Avatar at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, MI

Hear ye, hear ye, the greatest metal circus on the planet, Avatar, delivers demon-like debauchery to the rockers of Royal Oak.

Once upon a time, a band of merry metal men from Gothenburg, Sweden set out on the greatest quest of a lifetime: to become the demi-rock god… Avatar. The earth’s most powerful, progressive shock-rock, industrial metal ensemble of all time! (Insert Dr. Evil’s wicked laughter here!) The year is now 2023, and our dark team of terrifying carnival-istic crunchy Cretans has brought their zany adventures to the music-loving metalheads of the mighty mitten’s Motor City, for night number 42 of their massive US Dance Devil Dance Tour. Tonight, we see their presence has brought all of their friendly freaks of fandom from across the state to pack themselves into a sold-out Royal Oak Music Theatre. This epic line of fans runs deep and long, wrapping around the streets of Royal Oak (a happy little berg just on the outskirts of Detroit).

Fast forward to game time 9:35 PM…

The ominous dark stage of the ROMT bursts to life with a blinding backlight and a massive, center-stage drum kit. Our crowd stirs to life as the hungry horde begins to chant “AV-A-TAR!” Church bells begin to thunder through the venue and a shadowy figure standing high above the drum kit with arms extended and pointing drumsticks toward the heavens. The figure comes to life and begins to move, quite like a wind-up toy soldier, and begins slamming the sticks into the floor toms. His thunderous BOOM spontaneously ignites the venue’s anticipatory energies, and we can now see four other spooky specters suspended in time, standing in what appears to be their own personal TARDISes. The easily recognizable ringmaster, Johannes Eckerstrom, is frozen in a terrifying pose of pre-carnival chaos. Another blast of booming floor toms and our cast of characters animate, stepping out of their containment devices.

Avatar has arrived and immediately fire into the smoking new single “Dance Devil Dance.” The skullduggery has begun, and our ringmaster comes to life marching to the beat as he stomps across the stage with his infamous skull baton in hand. Eckerstrom delivers the first gaggle of growlings for the night’s gala and our crowd fires back with horned fists of fury keeping beat to the tunes grinding gravy. As the tune’s bridge arrives, we see Johannes grab a nearby gas can, and drink deeply, gobbling down his fuel of the gods before belting out a staggering, five-octave vocal run that shatters mirrors and bleeds the ears. Guitarists Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Ohrstrom, along with bassist Henrik Sandelin, keep to the fierce rhythm with full-on helicopter hairdos, gyrating with the fury of grandmaster headbangers. The band tears through “The Eagle Has Landed” and “Valley of Disease.” A grinning Eckerstrom pauses to address the crowd. He leans forward and motions to his cult, like crooners to applaud his entourage. Oh, do these fans oblige… with an ear-piercing roar! Johannes goes on to say, “Exxxxxcuuuuusee me while I tear this f***ing house down!” (Another roar from the crowd!). He thrusts a horned hand high in the air while flashing that diabolical grin and nodding yes to the crowd. In typical ringside announcer fashion, he bellows out, “Ladies, and gentlemen, boys, and girls… children of all ages. Outcasts, freaks, mistakes, and miscarriages… All the way from a foreign country, we are here to take your women and jobs! We… are… Avatar!” The quintet fire into “Chimp Mosh Pit,” “Scream Until You Awake,” and the heartwarming sing-along lullaby, “Bloody Angel.”

We are nearly 45 minutes in and all headbanging is still going full throttle. They follow up with “For the Swarm” and the nightmare-inciting Burton-esque classic “Puppet Show.” Techs bring a smaller, three-piece kit to the front of the stage so drummer John Alfredson can really get in your face, and together with Sandelin on bass, these two make a powerful combo and keep the Avatar sound deep and gut rumbling, punching you right in the soul. “Do You Feel in Control” hits next featuring guitarists, Jarlsby and Ohrstrom in a fiery duel to the death… complete with furious flaming fretboards of flying phalanges… these axe-wielding warriors have the guts and gravy of true guitar gods. The bloody duel ends in a mutually agreeable draw and our stage lights now begin to dim to conceal some secretive happenings. SPOILER ALERT… you must buy a ticket and attend to witness the moments of bizarre events (oh, and it’s whacky!). Let’s just say the scene ends with a smiling Johannes dancing about with….???? A perfect segue into the darkly charming “Black Waltz” as Erickstomm tip-toes to the microphone to deliver the demented dialogue of the tune’s core.

But wait, there’s more… including the fan favorites “Colossus,” “Let It Burn,” and smoking hot version of the gritty and controversial, stage drama “A Statue of the King.” Avatar treats their feisty fan club to head-smashing hat-trick encore with “The Dirt I am Buried In,” a super extended version of “Smells Like a Freak Show,” and a full two hours later they bring this wild ride to an end, closing out the night with “Hail the Apocalypse”.

Avatar is a Loud Hailer-recommended concert experience that is a fist-pumping, headbanging, horns up, body-slamming feast of frightful fun that is sure to provide you with the most entertaining of nightmares for years to come! Catch them up close and personal on the Dance Devil Dance Tour underway now. Check the band’s official website for dates. And while you’re there, grab a copy of Dance Devil Dance super deluxe vinyl edition, dipped in chrome, now how cool is that!

NOTE:  These are all ages shows, so if you plan to bring the kiddos, be sure to grab some ear protection for them… their amps go to eleven! (Smell The Glove!)

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About Jay Dunbar 53 Articles
Jay Dunbar is a professional photographer that enjoys wearing a multitude of hats. He is active in the commercial and stock photography arenas and currently owns and operates a Detroit based investigations firm and photography agency. Despite his many endeavors, Jay can frequently be found in attendance at your favorite concert venues, capturing breathtaking images of live performances of many genres of music. A skilled author and photographer, he could be described as a " Serial Music Journalist." Carrying the photo bug for nearly thirty years, Jay enjoys all styles of photography, testing new gear, and helping aspiring photographers, artists and models to develop their skills and learn their craft.