Avatar Ages: Memories, or the Age of Memories, is the final of 4 live stream events that took place over the course of January brought to us by the masterful Swedish, metal band, Avatar.
Over the course of January we have been 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. Read our thoughts on that, here. Finally, on the 30th of January we went back to the start with the Age of Memories with another fan voted set list from the albums Thoughts of No Tomorrow, Schlact and Avatar. Avatar essentially took over the whole of January, or what will henceforth be known as Avataruary, and gave us all something to look forward to, weekly, in a month that is hard to motivate in even when we aren’t gripped by a global pandemic.
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 every performance. Streamed or not. Their art form is not just brought to life in their masterful music. It is also 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. Instead, we stream. Well, they stream, and we absorb. So we head into the end of the month and this package of excellence under the name of Avatar Ages.
Its odd that I am as excited for this show as any considering this Age of Memories is the most unfamiliar for me. I know the odd song but I am very unfamiliar with their earlier work. My excitement stays up though because it’s Avatar. I am pretty sure they could cover a Coldplay song and turn it into an artistic, visual spectacle. I’m also excited that the band have brought a support band. And who is that support band, I hear you ask? Well, it’s Avatar. Yes, we have Avatar headlining supported by Avatar.
I know, confusing right? Well, actually, with a little detail it makes perfect and brilliant sense. 30 minutes before the stream starts officially, Avatar are planning to play a never before seen video of them in their teens when they took to the stage for the very first time as Avatar. Never before seen, and probably never seen again, it really fits in with the Age of Memories moniker. In one evening we are going to see where it all began followed by the most recent performance, back to back. I love the idea and as for the execution?
It is bedded in nicely with the timer – the countdown zooms in to a still giving the date and location of this first show and we get to see an insanely young looking band having a blast at a pretty full show. They play three songs and in typical forst show style, 2 of them are covers. Starting with In Flames’ Clayman and ending with Slayers’ Raining Blood. We also had a first ever Avatar song in the middle called Hymn to the Victim of the Liar. It looked awesome. Unfortunately the footage is old so it sounded like shit and was pretty much just pure distortion and feedback.
Weirdly it feels perfect still, I guess due to what it is and the sentiment behind it. Back to the counter and, as we wait for the start of this special show, we get treated to another bit of footage. This was unexpected and was from their 3rd ever show where we see one track, Avatar’s 2nd ever song, Soul Prison. This is much higher quality and it is cool to see the band’s future forming in front of you.
One last time we go back to counting down as the screen starts fading in to Johannes reclined on a battered sofa in a pair of jeans and a shirt sans makeup. He talks to us about the passed. About his memories of sleeping on sofas at friends houses, at rehearsal spaces after a heavy Saturday night. He regales us with tales before getting up and walking across to a newly created stage. Basically the A Secret Door stage but transformed into a rehearsal space. Empty pizza boxes, posters on the wall. It looks authentic and makes you smile.
And so we begin. The band jump straight in with Schlacht from the album Schlacht and it is fire. The whole band are energised as always sounding perfectly in sync and looking like they are enjoying their freedom. Freedom from routine, from make up and outfits. It’s just a rip roaring metal show and this song starts it all off perfectly. We go back to the start next with My Shining Star from Thoughts of No Tomorrow. I don’t know what’s happening to me but these old songs, songs I didn’t care for once, are brilliant.
Maybe it is a new found appreciation of the band or maybe it is just hearing old songs played by the new Avatar – I’m not sure but I am loving everything. The guitar solos are immense. Drums are insane and bass is slamming. As for Johannes, well, of course he is absolutely raging vocally and physically. We get a little speech about ex member Simon who wrote part of the next song, Stranger, also from Thoughts of No Tomorrow. It seems the band have never quite forgiven him for just quitting on them. Still, they wish him well, state they hope he is watching and also that, if he is, he bought a fucking ticket. I did laugh.
We head back to Schlacht next for a double header of Die With Me followed by All Hail the Queen. Two more fiery songs that have the band sweating buckets and John Alfredsson on drums is simultaneously killing it while looking like he is being killed. All Hail the Queen is a fantastic track – it’s very technical and vocally Johannes sounds amazing but it looks like a tough one to sing. Unknown at the time but the first portion of the song ends with War Song from Thoughts of No Tomorrow. The 4th song on the album yet Johannes cheekily claims it to be the first good song they wrote. And it is good, really good and the band sound amazing.
So we head into a sudden intermission but a special one. A few minutes where a collage of pictures and video snippets of the band’s memories. Stills from shows, photoshoots, selfies on tours, and the like. It all adds to the Age of Memories authenticity and feeling. It is also funny to watch Jonas Kungen Jarlsby’s hair grow from a fuzzy mop into small dreads and on towards the length he has today as each image goes by.
We head back to the show for the final time. The rest of the show now will be their 3rd album in full. As every song on the album was voted for by the fans, the band will play them back to back. We are on a second stage, graduated from the rehearsal room but it is kept simple. Some lights and a flashing Avatar sign behind them as they jump into Queen of Blades. This song is my favourite of this era by far. I adore it. The band sound so good and the guitars drip passion. Johannes does him and just smashes it.
His petrol can is back out now for drinking from too as it first appeared in this era and they even have a camera on it so we get an “interesting” view of him glugging water when he needs it. The Great Pretender absolutely slays with it’s punky attitude before a comical speech from Johannes where he talks about how he cannot believe we are asking him to sing these songs again. He says it in relation to Shattered Wings first which he performs admirably but it does look tough. He mentions it again regarding tracks like Roadkill which hits new levels of young and healthy vocal chord stretching.
Reload, Out of Our Minds and Revolution of Two all pass in a hail of power, passion and skill. These guys could literally play anything and it becomes good. Roadkill kills them and us but they somehow find the energy for the brutal death track, Pigfucker before we reach the end. The end of the album, Avatar, and the end of The Age of Memories. Lullaby (Death All Over) is a phenomenal song and, considering I didn’t know it before, I would happily say it is now one of my favourites ever. As the main part ends, Johannes gives us his thanks and love.
He walks off stage to another stage where he sits at his piano and plays out the melodic section before the band join in for the extended instrumental part of the song. While the band jam in the other room, Johannes walks away heading outside where we see, across a river, a building with a huge love heart projected on it. He smiles to the crowd/camera, bows to the world and walks off. We cut back to the band who finish their jam and the screen fades away leaving a simple message from the band, to the fans.
It offers thanks, appreciation, love and respect. They wish us happiness, health and look towards that next meeting. And so The Age of Memories ends.
And so ends Avataruary. It’s been special, it’s been emotional and it’s been desperately needed. As sadness creeps in, knowing that for the first time in a month, there isn’t an Avatar show next month, I try to take stock. Yes, it is sad to watch them fade out but there is more. 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.
In a month of politics, Brexit, vaccines, death and left and right wing radicals storming social media, Avatar have been my rock. The constant, the consistent and the release from this terrifyingly normal world we live in. So thank you Avatar. For the music, the performance and the effort you clearly put in. Thank you for bringing an awestruck smile to my daughters face. For lifting a weight off of my shoulders. Thanks for reminding us that we are in this together, we are all still connected and will be together again soon. And thanks for the Memories.
Avatar Ages: The Age of Memories (30/01/2021)
The Final Score - 9.5/10