This has taken longer than expected, but here it is finally. Avatar is a band that caught me from the very first note I listened from them, so Feathers & Flesh was an album that I was really waiting for. It was so promising. I listened to it the first time as it arrived to me three months ago. With a great illusion I unpacked the CD. Great design, by the way. Illustrations are amazing both in the cover and the booklet, although I would have preferred to have the lyrics printed in there, so as to read them.
It was a stressing time, lots of things to do, but I decided to listen to it while completing other tasks. However, it was impossible. Little by little, I got into the music and it had me there, unable to do anything other than taking some comments for this post. It had been ages since an album did that to me! But let's talk a bit more in detail about what made me get lost in the notes...
The first thing one can notice is the powerful catchy riffs. They draw your attention immediately. Then, song by song, I can discover an infinity of details that I get lost into and make the album great. The drum lines seem to be the leading part in each song. The richness of fills, rhythms and percussion effects are just a gift to the ears. It's at least surprising to hear cowbells in songs like The Eagle Has Landed, Black Waters or Pray the Sun Away, or a vibraslap (Black Waters) or bells; for these instruments are more typical of other musical genres, but Avatar just made them fit in there. And this all without forgetting the technique and quality of the playing. Each stroke is definite, the riffs well phrased, etc. To sum up, there's a brilliant work in the drums.
Pretty much the same can be said of the vocals. I can only congratulate Mr. Eckerström for his job. There's a wide range of registers: clean, gutturals, torn voices..., which leads to a great personification of all the characters taking part in the story, and great combinations of those in songs like Night Never Ending or Raven Wine. Even at the beginning of Sky Burial there's a perfect a capella part closing somehow the album with the same verses it started (I find it gives that a high sense of cohesion!).
And hand in hand with the musical part, go the lyrics. All the songs together tell a story, a fable, and the contents and meaning of it can be inferred from the verses in each song (for those of you interested in reading the whole fable, Avatar's selling the book, so go buy it!). Besides, as we've just mentioned, the characters taking part are perfectly represented by using different voice techniques, and the atmosphere of each piece conveys the meaning of the lyrics (one can hear the decay and feel the end near in the riffs and melodies of Raven Wine or feel the epicness of Sky Burial).
Finally, the album ends with two bonus tracks (not listed in the tracklist) whose sound is far more death-metal-like but don't really seem to fit in the context (even if they are killer, full of energy, and sound like the best of Avatar). They are like a world apart: I've Got Something In My Front Pocket For You and Det Är Alldeles Försent.
To sum up everything, this album is a union of a great amount of effort, work, stunning instrumental lines and vocals, and a strong deep story. It would be difficult to choose a song over the others, but if I had to recommend the most remarkable hits, these would be:
- New Land, as a kind of flashback to the atmosphere in Hail The Apocalypse
- Fiddler's Farewell, for its ballad-like sound and those details that slightly remind me of the Beatles (was that made on purpose or was it by chance? Just wondering)
- Night Never Ending, for that festive atmosphere, so far away from the darkness of the story
- The Eagle Has Landed, probably the most catchy piece. Once you listen to it it's difficult to get the verses "What a sensation, can you feel it? Can you see what I see?" out of your mind. I'll leave the video here.