There can’t be many bands capable of writing songs that sound like Humpty Dumpty stumbling after an all-nighter and succeeding with aplomb. Since their inception, the metalworkers of the Gothenburg Circus Avatar played with eclectic sounds while still keeping things unmistakably on brand. But just when it seems there’s nothing left to explore, their ninth studio album takes them in new and surprising directions.
“Why have drums, why have bass, if people don’t move their feet?” is the question posed on the biography attached to Dance Devil’s Dance. From I must want a riotthe groove of 60s surf through the scintillating rhythm of The dirt I’m buried in to smash punk that turns the tables hazmat suitAvatar has plummeted Dance Devil’s Dance with all kinds of weird and wonderful flavors, all designed to get you dancing.
There are moments here reminiscent of previous Avatar albums. On the opening title track, the versatile Johannes Eckerstrom growls, sings and moans to the death metal riffs that Avatar has always integrated so well. Sinister fretwork also prevails over sleazy groover Do you feel in control and blackened it Chromium Dipped Clouds. In the meantime, valley of disease conjures up images of a painted, maniacal Johannes stomping around a moshpit and rising to face the audience.
But where Dance Devil’s Dance comes off is its inability to be homogeneous. After nine albums, Avatar should be adept at eclecticism, and while there’s a charm to their more cheeky dancefloor-inspired moments, it doesn’t quite stick. It’s shocking to hear On the beachthe vaudevillian playfulness of sandwiched between two of the album’s heaviest tracks, while the smoky jazz club vibe of Form is a Mike Patton move too far. There is no doubt that Johannes Eckerström is already concocting a visual spectacle to accompany their sound chaos, in which case Dance Devil’s Dance could make a lot more sense in the live arena.