Smells, looks and sounds like a freak show – Avatar and Æther Realm at Olympia, Tampere

Author Ossi Kumpula - 6.2.2024

Avatar, the Swedish heavy metal band formed in 2001, has steadily gained momentum in recent years. From having Corey Taylor featuring on their 2020 album “Hunter Gatherer” to releasing their ninth album last year and achieving mainstream chart success with the song “The Dirt I’m Buried In“, it is well and truly about time for the Swedish quintet to reach mainstream recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. Currently touring and tearing across Europe, Avatar brought their great metal circus to a four-stop spin in Finland, the new adopted home country of vocalist Johannes Eckerström.

Joining Avatar as their support act all the way from United States, Æther Realm began their set at quarter to eight in the evening. The band opened with a song called “Slave to the Riff“, an aptly named four and a half-minute banger that instantly proved that showing up early to witness Æther Realm was the right move. Fortunately a good number of metalheads had made the same choice, for the majority of the evening’s sold out audience had arrived to see the North Carolinians’ show. The crowd did not settle for anemic head-bobbing either, and their enthusiasm did not waver throughout the 45-minute set. To curry further favor from the audience, bassist-vocalist Vincent Jones name-dropped several Finnish bands that he liked. Æther Realm played their entire set at an agreeable volume, and besides their typical folk metal propulsion they showed a more sentimental side with tracks like “Guardian” and the last part of “The Sun, the Moon, the Star“. The gig ended with a band selfie with the crowd, and instead of an encore, the fans got to witness Æther Realm pack up their own instruments to make way for Avatar.

The Great Metal Circus by Avatar kicked off punctually at 20:50 p.m. True to the title of the tour, both band and the stage they played on were dressed up in circus-y themes indeed. I last saw Avatar perform live in February 2019, and their show and showmanship have evolved remarkably since then. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström, a resident of Finland for some time now, addressed the crowd in Finnish for a few words. A valiant effort, even though it quickly became very obvious that his stage persona could only come out fully when speaking in English. And what a persona it was! Eckerström pulled off perfectly a role combining a joker-esque clown and a circus ringmaster with expertise honed over the past two decades. Even though the singer is the undisputed frontman in Avatar, the rest of the group played prominent roles as well, performing various skits onstage in addition to punishing their instruments. Some of the antics of Avatar during their two-hour set included Eckerström playing a trumpet amongst the audience, him popping out of a giant gift box onstage, and a guitar battle between Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström.

Of course, no metal concert can rely on all show and no substance. In addition to showcasing a number of entertainment acts, Avatar treated the crowd to a hefty bunch of good songs. From the instant catchiness of “The Eagle Has Landed” to the raging rhythms of “Chimp Mosh Pit” and the sentimentality of “Tower“, Avatar showed a wide range of musical scope and style. To keep himself going, Eckerström guzzled who knows what from a jerrycan between songs. The audience pretty much ate from his hand throughout the evening, and it is a true testament to Avatar’s pull that they got a room full of Finns riled up as well as they did on a Monday night.

Pictures: Outi Puhakka (Avatar), AJ Johansson (Æther Realm)