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Written by  Brandon McCarthy

Article written by Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy; Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez

It has been over 3 years since my last visit to Avatar Country. When the pandemic shut the whole world down, access into one of my favorite places to worship heavy metal was locked up as well. In case you guys do not know what the hell I am talking about, it is about my love for the Swedish metal outfit that brought a dark, whimsical sense of humor and honor to the popular genre. The songs, outlandish costumes, and the leader singers warpaint made me want to become a citizen of Avatar country. A couple of years ago, Avatar released their eighth studio album, Hunter Gatherer, and it brought ordered chaos into an already chaotic world. It was a bummer that touring was not happening around that time, but now they are back with a vengeance. On the hunt with fellow metal outfits like Light the Torch and the Callous Daoboys (who we unfortunately missed). Last stop on the tour was Santa Ana’s own Observatory. So, Rabit, Rockaholic, Amanda (aka Harley A. Gentleman), and I headed over there to join the hunt.

After the Callous Daoboys did there thing, the venue really started to light up as Light the Torch took to the stage. Led by the ever-popular metalcore frontman Howard Jones, Light the Torch burned very brightly with their set. Jones is still a ferocious monster on the microphone that made him a household name in the metal community when he was fronting Killswitch Engage. Bassist Ryan Wombacher not only hammered down some sweet, melodic bass riffs, he conquered the mic as he sang backing vocals as well as an occasional lead or two. Lead guitarist Francesco Artusato brought alternative metal swagger to the guitar, performing compelling riffs that bolstered Light the Torch’s presence at the Observatory. Drummer Alex Rüdinger of Whitechapel is the newest member, and he gels in nicely as he brings some thrash quality behind the kit. For nearly 45 minutes, Light the Torch guided our path to a righteous trail of killer tunes like “More Than Dreaming,” “Calm Before the Storm,” “Let Me Fall Apart,” “The Bitter End,” “Death of Me,” “Living With a Ghost,” “Becoming the Martyr,” “The Safety of Disbelief,” “Wilting in the Light,” and “Die Alone.” Really hoped they would play a couple of tunes from when they were known as Devil You Know, but still, Light the Torch was exciting to see per usual.

After a 30-minute intermission for a set change, the venue goes dark, the siren goes off, and there was Avatar. Huddled in a semi-circle to address their subjects, Avatar got things going that way with both “Colossus” and “Let it Burn.” Then, they dispersed to their regular stations for “Silence in the Age of Apes” as horns started to go up. Frontman and chosen leader of Avatar Country, Johannes Eckerström, was a sort for sore eyes. Brandishing different costumes while steering the ship through stormy weather, Johannes was both a rage machine and melodic jester. The guitar duo of Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström were like tornadoes, gusting up powerful riffs and devilish solos that satisfied every citizen of Avatar Country. John Alfredsson continues to be thunderous on the drums, striking each cymbal and snare with great strength & determination. Notably absent from this show was bassist Henrik Sandelin, who had to leave the tour due an undisclosed family emergency to the best of my knowledge. Either way, they had his bass licks playing on track and it still sounded sweet. All through the night, Avatar rampaged through Santa Ana and slayed the fans with their tasty songs. From “Bloody Angel” to “Child,” “The Eagle Has Landed,” “Paint Me Red,” “A Secret Door,” “For the Swarm,” “Torn Apart,” “Puppet Show,” “Tsar Bomba,” “A Statue of the King,” and one my personal favorites “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country,” the set got it all. After a quick breather, Avatar wrapped up the night with a three-song encore that included “Going Hunting,” “Smells Like a Freakshow,” and the iconic “Hail the Apocalypse,” and that made the fans go nuts and mosh in the end.

It is always fun when I enter Avatar Country. It is definitely a place that sets me free, and they take good care of me. I was a little bummed about missing Callous Daoboys, but I have no doubt they killed it and we will see them down the road. As for Light the Torch, it was a revival for my heavy metal soul for I have not been to too many shows this year. Therefore, when Rabit and I do go, we make it an evening worth remembering, just like that night. To Avatar and Light the Torch, I salute you. Horns up!!!


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