19. Avatar – Avatar Country
Second up, we have the Swedish favourites Avatar, who welcomed 2018 with a bang thanks to the conceptual fascination and aural insanity of Avatar Country. Ever since their breakthrough in 2012 with Black Waltz, these visually enchanting enigmas have gone from strength to strength, finding their niche through avant-garde tunes and increasingly interesting visuals and concepts.
Released only eighteen months after their concept album Feathers and Flesh – which had a fable-like narrative about an owl and an eagle – Avatar Country keeps the bizarre stories coming, this time focusing upon a hauntingly omnipresent ruler known as “The King” and his nation of subjects. The music is similarly weird and balls-to-the-wall, mixing genres from groove metal to hard rock to prog to country together as one.
The end result is not as disjointed as it may seem. Despite dipping its toes into a great many musical styles, Avatar Country is sewn together by a stomping swagger, gorgeously operatic vocals and primal riffing.
While it may not have the same emotional grandeur or patient diversity of Feathers and Flesh, Avatar Country is far catchier and more satirical than its predecessor, with choice cuts “The King Wants You” and “King After King” especially infectious, but also holding a parodic mirror up to contemporary cults of personality.