.”
“His Royal Majesty, The King, and his Elite Royal Orchestra, Avatar, will be delighted to bring a unique package. That has been a thing with Avatar Country, to treat it more as a variety show and something that truly builds. We have two-man band, ’68, two-man band, Dance with the Dead, vastly different from each other and vastly different from us, both brilliant. And then, Devin Townsend will join us and do an acoustic set. All these three things are amazing. They sound nothing like each other and nothing like Avatar, but it all makes sense together. It will be exciting and you really don’t want to miss any of the bands on the bill. In terms of what we will be doing, this will most likely be the last time you get to experience His Royal Majesty The King, and Avatar, the Elite Orchestra, as a royal orchestra, in Buffalo.”