Swedish metal circus, Avatar, returned to Manchester on the very first date of the Dance Devil Dance Tour, this show contained tracks that had never been played live and amazing shenanigans that have to be seen to be believed. Coming along with them was Hull-based sludge metal band Mastiff and one of the reigning titans of deathcore, Veil of Maya.
Mastiff went on first and there was something really charming about them, they seemed to have this casual attitude that made them seem more down to earth while still being consummate professionals. They’re very much a sludge band with thrash influences and maybe a dash of hardcore and they certainly bring the heavier moments of dissonance and aggression of the show on tracks like ‘Repulse’ and ‘Acid Breather’, the latter of which was featured on Cyberpunk 2077.
Easily the highlight of their set was seeing vocalist Jim Hodge maintaining expert composure and not missing a beat while seeming pretty hammered, I cannot confirm if he was but seeing him fall over part of the drum set up between songs only to get right back into it instantly was a really fun moment.
Next up was Veil of Maya, who are a really different band to everyone else on the bill. They don’t have a particularly memorable stage presence with the exception of frontman Lucas Magyar and their sound is built around mind-bending technical proficiency which has a tendency to turn some people off. Luckily there was enough to their set to keep the majority of people engaged.
Veil of Maya played ‘Godhead’ for the very first time tonight and it seemed to go down really well, the djent rubber riff and devastating breakdown made this a sight to behold and will likely be a staple of their set for years to come. They ended their set with an absolute all-time classic of technical deathcore ‘Mikasa’ its riffs and sweeps are incredibly difficult to play and the bizarre changes make it difficult to keep up with but it’s still incredibly catchy and just riled up the crowd even more as they began the wait for Avatar.
The greatest show on earth finally revealed itself as Avatar took to the stage, blasting right out of the gate to the infectious groove of ‘Dance Devil Dance’ accompanied by smoke and sparks and virtually any other theatrical trick you could think of. ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ was once again present on the set and there are so many songs on the set that shows off the strength of Avatar’s rhythm section as so many songs were very easy to dance to.
As previously mentioned, this show marked the start of the Dance Devil Dance touring cycle and with that comes live premieres, ‘Chimp Mosh Pit’ caused so many people to go absolutely feral and could be a new rock club staple. Much later in the show, ‘Scream Until You Wake’ made an appearance, which could be one of the heaviest tracks on the new record due to its grinding harmonic riffs and pounding drums, it’s sure to be a fan favourite in the coming years.
Avatar features some preposterously heavy tracks that are remarkably easy to dance to like ‘From the Swarm’, Johannes’ rhythmic barking vocals on this track make it surprisingly easy to scream nonsense along to and still have the same effect but that may just be because its metal and metal is always fun to scream along to.
Halfway through the show, Manchester braced itself for a ‘Puppet Show’ and it feels bizarre to give a potential spoiler warning for a concert but there was so much on display during this song and it was so much fun, so many gags and weird moments that made Avatar unique, it does everyone an absolute disservice to be specific but this is a song that deserves to be seen live and is a testament to what a band can do with an already great song and an extra kick of showmanship.
The piano interlude for ‘Tower’ acted as a break from the chaos and the grand piano on stage made for a great set piece, Johannes’ vocals were more reserved at times during this low-key creepy ballad. It gives a really unsettling vibe but still instils a sense of safety and security all while showing off beautiful anthemic choruses that take only a few verses to learn before being burned into your memory for the rest of your life.
At some point, a second drum set was moved to the front of the stage and the band stayed in formation as the front of the stage before blasting into the crushing behemoth that is ‘Colossus’. This song destroyed the necks of hundreds of people and could probably be felt in the car park. Drummer John Alfredsson plays the drums for this song and a few after standing up at the front of the stage which is incredibly difficult to do. Even if some of these songs could be considered simple, it’s still a demanding task for a band whose rhythm section is arguably the focal point of their music.
Johannes’ final monologue during the encore was really heartfelt and he talked about giving meaning to the music the band made by having it mean something to the audience. It’s hard to talk like this and still seem genuine but Johannes seems to wear his heart on his sleeve and comes off as authentic, even while dressed like a Carny from Hell. Shortly after this, they burst into the stomping riffs of ‘Smells Like a Freakshow’, an absolute staple of their set and a stellar way to move towards the end of a phenomenal night of theatrical heavy metal shenanigans.
Avatar feature so much high-energy camp and over-the-top antics that it’s strange there isn’t more crossover with the drag scene, both feature elaborate costumes and gags and both absolutely fabulous displays of camp that prioritise being fun while still trying to make loud and brash statements about their place in the world and maybe even the state of the world without sacrificing any of the camp fun their shows bring.
RAMzine also has an interview with vocalist Johannes Eckeström available to read.