Avatar’s eighth album, Hunter Gatherer, is a dark, chugging train of an album that is unforgiving, and showstopping.
The first song, “Silence in the Age of Apes” begins with a riff similar to the last album’s Statue of the King. But don’t let that catchy, hard hitting riff fool you, Avatar may have donned their creativity (and humor!) in bright carnival colors last time, but this is brand a new journey in a world fully created by them. While their previous album allowed for some massive worldbuilding, this album goes further in taking you through the origins of that world in all its gritty glory.
This album grabs you by the hair on your head and makes you headbang all the way through. but lets you come up for air at all the right moments, ready to be plunged back down into molten metal.
Colossus is one of the nastiest sounding songs, in the best way possible, that I’ve heard in a long time. The heavy rip in the beginning makes one want to do a back bending head bang. The bass and drums work powerfully in tandem to keep it heavy and make it sound like an army marching forward into a furious battle. It chugs along in a slipknot-esque fashion that is unforgettable, like a war cry.
However, the elements of this album, especially Johannes’s voice, don’t have to be in your face to be effective. This album clearly shows that while Avatar has returned a bit more to their death metal roots stylistically, they have kept the lessons learned in ingenuity from their later works and absolutely go further in fine-tuning their craft. For example, the song “The Secret Door”, shows that this album knows when to build and hammer home a point, as well as let go and let it ride to show its own power with ease.
The feelings this album creates aesthetically vary far and wide from track to track, but feel interconnected in the world they built. Those feelings range from: the feeling of cool fabric tassels on a circus hat sweeping across your hand, combat boots marching forward, sound of boots slapping on cobble stones in the middle of a spring rain with the loud echoing tones of a chapel bell, an old creaky floor in the wind drafts of a stone house, and more. This is all created by the incredible talent of the band in joint effort as they fly to give us a tour of this crazy world they have built in an effort to show us every detail.
Johannes captivates you as each song truly is a story in its own right, going into the next journey. He is the wild, possibly unreliable narrator, guiding you through a town of chaos that is somehow familiar but challenging and destroying everything you once knew. Almost like something nostalgic and old before your time, like an old European town where the streets are cobblestones with cloudy chill weather, but the streets are reverberating with new power.
The instruments lead the way, setting the scene of this dramatic playthough, allowing Johannes to wander onto the stage as the masterful storyteller. The instruments bend and shape to change the story at the drop of each syllable from the voice which seems to be able to mimic over many styles with ease. The end of every song feels like an act closed as the curtains are drawn and then are reopened, sometimes ripped open. The changing tone and flow of the instrumentation makes the listener feel as if they are in the audience, and as the curtain begins to close, the band rips open the curtain, leaning off stage to break the fourth wall and get into your face, unblinking, to make the story sink in to you and you alone.
This album is incredibly vivid, and I’m not sure if one can get away with listening without seeing the universe the band wants to audibly create in your mind. “When All But Force Has Failed” I can easily see being the perfect fast driving track for a horror movie as someone runs from the killer in a mad panic. The last song, “Wormhole” literally feels like you are spinning in a wormhole, I don’t know how they managed to perfect this, but it feels like moving in an audio circle in your head if you close your eyes, slowly spinning with visions of things. More specifically, the vision being some sort of knight wounded in a battle, but the battle is won, and the knight is stumbling, bleeding through the enemy’s underground giant royal hall, victorious, but still angry, and also unsure as their sword drags behind them and torches show nothing but the empty scraggly gray stone around them.
Overall, this album sounds like what it must feel like to fly low over barbed-wire in a thunderstorm. It’s an encapsulation of being in a future and watching things evolve around you, but also destroy themselves in the process. How fitting for 2020. Avatar continues to knock it out of the park and blow me away with every new world and vision they create. If you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend doing so, ASAP.
-A Secret Door
-When All But Force Has Failed