When the chips are down, do what pleases you – that’s how the rock ‘n’ roll job description works best for Avatar’s lead singer, Johannes Eckerström.
For evidence, he only needs to look at the reception for Hail The Apocalypse – which gave the Swedish band its first-ever US chart placing (#97).
“The principle of metal is pretty simple – the riff is king, and the riff is groove,” asserted Eckerström. “You have to know what beats to bring to it, and perform that beat the right way. That’s why Black Sabbath only sounds really good if Bill Ward is playing the drums.”
However, Eckerström feels that the band’s fourth album, Black Waltz (2012), really helped to make those inroads into America possible.
“Our first three albums didn’t come out here. The first look at us was Black Waltz – it couldn’t have happened earlier, because of the experience, and the focus, that came (laterin the band’s history),” he said.
That forward-looking philosophy extended to Apocalypse’s recording, which marked a total change in Avatar’s operating procedure. “We decided, for the first time, to record the album live – and get into a groove that would happen, because you get way more human groove like that,” said Eckerström. “I think that (factor) adds a lot to the album.”
All in all, Avatar’s roughly 13-year ride has been a long, slow climb – from relative unknowns to veterans of melodic death metal in Sweden, which is the world’s third largest music exporter, according to Eckerström.
“Sweden has been a huge player in exporting music, and when you look at our population – we’re less than 10 million people – those numbers become extremely impressive,” said Eckerström. “And those numbers show that it’s easy to find people around you who have some sort of music career. You see that it can be done.”
Scandinavian culture also has a lot to do with its music scene’s vitality, “because of the whole safety net thing going on,” said Eckerström. “There’s space to try things out. There’s that security. All of us were in music schools – the first year, you didn’t even have to own an instrument. They lent it to you, and then, you could buy things (instruments) really cheap, if you kept playing after that first year.”
This development is a well-known change from previous tours, which found Eckerström and company having to express its fury in 35-minute sets. “Now we can kind of pace it out, to make something more of it,” he agrees.
However, while Avatar is well known for its striking shock rock look – especially Eckerström, whose makeup suggests a collision between the Joker, and A Clockwork Orange‘s futuristic street gangs – don’t expect a large-scale theatrical production.
“On this tour, we’re not really bringing that many bells and whistles – because we don’t really believe that we always needed them. We knew how to use them, and we know how to expand on them, when the budget allows us,” said Eckerström. “But we’re still fairly straight up and down. We go onstage, and perform the songs.”
With success and experience also comes the determination to build on what the band has learned, instead of resting on its laurels. “We don’t want to repeat ourselves. I’m sure that one day might ruin our careers – and I’m fine with that, because I never want to repeat myself,” he said.
Support: Romantic Rebel
Tickets: $10 Advance
Doors at 6PM/Show at 8PM
Ages: All Ages
The Music Factory
191 Angell St
Battle Creek, Michigan 49015
Tickets available at The Music Factory
or online at http://musicfactorybc.com/