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Album Review: TBA

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Album Review: Avatar - Black Waltz

Oozing pumping melodeath from every pore, Sweden’s are now on their fourth album and yet they are a band who have, up until now, slipped right through my fingers. Naturally, I was disappointed to discover they aren’t blue-skinned Na’vi from the planet Pandora but, having scanned the album title and proto-gothic freak on the cover, neither do they sound anything like or the craptacular . In fact, there is a band that springs to mind when you add the album’s industrial overtones to their proclivity for thick black-make up, uniforms and all things Big Top, and that band is . Now, that is a hard act to follow.

“All Is Lost” and “Torn Apart” kick off Black Waltz with the kind of rhythmic hammering you’d associate with a powerful steam locomotive haring down the rails. Sure, those metronomic drums fire up a sweet blazing trail, but it’s frontman Johannes Eckerström, in the engine cab, stoking those fires. Scouring his lungs for more and more power, he’s like a psychotic version of Randy Blythe ().

With elements of Swedish compatriots , and and, from across the border, Danish rockers, and , they pile on the slick production and rip into their songs following a verse-chorus-verse pattern that brushes aside any overcomplicated sequencing or wild flights of fancy. Everything they’ve got is shoved whole-heartedly into the churning drum and bass, bottom-end groove. Tracks like “Blod” and “Smells Like A Freakshow” whack up the metal and, in doing so, become their fist-pumping anthems, whilst the nifty little riffs in “Paint Me Red” and “Torn Apart” add an addictive edge to spice up the deal.

With their simplistic construction and fondness for repetition, some of the tracks eke past the five-minute mark and, consequently, tend to turn a little sour – another case of over-egging a pretty straight-forward pudding. In the main, though, things are kept fast, fiery and attention-grabbing and the band have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to keep the album cannily varied.

“In Napalm” picks up a gothic bent as the band unite to deliver a whispered verse and accompanying chanted chorus, whilst the title-track goes even darker, riding snare rolls and walking us through a stageful of power-on, power-off, slow-quick theatrics (you have to check out the video, featuring circus act Hellzapoppin’, to really understand what’s going on here). Then, don a ten-gallon, chaps and chinks for “Let It Burn” and, from somewhere, find a dirty-ass blues groove and ride that buckin’ bronco for all it’s worth.There’s a few sticky moments, such as the 30 seconds of “In Napalm”s build that starts so quietly as to almost make it dead air, or the irksome twinkly chorus that kills the momentum of “One Touch”. Oh, and the near-as-dammit 10-minute, suck-it-up, harmonica-littered utter lunacy of “Use Your Tongue” wants bagging and tagging and throwing into a padded room. We’ll take it though for that killer line of “Good morning, good morning, good morning, rise and shine, rise and shine, rise and shine!”

I’m delighted to report, Black Waltz is a bit of a nutbar. The content seemingly rebounds off genres like a helpless pinball, but when it hits a bumper cap, it hits that cap with everything it’s got and that kind of commitment to the cause is a rare commodity. Yep, it’s a bit of a beast, so don’t be surprised to find breaking the machine with this one. Heck, they may not have anything like the wanton desire for destruction that have, but you still wouldn’t want to be trapped in the same room as them. Hold on to your hats!

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