Avatar: Swedish Steel – Distorted Sound Magazine
You might hear the name AVATAR and imagine a band marching across a stage dressed as ringmasters directing a circus. But behind the scenes outdoor bloodstock, it’s five Swedes basking in the British heat in Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses. It’s been eight long years since they last played at Catton Park, and three since they played on these shores – so how does it feel to be back?
“It feels like the most British thing we’ve done in a while as we realize our current squad is 80 per cent British so we’re having a cutting edge British experience,” said the frontman. Johannes Eckerstrom, happily comfortable in the sun while the rest of the festival fights for shade. “On top of that, we were in Edinburgh for the first time yesterday, so the fact that we’re not just back but doing a bunch of firsts both as a band and as tourists, it’s is a great way to spend a summer!”
Whereas AVATAR live the high life this year, summers spent playing shows and exploring cities around the world were just pipe dreams for the past two years. Having released his eighth album hunter gatherer at the height of a global pandemic, they were stuck at home twiddling their thumbs. Fortunately, they saved themselves by creating the four-part audiovisual avatar age spectacular livestream that took viewers on a journey through their entire discography. But how important was it to them, until they could return to festivals like blood-blood?
“More important than we thought when we started working on it, because we felt like a group. I live in Finland, the rest of the band lives in Sweden, so we had weekly Zoom meetings, but going to a dressing room, stripping in front of each other, going to sweat together and feeling like it was for someone there to enjoy, it meant the world to us on a level that we didn’t realize, because it was like putting on a show.
With their fans quenched and themselves inflamed, the AVATAR the cogs were starting to turn again, despite the return to Zoom calls and long drives. But with all that downtime on their hands before and after, did it finally feel like a band again bringing back the spark for AVATARis this the next chapter?
“I think that train was already talking about what we were becoming, what we were doing, but it certainly gave us a lot of energy for that,” Johannes admits, unphased by our receding shadow. “It’s the show that really came back, and I put together a little video package of old footage we had of partying on the road, and the nostalgia for that allowed us to reconnect with what it is than being in a band together, making it feel all the more special, so that original record that can get lost in the shuffle, it’s back.
While their energy spike has seen a handful of singles thrown at us since last year, there’s a whole album to come. And for anyone who thinks they’ve got the sound figured out, here’s a curve ball courtesy of Johannes. “Well, a big surprise is that all the singles you’ve heard have nothing to do with the next album – they’re all brand new stuff that no one has heard yet!”
So while they are fixed at blood-blood didn’t throw us something new to eat, Johannes did not leave us empty-handed. The as-yet-untitled album is their “best work yet”. It’s a cliché that all the bands talk about, but for Johannes and AVATAR, they really mean it. “The reason I care about it so much is that I feel like we did with this one what JUDAS PRIEST made with British steel – cut the fat and focus on the laser.
” Before that, JUDAS PRIEST were a great rock band, a great heavy metal band, a great prog band, but with British steel they were able to take all of their eclectic sides and make a streamlined album and become the biggest heavy metal band on the planet. That’s what we did, we refocused, and it’s unlike any other band; it’s us, we’re weird as shit, but now we’re able to be weird as shit in a way that will break down all your defenses.
Breaking down people’s defenses is something AVATAR are no strangers to. They’re a band that’s been on the back burner since day one, just to be ahead of the curve with their theatrical assault on alternative metal. But being weird and wonderful, and being on your back, has seen them build fans all over the world – and such mention of it is reminiscent Johannes of blood-blood 2014.
“We were on our way to here, we had played in Milton Keynes and had breakfast in a hotel while all these people from the trans community partied all night like their dinner was the breakfast buffet where we were seated, so there It was a wonderful vibe in there when we were called to come on the main stage, so I have a lot of memories of that day, so it feels weird that it’s been eight years because it is so fresh in my mind.
AVATAR‘s at this year’s festival saw them take the main support slot for fellow theater fans SLEEP TOKEN‘s title set on the Sophie Lancaster Scene. Whereas Johannes had never heard of them until the day they were playing the excitement was real because “all the Brits on the bus lose their shit about SLEEP TOKENso I’m getting caught up!’
Next BLOOD STOCKthere is an album to finish and unveil to the world, as well as their very first trip to South America with IRON MAIDEN. Although they are excited to open for their heroes, they compare it to a fight Mike Tyson in 1986.
“I don’t even know how to go about it, because you are so happy but at the same time there is a problem: you have to open to fuck IRON MAIDEN. It’s like you’re a boxer and it’s 1986 and you want to get to the top, so your goal is to get a match with Mike Tyson. The problem is that now you have to box Mike Tyson and IRON MAIDEN are the Mike Tyson heavy metal, and we’re the first to say ‘please stop throwing stuff’.
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