Anyone that knows me knows that I love myself a good concert. Live music is an incredible experience for any music fan. I can remember many “firsts” when it comes to concerts, but one stands out to me the most.
I was attending the Louder Than Life Music Festival in Louisville, Ky. One of the stand-out features of this festival is the two side-by-side main stages. This allows one band to set up while the other is playing both on the “main stage” of sorts. While both stages are given the label based on festival sponsors, it’s much easier to just call them the Left and Right stage.
I’m standing by the Right stage, as a band is ending their set on the Left stage. There was a short lull and my friends and I were talking about what we were going to do next. We were about to walk away when this dark, gothic, circus-sounding music started to play. It got our attention so we turned toward the Right stage where we would see people in face paint walk across the stage holding flags with letters on them, place the flags in stands, and pick up instruments. The flags weren’t placed in order, but soon the lead singer, in the most elaborate face paint of the band, would place the last flag in its stand, spelling out the name of the band. As the first riff of the first song played, all of the immediate plans were scrubbed and I was into the set. Seconds later, I knew I had found a new band to dive into.
The song was called, “Hail the Apocalypse” and the band’s name was Avatar.
Most of the music from this set, much to my pleasure, was from the same album, also entitled “Hail the Apocalypse”. The best thing about this metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden is that, for fans of rock and metal music, this album is just fun! All around, full stop, period.
The title track begins with, “There’s a storm heading our way, all that’s been will be gone. All your cities will sink into the ocean, you run away like cattle, but you cannot flee the battle, wipe your ass, it’s time to put on your war paint.”
Imagery of the end of the world is to be expected if the song is indeed called, “Hail the Apocalypse”. Cities falling into the oceans, people running and fighting, chaos, greed, murder - all of it is here! Two of my favorite parts: “All flesh is equal when burnt”, saying that regardless of race, culture, status, riches, sex, or religion, we are all the same as we burn, and “All the lords I swore to obey - I take it back”, to me, means in the end, I have to watch my own back. At the end of the world, I can’t rely on anyone else but me. That definitely sticks with you.
Continuing with the theme of the end of times, “Death of Sound” starts off on the softer side of heavy, shifting slightly from the circus-y sound you’ve heard so far. Typical metal play through the first verse. Transitioning into the chorus, the music relaxes a bit as the lyrics, “Let the death of sound sing the end of time. By a promise bound to the water. Bring me water, I’m dying.” Those lyrics are accompanied by these machine-gun-esque drums that will be the sound that hangs with you throughout the song, even when you don’t hear it.
The thing about this album that I love, more than anything else, is the energy and vibe that it has. Metal and rock music is about the energy that you feel from it. I asked a few friends what metal is to them. This is what they said.
“Metal is family.” - Kelly
“Metal is music that hits my soul differently than other genres of music.” - Ashlee
“Metal is therapy.” - Madison
“Metal is life.” - Brittany
I agree with every single one of these. These are important to me when listening to any rock album. The lyrics aren’t the sweetest, but rock music isn’t the sweetest. Rock is usually made from pain and it’s the unfortunate familiarity with that pain that brings rock fans a sense of camaraderie.
A single electric guitar strums away for about a minute.
When the band joins in, the gothic circus returns (seriously, just have to hear it once and you’ll know what I mean when I say “gothic circus”. It kinda makes me want to see a gothic-themed circus in real life. Why isn’t this a thing already?) and this beautiful gothicly-melodic rock tune begins. “Bloody Angel” is one of my favorite songs on this album.
“Come bloody angel, break off your chain and look what I found in the dirt. Pale battered body, it seems she was struggling. Something is wrong with this world.”
The song expresses sadness or remorse for the world around them. Who can’t relate to that? “How can I sleep? When everyone else turns to dust. How can I breathe? When my mouth is filled with their ashes.” and later, “When did it start? This force is too strong to resist. Where is too far? All I did was trying to save them.” and later still, “Remember the lives, lost within withering pages. Trying to hide, but I see tragedies through a lifetime.”
You can always take these words to mean what you need them to mean, in your moment. Clearly continuing the titular theme, you can take these words as seeing your own struggles and recognizing someone else that is struggling through greater issues. To me, that’s a great reminder to look outside of ourselves and not to focus solely on ourselves.
When you think of puppets, you’re prone to think of one of two things. Your mind could lead you back to your childhood where you watched shows like Sesame Street or Lambchop’s Play-Along and saw puppets teach you about letters and numbers or the concepts of right and wrong. Maybe you think of that “Lonely Goatherd” scene in “The Sound of Music” (one of my favorite songs on that soundtrack, by the way) and you think of time with your family watching that movie annually as a tradition of sorts. Or, your mind goes full conspiracy theory thinking about who is really pulling the strings of the world’s government, using our nation’s leaders as pawns in a global game of chess where money is the ultimate prize.
“Puppet Show” is akin to either mindset, one more than the other. The playful music floats and dances around lyrics like, “Puppet King, oh Puppet King, when you sleep do you dream of control? Everything, run by strings, your shadow has a voice of its own.”
This song really plays into the gothic circus music thing. Singing along with it, I get the playful vibe with angry energy. It gets even more playful as the song starts to slow the tempo down with the addition of what sounds like a trombone. Over half of the song is music and if you’re vibing along you really get to hold on to that - for like 2 whole minutes. It’s fun.
The final song I’ll cover is a song they covered. I hadn’t heard the original when I first heard this, but I would eventually learn that it’s a cover of a song by Nirvana from their album “Nevermind”.
I feel like if I’m going to talk about a cover I should compare the two. Listening to the original Nirvana version, one of the first differences you will notice is that it lead with an acoustic guitar compared to Avatar’s electric. This is very 90s in its approach. Also, Corbin’s singing of the song is really monotone. Again, in an early 90s grunge rock kind of way.
Avatar worked magic on this song. The full band from the start, Avatar’s lead singer, Johannes Eckerstrom, naturally sings the song, allowing his voice to follow along with the music. It’s carried along with the same wave of energy as the rest of the album. Depending on your mood, you can feel this song just wash over you, something you can honestly say about this entire album.
As I said before, one of the reasons I love this album is the energy it generates. While it produces highs and lows, the vibe is mellow. You don’t fall asleep but you’re not gonna mosh your living room to shreds either. (That’d be foolish anyway. Lamps are far more expensive than they should be.) The lyrics tell a story without having to spell everything out for you and, most of all, it carries a single theme throughout the whole thing which, as a writer, I really appreciate. Same theme without getting boring or too repetitive.
Also, if you get to see these guys live, do it. Thank me later.