Album Review: AVATAR - Hunter Gatherer

Artist: Avatar

Album: Hunter Gatherer

Genre: Metal

Review by Tomina Vincent

Avatar are, in many cases, a band that one discovers by accident. The band has been making waves overseas for a while, but in Australia, they remain largely unknown. Their obscurity is completely undeserved. With ear worm singles like "Hail the Apocalypse" and "The Eagle Has Landed", combined with their striking music videos and distinct visual and musical identity, they are a captivating experience from every angle. From their very inception, Avatar have carried themselves with astonishing artistic maturity - blending influences with original ideas, to create a sound that us both unique and innovative. This rings especially true when it comes to their latest offering, Hunter Gatherer. Let’s dive right in. This band has always had a strong theatrical streak, especially in their live performances. It is often difficult transitioning such cinematic tendencies into audio, but as usual, they don’t have this problem whatsoever. From the very first track, we are served some of Avatar’s heavier work. "Silence In The Age Of Apes" is a start-to-finish wall of chugging riffs and layered vocals, with a distinct anthem-like feel. It’s easy to imagine thousands of heads banging to this from the front to the back of Wacken Open Air, which was where I first discovered them. And just as I always expect from these wizards of transformation, second track "Colossus" is a completely different experience. It’s like Type O Negative and Iron Maiden had a fist fight, and it’s almost jolting how much this track sounds like a completely different artist, except in the parts where the signature guitar work shines through. "A Secret Door" is a ballad-turned-beast offering with gorgeously contrasting parts, super catchy guitars and, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the shining trophy of the entire record. Not only does it show Avatar’s versatility, but also their incredible songwriting skills - more specifically, their ability to introduce an element of surprise, and distribute it in a way that holds the listener’s attention from start to finish. There are elements of a myriad of heavy styles, as well as some rather corny pop music hints that despite sounding incompatible on paper, work perfectly in the context of this record, and this artist. "God Of Sick Dreams" brings us back to Avatar’s earlier work - catchy, simple riffs and well-rounded distorted vocals that cut through the mix like a knife through butter. "Scream Until You Wake" goes into almost Judas Priest territory with its soaring vocals, blended with somewhat of symphonic metal feel and blistering, truly old-school solos straight out of your 80’s heavy metal dreams.

Tracks 6 and 7, named "Child" and "Justice", is are great examples of how to describe what Avatar do to someone who has never heard of them. These songs represent what metal music theatre would sound like, and what an ‘Avatar Heavy’ stands for. Both are very typical of Avatar, in a sense, the two faces of the band. Having reached past the midpoint of the record, I’m resizing that what really feels different about this album is the sense of artistic freedom. It’s easy to see how this offering could feel a little schizophrenic to people who have never heard of Avatar, but it is at this point in their career that they seem to have left their reservations at the door. Indeed, there is nothing left to prove, and it really feels as though they just had fun making this record exactly as they saw fit. "Gun" is a beautifully vulnerable piece which hints to some of Slipknot’s ballads and offers a stunningly fragile and genuine vocal performance by lead singer Johannes Eckerström. Followed by the ultra-energetic "When All But Force Has Failed", another highlight of the record, walks into Anthrax or even at times Slayer territory, featuring arguably one of the best guitar solos and vocals that Avatar have ever produced. The closing track, "Wormhole", is a ridiculous trip from black metal into doom which, in an instant, transforms into a Devin Townsend-esque epic featuring elements of heavy and stadium metal, sat on a bedrock of ominous guitars and bass. This track ventures into progressive territory with some interesting transition and songwriting choices, proving once again that this band has absolutely no limitations. Hunter Gatherer is a brilliant record by one of the most exciting bands in metal right now. Regardless of what genre you prefer, you will be able to find something in here that you will love, and trust me - it gets better with every listen. Avatar have shown that they can do anything, while always retaining their distinct identity and sense of integrity. If you are not familiar with this band yet, Get on the train now. You will have a hell of a good time.

Hunter Gatherer is available now via Entertainment One.

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