AVATAR + Sunflower Dead + Downfall 2012 @ Baltimore Soundstage

AVATAR @ Baltimore Soundstage ©Masen Smith

From the get go, I knew this was going to be a special performance.  I had been itching to see AVATAR since the release of their album Hail the Apocalypse two years ago, and was eager to finally get my chance.  First, though, Downfall 2012 – an intro band with an eccentric percussion component. They made extensive use of makeshift pitched drums, didgeridoos and even switching instruments for a couple songs.  The frenetic, punk atmosphere of their performance was contagious-in a fairly sparse crowd, there was still moshing to be had.  Though I’d never heard them before,  I definitely made a note to see them again.  The band to follow, Sunflower Dead, took an approach similar to that of AVATAR.  Each member had distinctive face paint-reminiscent of corpsepaint, that complemented their aggressively sinister music. Towards the end of their set, the bassist actually performed from the audience for a song- prompting cellphone video upon cellphone video.  The eccentricity (starting to sense a theme here?) was very striking, but far from overdone.  Overall, a very appropriate, enjoyable, and heavy preface to the main event.

Words cannot accurately or completely describe AVATAR.  Wierd? yes. Aggressive? You bet.  Tender, at times? Absolutely.  With their well-documented antics in mind, I knew I was in for a hell of a show. Keeping with the quirky vibe, they opened with “Regret”-a largely instrumental opener for their new record ‘Feathers and Flesh’.   As the band transitioned into traditional material, the character that is Johannes Eckerstrom took center stage.  The sheer confidence he exudes creates an air of a far larger show.  Whether it’s a performance at Bloodstock Open Air in Germany or a small venue in the US makes no difference in the band’s stage act.  Their set included plenty of brand new material, but left off none of their staples- ‘Hail the Apocalypse’, ‘Bloody Angel’ and ‘Black Waltz’ all made the setlist.  It’s a rare beast to find a vocalist and a band who sounds as good or better live than in studio.  If you’re a fan of metal with an odd twist and some moving ballads sprinkled in, AVATAR is a band you don’t want to miss.

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