Album review: Avatar – Dance Devil Dance

Hyperactive Swedes Avatar make half a great album on ninth effort…

Album review: Avatar – Dance Devil Dance
James Hickie

By Avatar vocalist Johannes Eckerström’s reckoning, he awoke one day and realised he was Satan. The question of whether The Devil really has the best tunes is therefore an appropriate one to pose here. 'Best' might be overstating it – though when it’s good it captivates. 'Busiest' is more fitting. 'Frustrating' is absolutely on the money.

Dance Devil Dance begins impressively. The opening trio of the title-track, Chimp Mosh Pit and Valley Of Disease set out the stall for a collection that’s muscular, focused and, most importantly, consistent. Listening to it, you think that if they can maintain this altitude, we could be looking at a highpoint in the band’s oeuvre. And they do up to and including fifth track Do You Feel In Control?, before things take a turn for the theatrical.

Gotta Wanna Riot is a mishmash of Beach Boys melodies, Rob Zombie retro patter, incessant cowbell, and a chorus straining to attain immortality. In and of itself, it’s okay. It’s fun, it’s diverting, in the context of a live show it will likely do the business. But that isn’t where the music begins its life and in the context of this record, it’s a daft distraction. The Dirt I’m Buried In is and Clouds Dipped In Chrome are better, thankfully, largely because their bombast arrives complete with some excellent musicianship. But by this stage, it’s evident that the opus the first half promised isn’t going to materialise.

Criticising Avatar for over-egging the pudding on a ninth record preceded by eight that did much the same might reek of pettiness, but this time around the band’s OTT instincts have derailed their more incisive ones. And while they pull things back with explosive final track Violence No Matter What, featuring Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, there’s a pang of frustration for what could have been. Dance Devil Dance, then: an album that switches between slick moves and Gangnam Style with two left feet, then back again.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: In Flames, Volbeat, Rob Zombie

Dance Devil Dance is released on February 17 via Black Waltz

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