Have you ever been to the circus? Most will say yes to this question; however, have you ever been to a Heavy Metal Circus is an entirely different scenario. Well, Swedish Heavy metal royalty Avatar recently brought their unique heavy metal circus to the Echo Lounge and Music Hall in Dallas, Texas. I was unprepared for the sights and sounds I would be experiencing this night of incredibly talented artists. It was purely an audible and visual delight that I did not know I needed. It was such an intense and exhilarating night of some supreme heavy metal music I have been able to experience this year. Avatar has been tearing up the scene and blazing its path since forming in 2001 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Since then, they have created outstanding records, toured, and gained fans, building up a massive fanbase. Tonight, they brought some opening acts to get everyone ready for the night’s final show. Kicking things off and setting the mood for the night is Veil of Maya, a metalcore band out of Chicago, and Orbit Culture Swedish heavy metal band from Eksjö, Sweden.
The night’s first act was none other than Swedish heavy metal band Orbit Culture, and they would be giving us a glimpse into their live show and what we could expect for the night. As the lights went out and the entrance music began to play, the band came from the side of the stage and started taking their places. The lights came up slightly as they got set, and the music faded. They quickly kicked off into their opener Open Eye with an intensity that immediately elicited a crowd reaction with head banging and jumping around. As they concluded that song, they addressed the crowd, thanked them with an introduction of themselves, and let everyone know that this was their first time being in Dallas, Texas, performing from Sweden. As they worked their way through their show for the night, they never lessened and continued the brutal auditory assault on us as we soaked it all in, headbanged, and moshed throughout the whole set.
The second act of the night was Chicago metalcore band Veil of Maya, and they got set to continue carrying this Heavy Metal Circus until its final act of the night. As the stage got arranged for the next show, the fans quickly grabbed breaks and drinks and returned to their spot. The area was ready, the lights dimmed, and the band’s entrance music played as they appeared at the side of the stage, took their places, and got set to carry the heavy metal music into the night. Veil of Maya addressed the fans and jumped into their opener Viscera with an intense heavy guitar riff, thunderous drum hits, and a deep low end from the bass. As they concluded the song, they addressed the fans, welcomed them to the show, and introduced themselves, and the crowd erupted with applause. Halfway through their set, they got the group to split, and as they began Overthrow, the fans slammed into each other, spun off into a circle pit, and were running and jumping all over the place. They continued through their show and played some new music from their upcoming album, Mother, which will be released this week. The crowd soaked it up, loved the latest music, sang along with the older stuff, headbanged their skulls with the band, and threw up the devil horns throughout the set.
After the crew finished setting up for what we had all been waiting for, it was time for the night’s final act. The anticipation grew as it got closer for the Ringmasters of the Heavy Metal Circus Avatar to come and close out the show! Fans were crowding around the stage barriers to get as close as possible to catch every second of the final act for the night. Finally, the lights went out, and some stage lights began coming on as the smoke bellowed out from under the stage risers. The intro music began playing with bells ringing, and the crowd cheered. As the smoke filled the stage and front of Echo Lounge and Music Hall, suddenly, drummer John Alfredsson appeared behind his colossal drum kit and stood and welcomed the crowd before taking his place on his throne. Then, one by one, the rest of the band started appearing on the stage from behind the curtains, with guitarist Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby appearing on one side, followed by guitarist Tim Öhrström on the opposite side of the stage. Emerging back on the other side of the set was bass player Henrik Sandelin which left the final member of the band, frontman, and Ringmaster Johannes Eckerström, strolling out from the back and taking a bow to the crowd. After they are all set, they jump straight into Dance Devil Dance, and the fans hit the roof with cheer, applause, and excitement as the moment we have all been waiting on is getting started. As they finished the opening song, Johannes welcomed us with a welcoming ladies and gentlemen and a quick bow before singing the opening lyrics to The Eagle Has Landed.
During the middle of the song, the band members would line up and headbang, whipping their hair around in circles while playing and singing flawlessly, making it look effortless. While the band was performing, when you looked out into the crowd, you could see the fans jumping around and moshing while singing along to every word and absorbing every sound coming from the monstrous stage setup. They continued to play through the enormous set list they brought for the fans to enjoy. It was tough to know where to look and watch with the whole back playing and toying with the crowd between their intense playing and singing while head banging and whipping their heads around in circles. After the first few songs, Johannes began speaking to the audience as the band played a breakdown in the background, and he said that’s a breakdown, and do you know what that means, Dallas? He then stated that it means one thing and one thing only. It’s time to open up the floor, Dallas! The fans answered with a scream, and he told them to split in half and separate to opposite sides of the pit; they all obliged, and it looked like he was parting the sea! He kept telling them to open it up and gave them a countdown of 4,3,2,1, and then abruptly kicked off into the final chorus of The Eagle Has Landed, and the fans all ran to the middle and began slamming into each other. He would address the fans many times throughout the night, and as he introduced themselves, he said they were glad to be back in Dallas and that we would have some fun together tonight. They carried on through the night. About halfway through their set, Johannes disappeared and suddenly appeared on the upstairs balcony singing and making balloon animals during Puppet Show and briefly put on quite the show with the fans. They continued on the show into the night, pouring their heart and souls into the show and giving the fans more than they were expecting, and they still couldn’t get enough. They wrapped their performance with a 3-song encore, and the fans could have stayed for hours. However, the show must end for the night, pack up and move on to the next town to rock out again.
This tour was the first time I had ever experienced an Avatar live show, and I guarantee it will not be my last. I have been patiently waiting for a chance to see them when they made it back to our town, and I assure you it was worth the wait and was better than I could have ever imagined. Been a fan for a while and will remain one for as long as they continue. If you have never experienced the Heavy Metal Circus that is Avatar, check them out when they make it to a town near you. Once you experience their show, you will be hooked and will not want to miss one.
Words and Photos by Craig Youngblood
Avatar Band members
Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby – guitars
John Alfredsson – drums
Johannes Eckerström – lead vocals, trumpet, piano, keyboards
Henrik Sandelin – bass, backing vocals
Tim Öhrström – guitars, backing vocals
- Dance Devil Dance
- The Eagle Has Landed
- Valley of Disease
- Chimp Mosh Pit
- Scream Until You Wake
- Bloody Angel
- For the Swarm
- Puppet Show
- When the Snow Lies Red
- Do You Feel in Control
- Black Waltz
- Let It Burn
- A Statue of the King