Avatar Ages: Madness, or the Age of Madness, is the 3rd of 4 live stream events happening over the course of January brought to us by the masterful Swedish, metal band, Avatar.
Over the course of January we are being treated to 4 events based around the entirety of the charismatic band’s existence. The Age of Dreams covered their most recent, and excellent, release, Hunter Gatherer along with some additional fan favourites. That took place on the 9th and you can read our thoughts on that here. The 16th saw Avatar tackle a fan voted set list from the albums Feathers and Flesh and Avatar Country under the heading of the Age of Illusions. You can read about that here.
The 23rd of January saw the band step back a little further in time to tackle a fan voted set list from the albums Hail the Apocalypse and Black Waltz under the title of Age of Madness. That is the topic of this review. Finally, on the 30th of January we will go back to the early days with the Age of Memories with another fan voted set list from the albums Thoughts of No Tomorrow, Schlact and Avatar. Obviously Age of Dreams, Illusions and Madness are done now but tickets can still be purchased for the Age of Memories from the Avatar Ages site, here.
Anyone who has seen even a snippet of Avatar live will be aware that this band give 100% effort in every moment of every song in evry performance. Streamed or not. Their art form is not just brought to life in their masterful music. It is alos in the uniforms, the make up, the performance, the showmanship. Each song is about the whole package and that is their art. Obviously being truly live would be spectacular but such is the way of the world right now, that just cannot be. Yet.
This medium of streaming is not like the real thing. As frontman Johannes Eckerström, states during the show, it is like a half picture. They are the outline, black and white but are lacking the colour. The filling and vibrancy brought by the physical presence of fans. So yes, its far short of the real thing but it is the best we have and already I feel like Avatar have mastered the format. The Age of Dreams and The Age of Illusions were both spectacular in every way and I expect the same again. Hail the Apocalypse and Black Waltz are both amazing albums and of extreme importance in the evolution of what Avatar have become.
Once again we get treated to the ambient versions of the Hunter Gatherer tracks as the stream counts down. With 5 minutes to go, that switches to the fan sent videos of us chanting Avatar. You know, like we would do at the beginning of a real show. The screen fades in and we see a trailer that was used to advertise the Ages shows in the build up. This entails a creepy looking Johannes approaching a cabin that we are in. He bangs on the door, peeks through the window as test appears screaming Let Me In!
This time, though he actually comes in, walking through one of the doors in their elaborate stage set up which consists of multiple connected stages. He makes his way through each one eventually coming across the rest of the band who appear frozen in position. One more stage passed that and finds his wind up music/television famed from the Hail the Apocalypse video and starts to wind the crank. As he does, the band in the next stage come to life and we set off with the track Hail the Apocalypse.
What a tune this is. An absolute banger. The band are fired up, Johannes roaring into his mic while cranking his box and the rest of the band enthusiastically banging heads on the stage left. Its a crushing way to start any set, streamed or not and that fire continues straight into the banger, Torn Apart. This is another form favourite of mine and the band give everything to capture the insanity and energy of the song. It does seem that Johannes may be either tired, ill or just a little sore at times. He is usually note for note perfect in line with each album but there are more than the usual variations to tone here and he is drinking a lot of water.
The thing is, even with a slightly different sound and tone at points, it sounds absolutely amazing and actually makes it feel even more like a true live performance. It also passes as the set continues so perhaps I am imagining it? We head back to Black Waltz next for a few tracks starting with rip roaring blast track, Blod.
Now, I know this is the Age of Madness but I must admit to starting to fear that Johannes has actually gone mad. His mannerisms and flamboyance on stage is well known but as we watch him screaming into the mic while writhing around on the floor and hitting himself in the head. Well, you fear that the Age of Madness truly has arrived.
That is him, and Avatar though. Never less than 100%. In Napalm is a rare treat next and has been firmly stuck in my head ever since before the brilliant Black Waltz. Speaking of madness, this song starts with Johannes prancing around looking dazed while carrying balloons. As they pop, he looks distraught. The song is sung and screamed beautifully and fears that Johannes may be unwell are long passed now. While the band attempt to play, Johannes pesters them with the balloons, leaving parts on them, rubbing them in their faces and as the song ends with Johannes left with just 1 balloon, kneeling down and singing directly to it, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You just know you feel great.
Let It Burn comes next and sees the band on another stage all lit up in visual flames and fire on the backdrop before we get a beautiful, passionate and slightly bonkers speech about the amount Avatar miss the crowd and there colours. A perfect segue into needing to be painted and Paint Me Red. And it is performed spectacularly. They really do sound better live than on record. As Paint Me Red ends, we see drummer John Alfredsson get up and gently push Johannes who appears stuck in an unending scream. Chaos ensues as Johannes chases John around the stages before eventually catching him, taking control of him and setting him back behind the drum kit. You know, like a puppet and so starts Puppet Show.
What a fun song this is! Johannes drags out his trombone for the instrumental section and the whole band look like they are having a blast. We are too. Ready for the Ride comes next followed by the brilliant Vultures Fly. Another firm favourite and another fine performance . We get a real treat next though as Johannes sits alone at the piano and we get an absolutely mesmerising version of Tower. I cannot emphasise enough how beautifully sung this track is. It is amazing.
A bit more camera/crowd interaction again makes you slightly fear for the bands mental state before we head into a trio of tracks that surely have every household headbanging along like crazy. The brilliant Murderer comes first followed by Get in Line and then Tsar Bomba. And so we reach the end with a double header of the band’s most popular songs starting with a perfectly delivered rendition of Bloody Angel, then a speech from Johannes on something about him smelling bad, and his clothes smelling bad before the big closer of Smells Like a Freakshow tears down the walls and pisses off everyone’s neighbours. Or converts them, you never know!
And so ends another weekend in January, or Avataruary, as it shall hence be known. Again their is a little sensation of sadness as the screen fades out to credits. More though, there is a sense of pride in the band, adoration for every member, gratitude for the performance and a little bit of optimism. It’s hard to explain why but something about these shows make you feel that everything is going to be okay. Maybe it is the feeling for an hour or two of being connected with others again. Or perhaps its the fact that it reminds you of better days. Maybe it is just hearing Avatar play and tell you they will see you again soon. Whatever it is, it helps a lot.
So thank you Avatar. For the music, the performance and the effort. Thanks for reminding us that we are in this together, we are all still connected and will be together again soon. We will see you next week.
Live Stream Review: Avatar Ages: The Age of Madness (23/01/2021)
The Final Score - 10/10