When avatar guitarist Jonas Jarlsby added the word “Kungen” (“King” in Swedish) to his social media account, he had no idea that the move would inspire the band to create Avatar Country, their most ambitious concept album to date. Unlike 2016’s dour Feathers & Flesh, the new album is an upbeat romp about the citizens of a wild kingdom.
From the album intro “Glory to Our King” to the closer, “Silent Songs of the King Pt. 2: The King ’s Palace,” Avatar Country is powered by an eclectic batch of songs that range from quirky and meandering to fluid and precise. Loosely described, it’s a maniacal hybrid of Iron Maiden, Frank Zappa, In Flames, Aerosmith, Avenged Sevenfold and DragonForce.
“We’re like sponges,” says guitarist Tim Öhrström. “We soak in everything from movie music to the most brutal metal you can think of. And then we mix it all together.”
The multidimensional songs are augmented by an abundance of solos from both guitarists that range from undistorted melodic snippets to ripping, rapid-fire volleys. The second track, “Legend of the King” is an eight-minute-long microcosm of Avatar Country, combining bountiful neoclassical runs with melodic death metal shredding. Despite its length, the song was one of the easiest for Avatar to write.
“When we did it, everything came quite naturally,” Jarlsby says. “As soon as one part ended, it felt obvious that it was time to move on to the next section.”
While Öhrström improvised almost all of his leads on the album, Jarlsby was more meticulous, determining exactly what he wanted to play for each section. “What Tim does is great, but we work differently,” he says. “I write everything out and then add a lot of harmonies. And I listen to every note to make sure they’re perfect.”
Jarlsby and Öhrström started writing Avatar Country in early 2017 and only planned to record an EP. By July, they finished six songs but wanted to continue writing, so they penned the remaining four tracks at Gothenburg’s Spin Road Studios in August with producer Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour).
“It was the shortest writing session we’ve ever had, but we worked hard every day,” Öhrström says. “We would have stuck to the EP idea, but when we listened back to the songs we liked everything. Then we decided to just go for it and make a full concept album to blow everyone away.”
• GUITARS (both) Ibanez RG Prestige with “wizard” neck
• AMPS (both) Kemper Profller, Peavey Rockmaster and Peavey 5150 with a Marshall 1960s cabinet; Hughes & Kettner TriAmp
• EFFECTS (Öhrström) Kemper flanger, wah-wah; (Jarlsby) none
• STRINGS (both) Elixir Baritone